Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace
How Honing your Emotional Intelligence Will Improve your Relationships at Work, Tricks people with high EI use to make everyone at work like them.
I talk often about the importance of mindfulness in the workplace. Being fully present in the moment leads to more productivity, mental clarity, self-awareness, and less stress. Another factor that goes hand-in-hand with mindfulness is emotional intelligence (EI). Both are overlooked frequently in the average workplace. Meanwhile, companies in Silicon Valley, and start-ups all over the country are embracing it and leveraging it to create better office environments filled with happier workers.
EI is more important to job performance than any other leadership skill. It’s also twice as important as technical knowledge.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
- Self-awareness: conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires;
- Social awareness: the ability to understand and respond to the needs of others;
- Self-management: the taking of responsibility for one’s own behavior and well-being; and,
- Relationship management: is a strategy in which a continuous level of engagement is maintained between an organization and its audience.
By having a good sense of our EI, we’re able to motivate colleagues and understand their emotions and needs to show them that they matter. Eighty-five percent of workers feel their boss doesn’t value them or respect them according to a recent study by TalentSmart, a leader in the EI field.
Great leadership is synonymous with high EI
Generally speaking, your EI level is somewhat predetermined, but fear not—there are things you can do to enhance it over time. Whether you’re an employee or a boss, it’s important to exercise emotional intelligence both at work and outside of work. When people feel valued by you, this creates respect, and they want to be around you. It also lowers your cortisol (stress hormone) levels and boosts happiness; a win-win for everyone around you.
When emotions run high
Whenever you have an emotional reaction to something, you’re receiving information about a particular person, moment, or event. You can react due to the actual situation or because of a painful memory you haven’t fully processed. By understanding your emotions and diving into them, this helps you to react with feelings of positivity and rationality.
For instance, let’s say your current boss tells you a project you worked really hard on wasn’t up to their expectations and wants you to redo it, leaving you feeling angry. It might remind you of the time in sixth-grade when you stayed up late working hard on a project and got a C+ even though you tried your best. Your unprocessed sixth-grade feelings may cause you to react negatively to your boss’ feedback.
In contrast, by exercising EI, you can reframe the situation objectively and process what you’re feeling, and respond appropriately. In other words, with high EI you’d think, “Wow, that really hurt my feelings. Why is it hurting my feelings?” After a few moments of internal reflection, you’ll remember your sixth-grade memory, and think, “Ok, I’m taking this more personally than I should because of a past event.” In turn, this healthy reflection garners more respect from your boss because you’re able to take constructive criticism and fix the problem rather than reacting poorly and taking it personally. By not taking the criticism personally, you won’t build up unwarranted resentment toward your boss.
Strengthening Your Emotional Intelligence
You have the ability to grow and progress your EI with the right skill-building activities. Here are four techniques for building EI in your life and work:
(1) Check in with yourself
Set a timer for various times during the day. When it goes off, take a few deep breaths, and think about how you feel. Pay attention to your emotions and consider what’s causing them. Notice where the emotion is showing up physically in your body and the sensations you feel. Does your neck hurt when you’re overwhelmed with email? Does your stomach tighten when you have a presentation coming up? The more you practice this, the more innate it will become. When we self-check throughout the day, we become more aware of biological and emotional triggers that may be buried causing uneasiness and stress. By bringing these feelings to the surface we can work through them and move on happily—Building a stronger character.
Notice how you’re behaving throughout the day. Become mindful of your moods and mood changes and how it affects your productivity levels, communication, and your overall well-being. Sometimes you’ll go into moments where you may judge others without being introspective and looking at your own issues for opportunities to improve. By being aware of yourself, your emotions, and your behavior, you’ll be able to correct issues and become a better you.
Practice responding rather than reacting. Responding to a situation is usually something you do automatically without thinking through. Someone walks into your office and starts talking to you while you’re clearly working on something important and you snap at them or give them an annoyed look. Responding is when you pause and evaluate the situation before taking action.
When someone walks into your office or work space while you’re focused on something and begins talking, a responder would pause, think, “I’m working, why are they talking to me right now? Is it important? Can it wait? What are they saying to me? How should I respond?” Then, a reactor would respond with, “Wow, that sounds really interesting! I’m working on a big project right now but I’d love to talk more about it when I’m done. Can it wait?” This is a much kinder response that lets you communicate your needs while keeping the peace between you and your co-workers.
(4) Stay positive
Finally, keep your environment positive, beautiful, and clean, and remind yourself what you have to be grateful for. A gratitude journal can be a great tool for tracking appreciation in your everyday life. When you radiate positivity and stay optimistic it naturally draws people to you. Maintain a happy “can do” attitude and when you feel that slipping, take a few deep breaths and analyze why you’re feeling unrest and then readjust.
Building emotional intelligence is a lifelong practice, not something that can be built up and then ignored. Be the best you that you can and see how life changes around you for the better.