Office workers who nurture emotional intelligence are less susceptible to burnout or chronic stress and demonstrate greater resilience and overall job satisfaction.
The ability to utilise emotional intelligence in the workplace enhances interpersonal skills and collaborative working as well as offering the opportunity to develop momentum for career development. But what is emotional intelligence, why does it matter and how might it be cultivated?
What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence (often referred to as EQ) has been defined as the ability to enhance thought through emotional knowledge and the use of emotions.
An emotionally intelligent person is able to recognise, communicate, manage, and then react to emotions in a way that is balanced, enabling a self-awareness which, more often than not, leads to enhanced relationships both in the workplace and one’s personal life.
People with a high EQ are also more likely to be able to successfully self-regulate, processing and expressing emotions constructively, adapting effortlessly to changes and effectively managing conflict. The social skills of someone with a high EQ are enhanced by their ability to be an active listener as well as a strong communicator, they are also able to form high-confidence relationships through their ability to act respectfully in all interactions.
Other qualities include empathy, the ability to interpret the feelings of others and respond in a compassionate and validating way; also motivation, a strengthened drive to pursue goals, to seek new learning opportunities and ongoing personal development.
Why is this so important in the workplace?
A high EQ provides the tools to improve numerous workplace skills such as leadership and collaboration primarily through enabling an office worker to be a better contributor and team player. Research also suggests that the cultivation of emotional intelligence reduces the tendency to chronic stress and burnout, leading to greater resilience and improved job satisfaction.
Additionally, emotional intelligence can facilitate career advancement through the ability of someone with a high EQ to maintain robust, collaborative relationships which help drive a company’s vision and values with empathy and passion. Typically, the higher one climbs within an organisation the more interpersonal skills outweigh technical abilities so the self-aware, emotionally intelligent employee is likely to excel.
How to develop emotional intelligence
It is possible to develop emotional intelligence through intentional action and by following certain practical steps:
1. Practice active listening
Rather than formulating a response while another person is talking, make a point of really listening to what the person talking to you is saying. Our default might be to tune out when someone else is speaking, while focusing instead on a response, but its possible to resolve or even prevent conflicts but really listening and then forming a measured response.
Known as active listening, tuning into what the person speaking is really saying is one of the most critical of all workplace skills. The following techniques will help elevate your EQ, making sure others feel heard:
- Maintaining a natural pattern of eye contact and an open body posture
- Paying attention to non-verbal cues such as gestures, tone of voice and facial expressions
- Not interrupting; always be certain that the other person has finished saying what they want to say
- Communicate with respect and directness when responding. Repeat their words where applicable to confirm that you have listened carefully to what they had to say
- Ask clarifying questions where appropriate to ensure you have correctly understood what was told to you
- Avoid jumping to conclusions or planning a rebuttal before you’ve heard all the facts
- Check if input or advice is required before proceeding to offer potential solutions.
2. Resist reacting to pressure
A certain level of stress is natural in any job. As soon as you get on top of your emails a load more pile in, clients and stakeholders need to be kept happy, copy deadlines loom, and on top of that there are team dynamics to deal with. A major indicator of your EQ is how you react to stress. Do you remain level-headed, do you diminish, or do you explode?
Those with strong emotional intelligence are typically able to remain calm amid mounting pressure. Rather than react impulsively, they are capable of rational thought and instead will choose proactive measures. Aware of their ‘internal thermometer’ they are able to manage stress in a balanced and healthy way, which ultimately makes them more enjoyable to work alongside. Adopting these simple strategies can help improve this area of your EQ:
- Avoid trying to repress or fight emotions. Acknowledge how you feel in the moment
- Accept whatever emotions you are feeling. Labelling them as ‘wrong’ just adds to the pressure
- Breathe! Pause a moment to take a few breaths before acting
- Assess the environment to ascertain when it is suitable to externalise emotions and when internalising them is necessary.
Self-regulation is essential to emotional intelligence and will help you find the calm in an intense situation.
3. Open yourself to constructive criticism
We are not always comfortable with feedback, but we need it for both professional and personal growth. Being receptive to feedback and open to doing the work required to implement it will boost performance, enhance relationships and ultimately allow you to make a greater impact in the workplace.
Avoid being defensive and consider how someone with heightened emotional intelligence might deal with feedback, usually they will welcome it as an opportunity for growth.
4. Demonstrate empathy for others
Empathy is one of the key indicators for emotional intelligence and in a post-pandemic era, empathy is a much sought-after quality. The need to balance the demands of a job with compassion have been highlighted more than ever over the last two years, indeed recent research has shown increased productivity in empathetic work environments.
Empathy enables sensitivity to the needs of colleagues and makes a difference not only to the person on the receiving end but to the company as a whole. A simple skill to hone, here are a few ways to practice more empathy in the workplace:
- Curiosity leads to learning from the perspective of others by actively listening to their opinions
- Biases should be challenged by interacting outside of your usual workplace circle
- Decisions made should be inclusive of the input of others to enable extended benefits
- Validating the emotions of others around you will reassure them their feelings are legitimate
- Practice humility in all situations. Listen attentively and understand fully before offering an opinion
- Where a colleague appears to be in distress, offer help and if possible, share their load.
Cultivating elevated emotional intelligence will almost certainly improve all areas of your work. Entering interactions and situations with self-awareness allows you to collaborate more efficiently, communicate empathetically and with greater understanding, and resolve conflicts while simultaneously remaining calm in a crisis.
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