In recent years, emotional intelligence, or EQ, has become a common and popular topic among managers and leaders. As a consultant who trains companies of all sizes on leadership and soft skills, I can tell you that it is by far one of the most needed areas of development in today’s workplace, and especially among leadership. But what is EQ really, and why is it so important?
According to TalentSmart founder and Emotional Intelligence 2.0 author Travis Bradberry, “Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively" and it "is also an important indicator when it comes to performance prediction.” Current studies indicate that it affects “performance and success in areas including customer retention, increased sales, leadership, management and so many other facets.” With such noted impacts, managers and leaders must understand and improve their EQ in order to beneift from its effects in the workplace.
Fortunately, your EQ can be broken down into two key components: personal awareness and social awareness.
Related: Why More Emotional Intelligence Means More Money
Personal awareness, or self-awareness, entails being mindful of your emotions and how you express them as situations arise. People who are self-aware “are committed to their own growth and development," as DevelopmenWORKS President John R. Stoker blogged for SmartBrief. In order to be self-aware, you must be willing to conduct honest self-assessments, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test.
However, being self-aware is not just about knowing how you react to certain situations and what triggers your emotional responses. It is also about using that knowledge to control your reactions. Controlling your emotions doesn’t mean you stop feeling them. It means being able to recognize that you are angry or frustrated, understanding that it's inappropriate to show your anger and frustration in certain situations and remaining calm despite your inner feelings. It also means accepting criticisms, both negative and positive, and using them as a basis for improving and developing yourself. Such feedback can also help you in assessing yourself and your emotional responses. Taking another MBTI won’t show you whether you’ve improved or not, but feedback from your peers can help you assess how much you’ve developed your EQ.
Being self-aware allows you to communicate better. Because you can control how you react to certain situations and people, you can avoid unnecessary conflicts in the workplace or even in your personal life. For instance, instead of shouting and making a scene, when you feel that you are getting angry or frustrated, you start to take deep, relaxing breaths so that you can stay level-headed and calmly address the issue. This allows you to avoid escalating the situation.
Social awareness refers to our ability to empathize with others. In other words, it’s our sensitivity to others’s feelings and emotions, as well as our willingness to respect other people’s perspectives. Social awareness also means being honest and respectful. With your knowledge of how the people around you might react, you will be able to prepare for their reactions. For instance, as managers and leaders, you’ll have to implement changes in your company at some point, and you can anticipate that a number of your employees will react negatively to those changes. Consequently, you can also make plans to ensure that their concerns are addressed, which helps prevent most of the conflicts that arise when implementingchanges.
Like self-awareness, your social awareness can also improve your ability to communicate — not just at work, but in everyday conversations as well. In order to increase your social awareness, practice observing the people around you. Take note of what triggers their emotional responses. People betray certain cues when they are about to get an emotional high. For instance, most people start breathing heavily when they get angry. Some can turn red, while others begin to frown or form a crease in their foreheads. These are all indicators of people who might have a negative response to your words or actions or the situation that you find yourselves in. Knowing these cues allows you to take action to ensure that before they reach their emotional high, you diffuse some, if not all, of the possible causes of their emotional response.
As a manager or leader in any capacity in the workplace, sharpening your EQ is going to improve the day-to-day interactions amongst those in your operation. One benefit of having a high EQ is developing the ability to gather a group of people and make them work together to reach a common goal. Because you understand their emotional responses, you know what to say or do to motivate them to work harder and as a team towards the same goal. And rememebr to take note that being self-aware and socially aware can also help you manage your personal relationships, enahcing your quality of life in and out of the office.