We can’t be immune to workplace politics and conflicts, even in the best companies in the world like Google or Uber. Office woes are bound to happen whenever there’s a miscommunication or diverse opinions on a certain subject take place.

If we factor in the emotional attribution, primarily ego and empathy, negative workplace behaviours appear to be the result of the lack of individual social skills rather than being driven by flawed leadership. In other words, the root cause of many workplace issues is poor emotional intelligence or EQ (emotional intelligence quotient).

Populated by The New York Times’ science journalist Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence refers to one’s ability to identify and manage his or her emotions as well as others’.

Besides IQ (intelligence quotient), EQ is another measurement of the human brain activity in the social context. For instance, it indicates how well you can control your emotions when facing setbacks or how likely you can influence people and win them over. With the ability to resolve conflict and collaborate well with others, highly emotionally intelligent individuals are more likely to become a successful leader as compared to those with high IQ.

The impact of emotional intelligence goes beyond understanding human feelings and emotions; its fundamental role is to strike a balance among different sentiments and turn negativity into positivity; it is the enabler of an ideal workplace.

The Components of Emotional Intelligence

Based on Goleman’s studies, EQ consists of five core values that are classified into two main domains – personal competence and social competence.

emotional intelligence components

Personal competence

  • Self-awareness: to recognize your own state of mind in order to understand your emotions and how they affect others.
  • Self-regulation: to control your behavioural instinct by redirecting impulses and channelling negative emotions into a positive reaction.
  • Internal motivation: to focus on your inner passion and vision when pursuing a goal instead of being driven by the external forces.

Social competence

  • Empathy: to walk in other people’s shoes and understand their emotional reactions and treat them with sympathy.
  • Social skill: to connect with people based on the common ground, build rapport and foster positive relationships.

With all that characteristics combined, emotionally intelligent people are able to navigate conflicts better than those who tend to lose control of their emotions (and struggle to understand others’).

The higher a person climbs up the career ladder, the more impactful his or her EQ will become. This is because leadership roles require a person to dial up the soft skills in order to manage the team of many unique individuals, especially when it comes to letting go of personal egos to keep everyone’s best interests in mind at all times. Furthermore, a leader’s EQ is not the only contributor to business success, every individual’s EQ matters. We’ll explore the profound impact of emotional intelligence as a whole later on in the article.

We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their impact on us.” – John Wallen

Emotional Intelligence and Communication at Work

Most workplace issues happen when people misunderstand each other while the leaders fail to pinpoint the bedrock of their team collaboration. Miscommunication is also the source of gossips and negative vibes in the workplace and is inevitable in any corporation. The good news is, EQ can be improved in order to create an ideal working environment, starting with effective communication.

The social competence value, as explained in Goleman’s definition of EQ, is the telltale sign of a good communicator. It reflects one’s ability to relate oneself to others to avoid failed assumption. Being mindful of other’s personal struggles and perspectives allows us to treat our peers with sympathy and ultimately develop a better sense of empathy.

The thing is, not everyone is comfortable enough to reveal their feelings to the world, which makes it extremely difficult for people around them to make sense of their actions. While there are those who have a natural empathy, the majority of us can only understand other’s thoughts if the person is willing to share verbally. Likewise, if you want to resonate with people, don’t be afraid to express yourself in the first place.

Since we all want our ideas to reach the higher up faster in the race for recognition, everyone is fighting for their voice to be heard and no one really listens. And without communication, it’s impossible to have a united team, which also leads to poor leadership. Therefore, the only way to truly connect with each other is to listen first.

Emotional Intelligence and Personal Improvement

In his book on emotional intelligence, Goleman also shared: “The criteria for success at work are changing. We are being judged by a new yardstick: not just by how smart we are, or by our training and expertise, but also by how well we handle ourselves and each other.” It means that emotionally intelligent people will excel where ‘human intervention’ is needed.

By improving on self-awareness (which means discovering one’s strengths and weaknesses, emotions, and desires), you will also get better at controlling your emotional state. An average person reacts impulsively to a crisis because of the insecurity he or she experiences personally. As for those with high EQ, they are more conscious and able to handle challenges based on the results of self-assessment, before deciding on the course of action. In other words, to gain self-awareness is to gain confidence in our capability while reassuring others to trust in our choice.

Also, with a better control of emotions, we essentially become more open to feedback, especially criticisms. While failure is hard to digest, emotionally intelligent people will make it a point to actively seek criticism in order to learn from experience.

A person’s EQ level is often measured by his or her social competencies since they involve the awareness of people’s feelings as well. On this emotional assessment scale, it is worth noting that understanding other’s perspective is not about reading their mind with an intention to manipulate their actions. It’s all about developing empathy in order to foster positive relationships and work through conflicts as and when they arise. At the same time, people with high EQ don’t seek to please everyone but rather try their best to listen in a way that makes their peers feel heard. This quality is, in fact, the number one leadership trait that is fuelled by emotional intelligence. Let’s not forget the ability to let go of personal egos in order to see the good in others.

How Can You Increase Emotional Intelligence?

Having a low EQ doesn’t make a person less ‘human’ than anyone. What it indicates is simply a different combination of personal traits, one that is sculptured through upbringing and childhood experiences. Therefore, it is indeed unstable yet malleable. Below are the methods that can help develop higher emotional intelligence.

  • Deal with confrontation: Most people try to avoid conflicts by ignoring them altogether and that’s the beginning of miscommunication. So face your fear and stop being a people-person, proper communication is the only way to develop healthy relationships.
  • Face your problem: If you ever feel concerned about something, try to settle your thoughts until they are at ease. Don’t dismiss your emotions just because they make you feel uncomfortable. You can keep a journal to reflect on your past experiences from time to time.
  • Be observant: To fathom other’s feelings, you have to establish a better sense of psychological understanding. One can achieve this through observational learning or through mindfulness.
  • Think like a leader: In the business setting, arrogance can lead to fatal consequences since no one wants to listen to the other’s opinions. So those who are able to strike the right balance between assertiveness and humility will be more reliable when it comes to taking the lead. To win people over, the leader must first start by helping people understand their own intentions before stepping into any battle.

It may be hard to commit to a new way of thinking all at once, but you can take it one thought at a time. For every circumstance that involves your decision, practice the ‘pause’ moment to assess your feelings and to observe the situation, only then listen to your instinct. The goal is to master an adaptive behaviour that fits into the ever-changing world of work.

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