We all have different personalities, different wants and needs, and different ways of showing our emotions. Navigating through this all takes awareness, tact and cleverness – especially as we want to succeed in our lives. This is where emotional intelligence becomes important.
We probably all know people who are masters at managing their emotions. They are really good listeners, excellent decision makers and unflappable crisis managers who have the complete trust of their staff. No matter what kind of situation they are in, they always seem to know just what to say – and how to say it – so that no one gets offended or upset. They look at themselves honestly, and do not only have a great sense of who they are but are also able to sense the emotional needs of others.
What is emotional intelligence (EQ)?
Emotional intelligence is commonly defined by four attributes:
- Self-Management: You are able to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances. You think before you take action. Characteristics of self-management are thoughtfulness, comfort with change, integrity, resilience, and the ability to say no.
- Self-Awareness: You recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior. You don’t let your feelings rule yourself. You know your strengths and weaknesses and have self-confidence. You know when to trust your intuition, and don’t let your emotions get out of control. Self-awareness is how we see ourselves, and also how we perceive others to see us. The second, external aspect, is always the most difficult to properly assess.
- Social Awareness: You have empathy. You can understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.
- Relationship Management: You know how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict. Rather than focus on your own success first, you help others develop and shine.
In essence, emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize your emotions, understand what they are telling you, and realize how your emotions affect people around you. It also involves your perception of others: when you understand how they feel, this allows you to manage relationships more effectively. For the most part, this is a nonverbal process that both informs your thinking and influences how well you connect with others.
Why bother about EQ?
We are emotional creatures who often make decisions and respond to stimuli based on our emotions. As a result, our ability to grow in EQ has an enormous impact in all of our relationships, how we make decisions and identify opportunities. The ability to manage people and relationships is very important in all leaders, so developing and using your emotional intelligence can be a good way to show others the leader inside of you.
Emotional intelligence affects:
- Your performance at work.High emotional intelligence can help you navigate the social complexities of the workplace, lead and motivate yourself and others, and excel in your career. In fact, when it comes to assessing candidates for senior positions, many companies now rate emotional intelligence as important as technical ability.
- Your physical health.If you don’t manage your emotions appropriately, you are probably not managing your stress either. This can lead to serious health problems. Uncontrolled stress raises blood pressure, suppresses the immune system, increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes, contributes to infertility, and speeds up the aging process. The first step to improving emotional intelligence is to learn how to manage stress.
- Your mental health.Uncontrolled emotions and stress can also impact your mental health, making you vulnerable to anxiety and depression. If you are unable to understand, get comfortable with, or manage your emotions, you will also struggle to form strong work relationships. This in turn can leave you feeling lonely and isolated and further exacerbate any mental health problems.
- Your relationships.By understanding your emotions and how to control them, you are better able to express how you feel and understand how others are feeling. This allows you to communicate more effectively and build stronger relationships.
- Your social intelligence.Being in tune with your emotions serves a social purpose, connecting you to other people and the world around you. Social intelligence enables you to recognize friend from foe, measure another person’s interest in you, reduce stress, balance your nervous system through social communication, and feel appreciated and happy.
How is empathy related to EQ?
Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around us. People with empathy are good at recognizing the feelings of others, even when those feelings may not be obvious. As a result, empathic people are usually excellent at managing relationships, listening, and relating to others. They avoid stereotyping and judging too quickly, and they live their lives in a very open, honest way.
Leaders with empathy have the ability to put themselves in someone else’s situation. They help develop the people on their team, challenge others who are acting unfairly, give constructive feedback, and listen to those who need it. If you want to earn the respect and loyalty of your team, show them you care by being empathic.
How can leaders develop emotional intelligence?
In order for you to engage your EQ, you must be able use your emotions to make constructive decisions about your behavior. When you become overly stressed, you can lose control of your emotions and the ability to act thoughtfully and appropriately. Leaders who regulate themselves effectively rarely verbally attack others, make rushed or emotional decisions, stereotype people, or compromise their values. Self-management is about staying in control. This element of emotional intelligence, according to Daniel Goleman, also covers a leader’s flexibility and commitment to personal accountability.
- Know your values: Do you have a clear idea of where you absolutely will not compromise? Do you know which values are most important to you? If you know what is most important to you, then you probably won’t have to think twice when you face a moral or ethical decision; you’ll make the right choice.
- Hold yourself accountable: If you tend to blame others when something goes wrong, stop. Make a commitment to admit to your mistakes and to face the consequences. You will quickly earn the respect of those around you.
