“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.” – Oscar Wilde

One of the rising stars of the professional world is emotional intelligence, or EQ as its commonly known. Frequently considered to be a ‘soft skill’ it is nevertheless a highly desirable trait to look for in new recruits, and something incredibly valuable to find in your existing employees. As a result, many professionals are starting to do more than polish their practical and professional skills, and are also spending an increasing amount of time developing their interpersonal and emotional talents.

At first blush it may seem that emotional intelligence is an out-of-place skill in a workplace setting, yet the evolving nature of modern working is making it increasingly essential.

Rather than a fad or passing trend, emotional intelligence is rapidly becoming one of the most highly prized skills you can develop. This is particularly true if you’re looking to advance your career, or operate in a managerial or leadership role.

With major companies compiling statistical evidence demonstrating that having employees with a high level of emotional intelligence boosts their bottom line, sales, and productivity, it’s easy to see why it’s become such a sought after ability.

In order to compete in the modern workplace, it’s absolutely vital that you develop your emotional intelligence as part of your dedication to professional success, as well as personal development. But before we dig into exactly how to do that, let’s take a moment to look at exactly what EQ is.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

People with a high level of EQ know themselves exceptionally well, understanding their own emotional needs and effectively ensuring those requirements are met and managed. They are also able to easily sense other people’s emotional needs, and know how to meet those also.

Humans are such unique individuals, and have such vastly different personalities, that the wants and needs of one person can be very different to another, even if they’re both in exactly the same situation. Beyond this, people have very different ways of showing, expressing, and managing their emotions. So, even if two people are feeling exactly the same way, they may act very differently as a result.

It requires a lot of cleverness and tact to effectively navigate the mercurial seas of human emotion. This is true not only of your own emotions, but the emotions of those around you also. It’s particularly important to be an adept navigator if success and achievement are the destination you have in mind.

Developing your emotional intelligence will give you the ability to recognise and understand your emotions, realise what they are trying to tell you, how they are affecting the people around you, and what you need to do to harness their power.

When we can effectively manage our emotions, we can use them to our advantage and to the advantage of others. They cease to be a hindrance, getting in the way of our professionalism, and instead become our greatest asset.

Develop your EQ and you will find yourself better able to manage relationships, and achieve success.

Why?

Because people with high emotional intelligence are natural team players who put others at ease, and make life and work easier and better for the people around them.

Everyone wants to work with you, everyone wants your input.

Your judgement is not only trusted but highly sought, and people naturally look to you for leadership and guidance.

You become the go-to person everyone relies on. When they ask you a question, you know (or find) the answer; when they need help, you give it freely and without complaint; when they need a friendly ear you listen (without judgement); and when things go pear shaped you’re calm, collected, and able to get it all back on track.

Regular Vs Emotional Intelligence…

While ‘regular’ intelligence – what we think of as IQ – is an important aspect of ensuring success in life, it is emotional intelligence that provides the key to relating to your peers and colleagues, effectively managing your workplace (and personal) relationships, and achieving your goals.

For many, EQ is at least as important as IQ, if not more so.

After all, there are many professions that do not require exceptionally high levels of IQ, relying instead on high levels of practical or creative skill, yet EQ is still vital for success in these areas.

While it’s debatable which is most important to your career development, there is no doubt that both are critical, and the more you develop each, the stronger your position and potential advancement becomes.

But what exactly is the difference between IQ and EQ?

Simply put, emotional intelligence is a keen awareness of your feelings and actions, as well as how they impact upon the people around you. Having a high level of EQ means you place value on your peers and the people you interact with on a regular basis. You listen and consider their needs and wants, and are fully capable of identifying and empathising with them on multiple levels.

We all have that one person at work who is exceptionally good at listening, or that particular friend who never tires of hearing you air out your stresses and concerns. We all value these people, and come to rely on them for support, guidance, or simply a place to safely vent our feelings.

Simply having someone listen to your concerns goes a long way towards alleviating them (as they say, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’).

These people always know exactly what to say to make you feel better, and when you really need them to say nothing at all. They don’t pass judgement, and whatever you say or do, they seldom react in a way that leaves you feeling upset or offended. They’re considerate, caring, and even if they’re unable to offer a solution to your problem, speaking to them causes your levels of hope and optimism that a solution exists to soar.

Then there are the people who seem to exist in a permanent state of perfect zen.

They don’t get stressed, angry, or frustrated, no matter what life throws at them. Yet they are not unfeeling, or uncaring, they are simply exceptionally good at managing their emotions. They still feel everything, but don’t allow their actions to be ruled by the feelings, instead choosing to calmly consider and act in a way that will be most beneficial. As a result, such people are exceptionally good at making decisions.

Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence…

Emotional Intelligence was a term first popularised by American psychologist Daniel Goleman in his book by the same name, published in 1995. Goleman developed a defining framework of emotional intelligence including five core elements:

Self-Awareness…

People with a high level of emotional intelligence are very self-aware. They understand their emotions, and as a result aren’t ruled by them. Beyond this they have higher levels of confidence, because they can trust their own judgement and are fully aware of their own (genuine) strengths and weaknesses.

Self-Regulation…

You will not often find a person with high emotional intelligence who also suffers from impulse control issues.

The ability to understand their emotions generally enables people with good EQ to regulate themselves. They don’t tend to have fits of anger or jealousy, and every action is carefully considered rather than a knee-jerk response to something they’re feeling in the moment. They’re capable of saying no, comfortable with change, thoughtful, and have integrity as a result.

Motivation…

Another trait of individuals with great emotional intelligence is that they are highly motivated. They are fully willing to forego instant gratification in favour of long-term, sustainable success. They’re also highly productive, and love nothing more than the opportunity to rise to a new challenge. As a result, they tend to be exceptionally effective in everything they do.

