One of the biggest reasons people excel at work is their ability to work well with others. While you do need to put in the work and be competent in your job, if you have low EI you will be tapped out at a certain point. People want to work with people they like.
What is Emotional Intelligence
A simple definition is how well a person picks up on other people’s emotions and the ability to use that information to connect with them and engage. To put this into a practical example, think about yourself at work. If you need your boss to approve something, you need to be able to pick up on their mood. If you are able to see when they are in a good mood versus a stressed out one, you are more likely to be able to use that to your advantage.
If they are putting off vibes of anxiety, instead of asking now for what you need, ask how you can help. If there is a way you can assist them, your boss will be grateful and you may get what you are asking for. On the other hand, if you aren’t able to pick up on your boss’ emotions and ask at the wrong time, not only will your request have a higher chance of being declined, you probably annoyed them!
How Can I Improve My EI?
First, you need you need to know where you are currently. There are a ton of resources to help you with this including free tests, like this one from Psychology Today. Don’t worry if you are low on the scale, some people are just more naturally prone to picking up on others emotions.
To improve, figure out which area you are falling short in. According to several resources, including Mindtools.com, there are 5 elements to Emotional Intelligence:
Self awareness - This is pretty self explanatory. How well do you know yourself? Your preference. dislikes, how you act around others. Your knowledge of these areas is the first step to knowing how to interact well with others. I love the Myers - Briggs assessment for this. There are a ton of free versions, one of my favorites is 16 Personalities. If you aren’t self aware or just aren’t sure, check out MBTI to give you a bit of insight.
If personality tests aren’t your thing, try keeping a journal of self reflection. You could also ask some honest friends and colleagues to give you some insight. Just promise not to get mad if they tell your the truth!
Self-regulation - Once you know your strengths and weaknesses, you need to play to them. Find ways to increase the things you know how to do best. You will also need to dial down those weaknesses. Maybe you are super passionate? You need to practice thinking, not speaking. It’s important to realize everyone doesn’t work the same way and that’s OK. Maybe it isn’t done in the method you like, but as long as the work is getting completed, who cares?
Motivation - How motivated are you to do the work you currently do? Do you tend to set your own goals and works towards them? Or do you rely on external factors to push you into action? People who have this element of EI tend to be more committed and continue working on personal development throughout their lives. If you think this is an area you need to work on, take a look at your goals and remind yourself why you have them. Then take a step towards them today. Keep working on it and make progress every day.
Empathy - How well are you able to what someone else is feeling? Do you tend to relate to what others are going through? This is a particularly helpful trait to have if you are in a leadership position. In addition to being able to pick up on people’s feelings and emotions, you must use that information to gauge your response. A great way to increase this trait is to replace statements with questions, as suggested by 6Seconds.
Social skills - These skills deal with how well you get along with others. Think about how you work with your peers. Do you typically get along well with your colleagues or do you run into conflict? Skillsyouneed.com lists influence, communication, conflict management, leadership, change catalyst, building bonds, collaboration & cooperation and team capabilities as aspects of social skills. There are a number of courses you can take if you want to work on these skills, as well as lots of practice!
While you can certainly get far in your career without a high EQ, you can get there more quickly if you have these skills. If you have aspirations of being in leadership position, these skills are an absolute must. Managing people is hard enough, if you don’t have emotional intelligence it’s near impossible.