- Practice being calm: The next time you find yourself in a challenging situation, be very aware of how you act. Do you relieve your stress by shouting at someone else? Practice deep-breathing exercises to calm yourself or write your emotions down or read some of our quick tips to managing stress and building resilience.
Emotions are important pieces of information that tell you about yourself and others, but in the face of stress that takes us out of our comfort zone, we can become overwhelmed and lose control of ourselves. With the ability to manage stress and stay emotionally present, you can learn to receive upsetting information without letting it override your thoughts and self-control. You will be able to make choices that allow you to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.
If you are self-aware, you know how you feel, and you know how your emotions and your actions can affect the people around you. Being self-aware when you are in a leadership position also means having a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses, and means behaving with humility.
- Keep a journal: Journals help you improve your self-awareness. If you spend just a few minutes each day writing down your thoughts, this can move you to a higher degree of self-awareness.
- Slow down: When you experience anger or other strong emotions, slow down to examine why. Remember, no matter what the situation, you can always choose how you respond to it.
Your ability to manage core feelings such as anger, sadness, fear, and joy often depends on the quality and consistency of your early life emotional experiences. Being able to connect to your emotions—having a moment-to-moment connection with your changing emotional experience—is the key to understanding how emotion influences your thoughts and actions.
It is important that you learn how to manage stress first, so you will feel more comfortable reconnecting to strong or unpleasant emotions and changing how you experience and respond to your feelings.
3. Social Awareness
Social awareness enables us to recognize and interpret the mainly nonverbal cues others are constantly using to communicate with us. These cues let you know how others are really feeling, how their emotional state is changing from moment to moment, and what is truly important to them. When groups of people send out similar nonverbal cues, you are able to read and understand the power dynamics and shared emotional experiences of the group. In short, you are empathic and socially comfortable.
To build social awareness, you need to recognize the importance of mindfulness in the social process. After all, you cannot pick up on subtle nonverbal cues when you are in your own head, thinking about other things, or simply zoning out on your phone. Social awareness requires your presence in the moment. While many of us pride ourselves on an ability to multitask, this means that you will miss the subtle emotional shifts taking place in other people that help you fully understand them.
4. Relationship Management
Working well with others is a process that begins with emotional awareness and your ability to recognize and understand what other people are experiencing. Once emotional awareness is in play, you can effectively develop additional social/emotional skills that will make your relationships more effective, fruitful, and fulfilling.
Leaders who do well in the relationship skills element of emotional intelligence are great communicators. They’re just as open to hearing bad news as good news, and they’re expert at getting their team to support them and be excited about a new mission or project.
Leaders who have good social skills are also good at managing change and resolving conflicts diplomatically. They’re rarely satisfied with leaving things as they are, but they don’t sit back and make everyone else do the work: they set an example with their own behavior.
- Become aware of how effectively you use nonverbal communication.It’s impossible to avoid sending nonverbal messages to others about what you think and feel. The many muscles in the face, especially those around the eyes, nose, mouth and forehead, help you to wordlessly convey your own emotions as well as read other peoples’ emotional intent. The emotional part of your brain is always on—and even if you ignore its messages—others won’t. Recognizing the nonverbal messages that you send to others can play a huge part in improving your relationships.
- Use humor and play to relieve stress.Humor, laughter and play are natural antidotes to stress. They lessen our burdens and help us keep things in perspective. Laughter brings our nervous system into balance, reducing stress, calming us down, sharpening our mind and making us more empathic.
- Learn to see conflict as an opportunity to grow closer to others.Conflict and disagreements are inevitable in human relationships. Two people can’t possibly have the same needs, opinions, and expectations at all times. Resolving conflict in healthy, constructive ways can strengthen trust between people. When conflict is not perceived as threatening or punishing, it fosters freedom, creativity, and safety in relationships.
In a nutshell:
Although analytical intelligence is important in life, emotional intelligence is key to relating well to others and achieving your goals. Emotional intelligence is an awareness of your actions and feelings – and how they affect those around you. It also means that you value others, listen to their wants and needs, and are able to empathize or identify with them on different levels. Reversely, if you don’t care about EQ, your career may be prone to derailment.
“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
Genuine curiosity peppered with compassion is one of the most effective ingredients to mastering one’s EQ. Coaching with Inspired Executives supports you not only in increasing your strategic self-awareness but also in managing stress and building strong work relationships. Contact us. We are – as always – just an email or phone call away.
Lead courageously, Annette.