Emotional intelligence (EQ) in the workplace

Develop your work-relationship skills and become your best self with your boss and peers
Most jobs require us to interact with others during the workday. Even in a “virtual office,” we need to communicate well and empathize with others. Those interactions can be crucial to success and overall happiness at work. Our ability to boost those skills relies on emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quotient (EQ).EQ is the ability to understand, acknowledge, and manage our own emotions while also tuning in to the emotional experience of others.

Most of us find ourselves drawn to people with high emotional intelligence. They tend to have an easy social demeanor. They have keen active listening skills and are empathetic. Those qualities make them easy to be around. Having high EQ helps us make better decisions. It aids in problem-solving and getting along with others.

Psychologist and author Daniel Goleman writes about why EQ is important in the workplace:

“Self-awareness, self-management, empathy and social skill separate the most successful workers and leaders from the average,” Goleman notes. He says this is extra true when, in a given environment, “… everyone is about as smart as everyone else.” This gives an edge to those who manage themselves and their relationships well.

Verywell Mind points out that high EQ adds value to workplace relationships. EQ in the workplace bolsters skills like problem-solving and communication. It improves how employees interact with each other. Resolving conflicts becomes easier, as does effective crisis management. And it affects overall job performance.

Someone who smiles and uses humor can encourage a relaxed exchange and positive emotions in others. It can help get a team on board with a project. It can reassure a supervisor that everything is on track.

People with high EQ are also more likely to have a healthier work life balance. As one study concluded, EQ “contributes significantly towards maintaining a proper balance in professional and personal life.”

EQ comes more naturally to some than others. The good news is, it can be taught. A 2009 study offered a 10-hour training to study subjects. That training “led to significant improvements” in identifying and managing participants’ emotions. Those skills were still going strong when researchers did a follow up six months later.

High EQ uses skills that improve both our personal and work lives and helps us balance the two. Building our emotional intelligence is a worthy endeavor.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia

Improving your emotional intelligence at work

How do you navigate the complicated communications ecosystem in the workplace? It comes easily for some people, while others have to work at it. Improving your working relationships with your colleagues can help you resolve conflicts and be a stronger team member. This tip sheet from Verywell Mind explores some ways to strengthen your emotional intelligence:

Become more self-aware:

  • Pay attention to how you’re feeling
  • Take stock of emotional strengths and weaknesses
  • Remember that emotions are fleeting

Practice self-regulation:

  • Find techniques to release workplace stress
  • Keep your cool
  • Think before making decisions

Improve social skills:

  • Listen to what others have to say
  • Pay attention to nonverbal communication
  • Hone your persuasion skills
  • Avoid office drama

Become more empathetic:

  • See things from other people’s points of view
  • Pay attention to how you respond to others

Work on your motivation:

  • Focus on what you love about your work
  • Try to maintain a positive attitude

Eight steps to a higher emotional intelligence (EQ) in the workplace

In the academic paper, “Emotional Intelligence: A Key for Workplace Success,” Amit Gupta, a senior lecturer at Jamia Hamdard University in New Delhi, India, provides an eight-step guide to improving your EQ in the workplace.

Look for opportunities where you can take small steps and practice exploring ways that help you to:

  • Understand the importance of EQ: Know your strengths and weaknesses, and those of your team. Be socially aware of your employees.
  • Deal with stress triggers: This is about being assertive. Accept that you may have to deliver bad news. Learn to say “no” when needed.
  • Be open-minded, curious and agreeable: Evaluate your thought process when you disagree with an idea. What’s the basis for your opinion?
  • Look for opportunities to be outgoing and empathetic: Practice considering the other person’s view point. Understand why someone might react to a new proposal differently than you.
  • Be conscientious and prepared to deliberate: You can be goal-oriented, but also consider all options. Try not to make decisions by emotion alone.
  • Be attentive and self-aware: Ask yourself why you react in certain ways. “I get so stressed when I hear negative feedback. Why is that? What can I do to change my response?”
  • Practice communication skills: Pay attention to body language (your own and others’).
  • Be optimistic: Recognize the good in yourself and others while also recognizing and accepting flaws. Workplace hardships can be used as learning tools. You may actually find a humorous way to talk about it and lighten the mood.

High vs low emotional intelligence

What are some differences between people who are more emotionally intelligent than others? Check out this chart from Verywell Mind and work on your EQ. Researchers believe we can all improve our emotional intelligence with a little practice:

Those with high EQ tend to:

  • Make better decisions and solve problems
  • Keep calm under pressure
  • Resolve conflicts
  • Have greater empathy
  • Listen, reflect, and respond to constructive criticism

Those with low EQ tend to:

  • Play the role of the victim or avoid taking responsibility for errors
  • Have passive or aggressive communication styles
  • Refuse to work as a team
  • Are overly critical of others or dismiss others’ opinions

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