When most of us think about work and being in the office, we think of an emotionless place focused on output and productivity. But, since we’re all messy humans with messy human lives, we bring that human with us to the workplace. That means emotions, bad days, spontaneous reactions, and grumps. It’s all part of being human.
But, we can limit the effects of our emotions on our fellow office goers and messy humans. That’s where emotional intelligence comes in. It can make us all better humans, better workers, and more productive.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence, also known as EQ or EI, is the ability to perceive, evaluate, and regulate emotions. Emotional intelligence is about understanding our own emotions and also recognizing emotions in others.
Researchers believe there are 4 levels of emotional intelligence:
- Perceiving emotions: Recognizing emotions in ourselves and others.
- Reasoning with emotions: Using emotions to promote thinking and response.
- Understanding emotions: Interpreting the cause or meaning behind and emotion.
- Managing emotions: Regulating emotions and emotional response.
The 4 levels of emotional intelligence start at a more basic level and get more difficult in higher levels.
Importance of EQ in the Workplace
While many people don’t think of the workplace as emotional, we humans bring our emotions with us wherever we go. Emotional intelligence is the ability to regulate our emotions and control our responses. Emotional intelligence is a critical skill for any type of interpersonal relationship and communication.
In the workplace, using emotional intelligence might look like, being able to:
- Accept responsibility for a failure or action
- Accept constructive criticism and feedback
- Say no and set healthy boundaries
- Compromise with others to solve problems
- Have empathy for coworkers
- Use active listening skills
- Understanding why you react and respond the way you do to certain stimuli
Emotional intelligence skills are important so you can understand and manage your emotions and perceive and interpret the emotions of others.
How to Increase Your EQ
Researchers believe that some people are just born with emotional intelligence, but we can all work to strengthen our emotional intelligence and heighten our EQ skills to create a workplace where it’s safe to have emotions, as long as they’re regulated.
Respond, Don’t React
Have you ever snapped at someone out of anger or frustration? That’s a reaction or an emotional outburst. Those with high EQ skills are able to respond to their emotions without reacting.
Honing your EQ means learning how to stay calm during stressful situations and to resist the urge to react impulsively. In times of stress, the goal is resolution. Focusing on resolution and taking a few deep breaths can help you to respond instead of reacting.
Become an Active Listener
We’ve all been in a conversation where our mind wanders and then it snaps back and we realize we haven’t heard a thing the other person was saying.
Active listening is about perceiving everything in a conversation. It’s listening for clarity and listening to non-verbal cues.
- Ask follow up questions
- Perceive the intent of the conversation, not just the words
- Look for body language for understanding of the emotions or of what’s not being said
- Don’t prepare their responses while the other person is speaking
- Use their body language to show they’re listening intently
Learn to Name Your Emotions
While it sounds simple, many of us missed the important step as children of learning to name our emotions. A critical step in emotional regulation is being able to name and know what emotion you’re feeling.
To raise your EQ, start practicing naming your emotions by recognizing when you’re feeling an emotion and naming what that emotion is. An emotions wheel can be a great way to start getting to know your emotions better.
Find Healthy Emotional Outlets
Emotional intelligence is also about regulating your emotions. While we can’t control, suppress, or eliminate our emotions, we can have healthy outlets for feeling and working through big emotions. Self-regulation is all about finding which emotional outlets work for you.
Healthy emotional outlets might include:
- Meditating on your emotions
- Journaling about what you’re feeling
- Doing a thought download
- Try 4-7-8 breathing
- Talk it out with a supportive friend
- Get some exercise, take a walk, go for a run
- Distract yourself with something funny or happy
We are in control of our response to our emotions. Having healthy emotional outlets helps us to regulate our responses and to let out emotions in a safe, constructive way.
Be Able to Take Critiques
Receiving feedback and taking criticism is difficult, no matter how high your emotional intelligence is. If you do receive feedback or constructive criticism, the key is to not react immediately.
Instead, take a big breath and then ask questions to find out where the critique is coming from. Often, the criticism is coming from a place of love and encouragement. Even if the criticism doesn’t apply, you may be able to dig through it and find a nugget of truth.
Ask for Help When You Need It
There’s a lot of internal work that goes with building emotional intelligence. One thing you can do to hone your EQ is to start noticing when you’re feeling overwhelmed or burned out. When you feel those feelings coming on, reach out for help.
Asking for help and support is a sign of strong emotional intelligence, not weakness. If we can ask for help before we’re burned out or overwhelmed, we can be more productive, meet deadlines, and lessen the amount of time it takes to heal and recover.
And, support goes both ways. Be brave and ask for support. Then, later on, you can offer support to someone else on your team.
Ask About People’s Lives
A sign of high EQ is asking people about their lives and being an active listener to what they share. Knowing what motivates people and what makes them happy is a wonderful perk of high emotional intelligence. And, a sign of a great leader.
Leaders and managers are tasked with keeping projects moving forward smoothly. Knowing how to motivate individuals means you can manage them kindly and professionally.
Put Yourself in Other’s Shoes
Empathy is one of the major skills that highly intelligent people possess. While many are born with empathy skills, they can be learned. Empathy helps us to relate to others and understand what they’re feeling. Empathy is about mutual respect between two people.
Emotional intelligence is how we connect with others, how we empathize with them, and how we listen for what’s not being said in words but in non-verbal cues.
When you have high emotional intelligence skills you’re able to regulate your emotions, respond to emotional triggers, and recognize emotions in others. While most people don’t consider emotions to be part of work, as humans, we bring our emotions with us wherever we go.