In today’s society, leaders tend to fail for a variety of reasons. Their failure might be due to their inability to adapt to change or think strategically. It might be due to their struggle to develop good working relationships with key stakeholders or build and maintain a team.
Emotional intelligence refers to a person’s ability to recognize, understand, manage, and reason with emotions. It’s a critical ability when it comes to interpersonal communication and a hot topic not only in psychology, but in the business world. The term was coined by psychologists in the 1990s, and its use quickly spread into other areas including business, education, and popular culture.
Since then, integration of this critical leadership competency is becoming a requirement for leaders. In a business environment, skills in self-awareness, trust building, conflict management, listening, and empathy are crucial. Incorporating these skills help support leaders to effectively manage the requirements of a demanding work environment. Progressive organizations need leaders with high emotional intelligence to move their teams into the future.
Typically, this is easier said than done. Developing our emotional intelligence takes time and deep introspection. It requires us to look inward at the emotions we are projecting in the workplace, as well as work to understand the emotions of others.
The four different levels of emotional intelligence are building self-awareness, practicing self-management, developing empathy, and gaining trust to build rapport.
The ability to accurately perceive your emotions and stay aware of them as they happen influences how you respond to specific situations and certain people. Strong self-awareness ensures we have a realistic picture of who we are, and more importantly, how we show up for others. Recognizing our emotional triggers and practicing mindfulness can aid in this process.
- Pay attention to how you are feeling. It may be beneficial to jot this down in a journal, track it in voice notes, or add it to your personal video diary. How do these emotions influence how you respond? Do the things you are feeling have an impact on the decisions you make or how you interact with others? As you reflect on these questions, you may find that you become much more aware of your own emotions and the role that they play in your daily life.
- Take inventory of your emotional strengths and weaknesses. Do you communicate well with others? Do you find yourself experiencing impatience, anger, or annoyance often? What are some ways you can deal with these feelings effectively? Recognizing weaknesses allows you to look for ways to deal with them.
- Remember that emotions come and go. Before you react, keep in mind these scenarios are temporary. Making rash decisions based on intense emotions can hinder your long-term goals and success.
Self-management refers to managing one’s internal state, impulses, and resources. It involves emotional self-control and your ability to use awareness of your emotions to direct your behavior. Self-regulation reflects how well you control and manage your emotional reactions to all situations and people, while keeping disruptive emotions in check.
- Consequential thinking can help in this process by imagining the upsides and downsides of our actions.
- Determine which action will best support our desired outcome. Take time to pause during presentations and casual conversations to use this thinking strategy while allowing those you are conversing with time to process the information, as well.
Develop empathy by observing the emotions of others
Empathy is what allows us to pick up on the emotional climate in social situations and to be able to understand what others are thinking and feeling. We can develop this skill through active listening. The ability to focus completely on what is being said both verbally and nonverbally allows us to create connections with others.
- We all want to be heard. The stronger our active listening skills, the easier it is to feel empathy for others and connect with them based on the emotions they are sharing with us. Another way to sharpen this skill is by asking powerful questions. This creates space for empathy by encouraging deeper conversations at work and in our personal lives.
- See things from the other person’s point of view. It can be challenging at times, especially if you feel like the other person is wrong. But rather than let disagreements build up into major conflicts, spend time looking at the situation from another’s perspective. It can be a great first step toward finding a middle ground between two opposing points of view.
- Pay attention to how you respond to others. Do you let them have a chance to share their ideas? Do you acknowledge their input, even if you disagree? Letting others know that their efforts have merit often helps everyone feel more willing to compromise.
Gain trust and build a solid rapport with others
Building trust and rapport with others over time helps when a conflict does arise. Once we establish trust with the people around us, we start to see different outcomes in our interactions. Our conversations change, and our intent shifts. Here are some key areas to focus on during conversation.
- Listen to what others have to say. This does not mean just passively listening to other people talk. Active listening involves showing attention, asking questions, and providing feedback. Whether you are a manager or a team member, active listening can show that you are passionate about work projects and willing to work with others to help the group reach its goals.
- Pay attention to nonverbal communication. The signals that people send through their body language can convey a lot about what they really think.
- Hone your persuasion skills. Being able to carry influence in the workplace and convince team members and supervisors to listen to your ideas can go a long way in advancing your career.
- Avoid office drama. Do your best to stay out of the petty office politics that sometimes take over the workplace but be aware that conflicts are not always avoidable. Focus on listening to what others have to say and look for ways to solve problems and minimize tensions.
Emotional intelligence plays an important role not only in well-being but also in your success in the workplace. Fortunately, there are a number of lessons you can take from emotion psychology that will allow you to improve your emotional intelligence and foster greater emotional competencies to improve your work performance and career success.
Developing these four emotional intelligent skills can help leaders unlock the potential for swift conflict management, connectivity and trust among teams and overall understanding in the workplace. Since we know emotional intelligence is the foundation of success and performance, building these skills is a game-changer in leadership and life.