Empathy…

The empathetic nature of people with high EQ is arguably their greatest asset. Empathy enables you to understand and relate to the people around you, reading their moods, needs, and feelings, and responding to them in an appropriate and helpful manner. It makes it easier to identify with people and offer them genuinely useful support.

You’re able to listen and make them feel truly heard.

You’re also able to judge when they need advice, and when they simply need a willing ear. If you do offer advice, it’s carefully considered and completely takes into account how they are truly feeling, rather than how you would feel in their position.

As a result you’re exceptionally good at managing relationships, and avoid the pitfalls of stereotyping or judging people.

Social Skills…

All that empathy makes socialising considerably easier, and people with high EQ will have considerably more developed social skills. This makes them team players who focus on the success of the group, rather than individual success, first helping others to achieve, develop and shine, before seeking to polish their own proverbial halos. They’re exceptionally good at managing disputes, and are masters when it comes to both building and maintaining strong relationships.

When it comes to creating success – both personally and professionally – social skills really are critical. Developing these skills is also a great way to demonstrate your management skills and leadership potential.

How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence…

Now that you fully understand what emotional intelligence is and why it’s such a powerful skill to develop, let’s look at exactly how to create high emotional intelligence in yourself…

Look At How You React To People…

Are you prone to snap judgements when you meet people? Do you tend to stereotype them based on superficial factors like where they’re from, how they look, or their personal beliefs and personality traits?

Take an honest look at the way you interact with new people. Try to put yourself in their position, see things from their perspective, and hold off on judgement. Once you’re confident you have a genuine understanding of their lot in life, consider their needs and how your judgement will affect them.

You’ll often find that, had you allowed that snap judgement to happen, you would have been doing them a disservice. Worse, you may find that by passing judgement you would actively have caused them harm, upset, or unnecessary turmoil.

Consider Your Working Environment…

Humility is an amazing quality.

Humility doesn’t mean you are lacking in self-confidence, or that you are shy. It simply means that you don’t seek validation and approval from others. You know your worth, your value, and the value of what you’ve done.

You don’t need someone else to praise you for it, you already know you did a good job and are proud of the fact.

Humility gives other people around you a chance to shine, switching the focus to them as you are no longer worrying about attaining praise yourself.

So are you seeking approval for your accomplishments, or are you quietly confident in your own abilities?

How Do You React To Stress?

When you experience a delay, are you liable to become upset? Do you have a tendency to blame other people for the inconvenience, getting angry and frustrated with them, even when it isn’t their fault?

Staying calm, collected, and in control in difficult situations is the hallmark of the emotionally intelligent. It’s also a highly prized skill, both in the world of business and in personal and social situations. Try to monitor the way you react to stress, and search for ways to build in checks and balances that help you stay calm and considered.

Accept Responsibility…

We all hate to feel guilty, and it’s very easy to ignore the fact you’ve hurt someone’s feelings, or take indirect action that you feel makes up for it rather than apologising to them directly. When you find you have done something wrong, even if it was unintentional, be direct. Take responsibility for the negative impact you’ve had. Search for ways to rectify the mistake and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

You will usually find people are happy to forgive and forget as long as you make a genuine and honest effort to set things right.

Think Before You Act…

If you’re faced with a decision that will have an impact on others, pause before making it and consider how it will affect them. Put yourself in their shoes. How would the action you’re about to take make you feel if someone did the same to you? Would that be a positive experience, or would it feel negative from your perspective?

If it’s going to be negative and you have no choice but to take that action, what steps can you take to make it easier for the people around you and mitigate that negative impact?

Develop An Assertive Communication Style…

There’s a big difference between being brash, and being assertive. Developing an assertive style of communication is the perfect way to come across as confident, without seeming aggressive. It also ensures you avoid appearing passive, which is often the case when people are shy or quiet in their style of communication.

Assertive communication will earn you a lot of respect, and the emotionally intelligent are able to effectively communicate their needs and opinions to others directly, while still being thoughtful and respectful of their own needs, feelings and opinions.

Become An Active Listener…

Are you the type of person who pauses to give people time to talk, or do you actually listen to what they’re saying? It’s surprising how often we believe we’re good listeners, when all we’re actually doing is waiting until it’s our turn to speak again.

Pay special attention to what people say to you. Seek clarity in understanding what’s being said to you before you reply, and when you do respond, try asking a question to give them space to talk further, rather than simply doling out your opinion or advice then moving on.

Beyond this, there are a myriad of nonverbal cues that happen during a conversation. Pay attention to the body language of the speaker. This can help you to prevent misunderstanding, as well as realise when they are holding something back, or are genuinely more upset or agitated than their words alone would have you believe.

There’s a reason so many misunderstandings happen via text, email, and social media – we can’t read the body language of the person we’re talking to, and miss out on valuable context as a result!

Maintain A Positive Mental Attitude…

The power of your attitude should never be underestimated. A negative attitude is infectious, and will quickly bring down the people around you. The more your own negativity is reflected back at you, the deeper you negative thoughts and feelings become.

If, on the other hand, you maintain a positive mental attitude, even in times of stress or distress, you are giving the people around you emotional cues that bolster their own positivity. This will actually help you to maintain a positive attitude yourself, and instead of being stuck in a cycle of negativity in which you are all feeding and intensifying the mood of the room, you find yourself in a positive cycle instead.

Be mindful of your attitudes, and if you find yourself thinking or feeling pessimistic try to replace the thought or belief with a more optimistic outlook. One great way to do this is to work something into your early morning routine that will set your mood for the day.

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