Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a buzzword you often may have heard within your workplace. But what exactly is it? And why is it important?
EI was first brought into the mainstream in Daniel Goleman's book of the same name. Goleman defined EI as an 'array of skills and qualities that help drive greater individual leadership when dealing with others in the workplace.' Since his original work, it is argued, studies on EI have moved on significantly.
A Required Skill
Within the workplace EI is often cited as a required skill for anyone managing and leading people. Having strong emotional intelligence will help individuals develop positive relationships with their colleagues, customers, suppliers and all stakeholders in the business. So how do you develop EI? Here are my top 6 tips:
Understand how to deal with your negative emotions at work
This is probably one of the most important skills when it comes to developing EI. How you manage your negative emotions is linked with your thoughts. So, the next time you feel like you’ve been wronged by a colleague, take some time out to reflect on the incident/situation and instead of personalising it, try to think of alternative perspectives. For example, if a colleague has failed to deliver to a deadline, instead of feeling negative and reacting immediately and emotionally, consider what else might be going on in their work schedule. The trick here is to stop personalising other people's behaviours, once we do this we can see things more objectively.
Question your deeply held beliefs
Human beings naturally seek the company of others who share similar views to them, consequently validating their own opinions. Take time to appreciate the diversity of perspectives within the workplace and believe that there is always an alternative way professionals approach tasks. There is a great deal of cognitive diversity in the workplace, appreciate the different perspectives, it will help you grow as a professional and even if you still feel you’re right, it doesn’t hurt to listen!
Write down your feelings - keep a journal or a diary
This is a fantastic way to build up a picture of your reactions to work situations, it will also help you practice reflection and become more self aware. Start by writing what you enjoyed at work followed by the negative aspects of the day. What feelings did you observe? And what was the trigger? By writing things down you will be able to analyse your trending trigger points and be more prepared to tackle difficult situations.
Be open to trusting others
Developing mutual trust with your colleagues can often be difficult, especially if you work in company that is prone to "organisational politics" or you're starting a new role. Be mindful that if you can’t trust others, you cannot expect others to trust you. Being open to trusting others and actively letting them know you trust them will help drive positive emotional intelligence traits.
Listen & Practice empathy
Empathy refers to your ability to understand and share the feelings of another. To do this, you need to be a good listener. Listening is at the heart of practising empathy. In the workplace, especially at meetings, make sure you let people talk without interrupting them. Practice positive body language, don’t be cynical or roll your eyes when people express their opinions. Try to actively listen while putting your own thoughts on hold, allow yourself to see their perspective and reflect back on what you’ve heard; this is a very positive way to develop long lasting relationships at work.
Finally, by practising breathing techniques and mindfulness at work, you can become much more attuned with your thoughts and feelings and can easily regulate them. Take 10 minutes at the start of your day to mediate. Try downloading a mindfulness app such as ‘calm’ or ‘headspace’ that offer guided mediation.
The above tips are not an exhaustive list in helping develop EI at work, but these will go a long way of helping you become more self aware when dealing with your own emotions and the emotions of others.
If you want to access free career coaching to help you develop your emotional intelligence skills, please don’t hesitate to contact our Careers & Employability team at firstname.lastname@example.org