Navigating the workplace environment can at times be tricky, with team dynamics to consider, individual personality types to understand and office politics that usually can’t be avoided. As you progress through your career, having a good understanding of your own feelings and emotions, and being aware of and adaptable to the emotions of others, becomes more important. This skill becomes even more relevant for those in more senior roles and managing large teams.

How does your emotional intelligence stack up?

Emotional Intelligence – the lowdown on EQ

Dr Peter Salovey of Yale University and Dr John Mayer of the University of New Hampshire first coined the phrase ’emotional intelligence‘ back in 1990. They defined emotional intelligence as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.”
Emotional intelligence consists of four components:
Awareness of the self and one’s own emotions. (perceiving emotions)
Management of the self and exhibiting a level of control over one’s own emotions (reasoning with emotions)
Social awareness and the ability to detect the emotions of others (understanding emotions)
Management of relationships (managing emotion)
Since it was formally defined, emotional intelligence has become critical in assessing a person’s core competencies, especially in the modern workplace. Employers tend to prefer employees who can demonstrate the ability to remain calm under pressure, respond well to criticism and help resolve conflict by offering solutions. These are all essential skills when it comes to teamwork and collaboration, and a high level of emotional intelligence in these areas is critical for effective teamwork and team management.

Measuring your EQ

The Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) is the formal test that is designed to gauge emotional intelligence. A number of informal tests are also available that are designed to give you an indication of your emotional intelligence levels.
Employers tend to prefer employees who can demonstrate the ability to remain calm under pressure, respond well to criticism and help resolve conflict by offering solutions.
To get a better understanding of where you sit in the EQ scale, ask yourself if you’re someone who:- understands your strengths and weaknesses? – is comfortable with change and open to novel ideas? – stays optimistic when things go wrong? – sees things from another person’s point of view and senses what matters most to that person?
Individuals who tend to exhibit these qualities are deemed to be more emotionally intelligent than those who don’t.

Improving your work EQ

For some people, emotional intelligence may come naturally. Others may have to work harder at becoming more aware of their own emotions and the emotions of others – as well as how to responding accordingly. Here are some handy ways to help raise your own emotional intelligence:

Reduce Stress

Stress is a key contributing factor to irrational behaviour such as emotional outbursts that is often attributed to low emotional intelligence. By taking steps to reduce stress you’re more likely to remain in control of your emotional responses and think rationally. Consider deep breathing exercises, taking regular breaks and making healthy lifestyle choices, for example exercise and diet, to reduce stress levels.

Become more self-aware

Self-awareness is the first step to emotional intelligence. Spend some time observing and reflecting on your emotional responses to different situations. Pay attention to your physical as well as your psychological reactions to a variety of emotions.

Develop non-verbal cues

Body language plays an important part in how we communicate and respond to others. Be aware of your body language when you interact with colleagues by paying attention to eye contact, posture, gestures and your tone of voice and use these to enhance positive non-verbal cues.

Empathise with others

Empathy is one of the quickest ways to build trust and rapport with others. This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to feel sorry for the person or agree with their ideas, but it does mean being able to see the situation from their point of view. Engage active listening skills to help you gain a better understanding of issues from a different perspective.
By developing your emotional intelligence as a manager, you’ll be more likely to garner support from your team as well as from your superiors. By having the skills to work effectively with a range of people and personality types, you’ll be much better positioned for career success.

Summary

Having established that emotional intelligence is a combination of perceiving, reasoning, understanding and managing emotions, how can a person improve their EQ?
  • Reduce stress to stay in control of your emotional responses
  • Become more aware of your emotional responses to certain situations
  • Develop an awareness of your body language when interacting with colleagues
  • Empathise with others and engage active listening skills
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