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Are you emotionally intelligent?

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

As we all know, getting a good education is important, however, you can have all the qualifications in the world but if you’re not also emotionally intelligent, the likelihood is that your chances of success in your chosen field will be diminished. Research shows 90% of high performers in the work place possess high emotional intelligence, while 80% of low performers have low emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence, or EQ or EI as it is otherwise known, is absolutely essential in the formation, development, maintenance, and enhancement of relationships. Unlike IQ, which does not change significantly over a lifetime, our EQ can evolve and increase with our desire to learn and grow.

The official definition of EQ is, “The ability to understand, manage, and effectively express one's own feelings, as well as engage and navigate successfully with those of others.”

EQ can be roughly broken down into five categories

1. Self-awareness. If a person has a healthy sense of self-awareness, they understand their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as how their actions affect others. A person who is self-aware is usually better able to handle and learn from constructive criticism than one who is not.

2. Self-regulation. A person with a high EQ can maturely reveal their emotions and exercise restraint when needed. Instead of supressing feelings, they expresses them with restraint and control.

3. Motivation. Emotionally intelligent people are self-motivated. They're not motivated simply by money or a title. They are usually resilient and optimistic when they encounter disappointment and are driven by an inner ambition.

4. Empathy. A person who has empathy has compassion and an understanding of human nature that allows them to connect with other people on an emotional level. The ability to empathise allows a person to provide great service and respond genuinely to others’ concerns.

5. People skills. People who are emotionally intelligent are able to build rapport and trust, quickly with others. They avoid power struggles and backstabbing. They usually enjoy other people’s company and have the respect of those around them.

So how can you improve your emotional intelligence?

Your physical needs. It is hard to be able to be in control if you are not taking care of yourself. That means getting enough sleep, keeping hydrated, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly – avoiding too much caffeine and sugary/salt laden snacks and energy drinks – having an interest away from work that allows you the opportunity to do something different and unwind.

The ability to reduce negative emotions. Perhaps no aspect of emotional intelligence is more important than our ability to effectively manage our own negative emotions, so they do not overwhelm us, affect our judgment and our communication.

Reducing negative personalisation. When we avoid personalising other people's behaviours, we can perceive their expressions more objectively. People do what they do because of them more than because of you. Widening our perspective can reduce the possibility of misunderstanding and focus on solutions. When you feel adversely about someone’s behaviour, avoid jumping to a negative conclusion right away. Come up with multiple ways of viewing the situation before reacting. For example, you may be tempted to think a colleague didn’t return your call because they are ignoring you, or you could consider the possibility that they are very busy.

The ability to stay cool and manage stress. Most of us experience some level of stress in life. How we handle stressful situations can make the difference between being assertive versus reactive, and poised versus frazzled. When under pressure, the most important thing to keep in mind is – KEEP YOUR COOL.

The ability to stay proactive, not reactive in the face of a difficult person. Most of us encounter unreasonable people in our lives. It is very easy to let a challenging person affect us – when we should not. Here are three quick tips to help you stay proactive:

1. When you feel angry and upset with someone, before you say something you might later regret, take a deep breath and count slowly to ten. In most circumstances, by the time you reach ten, you would have figured out a better way of communicating the issue, so that you can reduce, instead of complicate the problem. If you are still upset after counting to ten, take a ‘time out’ if possible, and revisit the issue after you calm down.

Another way to reduce reactivity is to try and put one’s self in the difficult individual’s shoes, even for just a moment. For example, consider the person you are dealing with, and complete the sentence: “It must not be easy….” i.e. “My client’s PA is really demanding. It must not be easy to have such high expectations placed on their performance by their boss”

The point is to remind one’s self that people do what they do because of their own issues. As long as we are being reasonable and considerate, difficult behaviours from others say a lot more about them than they do about us. By de-personalising, we can view the situation more objectively, and come up with better ways of solving the problem.

2. Set consequence(s). The ability to identify and assert consequence(s) is one of the most important skills you can use to 'stand down' a difficult person. Effectively articulated, consequence gives pause to the difficult individual, and compels them to shift from violation to respect.

3. The ability to bounce back from adversity. How we choose to think, feel, and act in relation to life’s challenges can often make the difference between hope versus despair, optimism versus frustration, and victory versus defeat.

With every challenging situation we encounter, ask questions such as:

“What is the lesson here?”

“How can I learn from this experience?”

“What is most important now?”

“If I think outside the box, are there better answers?”

The higher the quality of questions we ask, the better the quality of answers we will receive. Constructive questions based on learning and priorities; help us gain the proper perspective to help tackle the situation in hand.

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