Anger. Disgust. Joy. Sadness. Interest. Comfort. Elation. Guilt. Worry. Impatience. Serenity.
Emotions happen whether we want them or not. The ability to assess, understand and control those emotions falls under the umbrella of emotional intelligence, a type of soft skill that’s increasingly in demand in professional settings.
As we learn more about what it takes to be a successful colleague and leader, finding new methods for building emotional intelligence could mean the difference between status quo and a new future.
What is emotional intelligence?
People who are emotionally intelligent can manage not only their own emotions but also the emotions of those around them.
That isn’t the same as manipulation, though — think of emotional intelligence in terms of understanding feelings, what they mean and how they connect to other important things like the outcome of a business deal or morale at the office.
There is no one widely agreed-upon way to determine if someone is emotionally intelligent. Instead, experts use self-guided tests where users answer a series of questions to see how they’d react in certain emotionally charged situations. For instance, if two of your friends were fighting, would you try and act as a mediator or choose one friend and gang up on the other?
Emotionally intelligent individuals know how to respond in a way that helps ensure a positive outcome. They’re good listeners, they’re caring and considerate and they’re highly perceptive. They also tend to be successful, because they can pick up on subtext and recognize even the subtlest clues that might help establish a rapport with a potential client or win over a skeptical investor.
5 methods for building emotional intelligence
1. Listen to understand, not to answer
It’s common for people jockeying for power or position to view conversations as an opportunity to show off their knowledge. If they aren’t heard, they don’t exist. Instead of listening to whoever’s talking, those lower EQ people are thinking about what they’re going to say next.
By contrast, emotionally intelligent individuals are active listeners, paying attention to the speaker to ensure they understand what’s being said while simultaneously absorbing nonverbal cues like hand gestures and eye movement.
2. Pay attention to your reactions
Emotionally intelligent people are just as interested and invested in their reactions as they are in other peoples’ — perhaps even more so. It’s not an ego thing, it’s educational. Perhaps you’re unwittingly frowning every time someone else has the floor at the Monday morning meeting.
That could easily be interpreted as anger or even jealousy. Recognizing that gives you a chance to adjust your own behavior but also a chance to give the same behavior in someone else some additional context.
3. Always consider the bigger picture
Emotions are not self-contained. They affect anyone within spitting distance. Your negative attitude can spread quickly, as can suspicion, happiness or even anxiety.
Before you bring your emotions into work, think about who they’ll rub off on once you’re there. And this is a two-way street; be aware of the vibes others are giving off and don’t let someone’s bad day or dislike of the new guy color your opinion prematurely.
4. Learn to communicate assertively, not aggressively
People respond to strength, but there is a definite line between strength and surly, arrogant, pointlessly contentious behavior. You can be direct and to the point without bulldozing your coworkers or making your subordinates feel invisible. The trick is to use your emotional intelligence skills to see how people are responding to your leadership style and tweak on the fly.
5. Be approachable
There have been numerous studies that indicate how powerful a simple smile (one of the most classic forms of nonverbal communication) can be. Showing off your pearly whites releases endorphins and serotonin, telling your body you’re happy so you actually get happier.
That happiness is socially reflective, meaning it can cause other people to be increasingly positive. So basically, by being a little more open and sporting a grin when you walk into work, you can make everyone’s day — even your own.
All the skills that erupt like spokes out of the center wheel that is emotional intelligence can help create happier, more productive employees. Increased self-awareness, empathy, better time management, improved morale — learning social cues and grasping why stewing all day over morning traffic can be bad for the whole company is crucial for so many reasons.
Ready to see the effects firsthand? Build emotional intelligence in your workplace with KeepWOL’s team building solution.