Emotional intelligence has become a bit of a buzzword among business leaders in the past few years and an increasingly in-demand skill set for professionals. Why? Because studies show statistical proof that employees with emotional intelligence positively impact their companies’ bottom line.
What exactly is emotional intelligence and how can it help you improve business relationships?
According to Justin Bariso, author of EQ: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence, emotional intelligence, or emotional quotient (EQ), is “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.
Margaret Andrews, instructor of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership and executive director at the MIT Sloan School of Management, says “Emotional intelligence is critical in building and maintaining relationships and influencing others—key skills that help people throughout their career and wherever they sit in an organizational structure.”
Measuring Emotional Intelligence
There are tests available to measure emotional intelligence, the most popular and accepted being the MSCEIT. However, the accuracy of emotional intelligence tests as a valid measurement of EQ is still being debated among scientists. Regardless of your EQ score, you can never be too emotionally intelligent, and improving your EQ can dramatically improve your relationships.
Improving Your Emotional Intelligence
According to Andrews, emotional intelligence has four key components:
- Self Awareness: how well you understand your own emotions and their impact on others.
- Self Regulation: how well you manage your emotions and actions.
- Social Awareness: how well you understand others’ emotions.
- Social Skills: how well you manage conflict, work with a team, and influence others.
Improving in these 4 areas will increase your emotional intelligence, making it easier to develop authentic relationships in business and in life.
Increasing Self Awareness
Self awareness is tough because if you’re not self aware, you probably don’t know you’re not. Andrews cites a study by Tasha Eurich, which found that 95 percent of participants gave themselves high marks for self awareness; however, more empirical measures suggested that only 10-15 percent of the participants were actually self aware. Thus, many of us may not be as self aware as we think we are.
Self awareness requires looking inward. You must first know yourself to know others. A few ways to improve self awareness are to:
- Recognize and reflect on your emotions. Knowing how you feel in certain situations and being able to identify why you might be feeling that way is an important step to becoming more self aware.
- Know your values. Knowing your values is critical to self awareness and will help you seek and develop professional relationships with others, who have similar values in business.
- Ask for Feedback. Ask people you know and trust for feedback on your level of self awareness. It might not be what you want to hear, and other people’s emotions may factor into their opinions. However, if you hear similar feedback about your communication style, conflict management, or listening skills that differs from your assessment of yourself, accept that your perception might differ from reality.
Self awareness is the first step to improving your emotional intelligence. It requires humility and continuous reflection, but it’s critical and worth it.
Improving Self Regulation
Increased self awareness allows you to improve your self regulation. Once you’re aware of your emotions, you can learn to better manage the reactions and behaviors associated with them. To practice self regulation you can:
- Reflect before You React: When you recognize a negative emotion, pause before you react to it. Take a deep breath and take some time to reflect on how you’re feeling. If time allows, you could jot down how you want to react or what you want to say instead of actually doing it. This can help you work through your feelings without damaging your credibility or relationships.
- Ask for Clarification: When you feel an action or comment is directed at you in a negative way, ask for clarification from the person responsible. This gives you the opportunity to cool off, holds the other person accountable, and can resolve conflict before it starts by clearing up miscommunications.
- Focus on What You Can Control: Not everyone you do business with is going to be as reasonable, kind, or emotionally intelligent as you are. You can’t control their behavior or thoughts. However, you can control how you react to them.
Increasing Your Social Awareness
The ability to understand other people’s emotions through empathy is a critical skill for emotional intelligence. Empathy requires you to put yourself in their shoes and understand what they’re feeling from their perspective. Open-mindedness and curiosity are important components of empathy. To increase your social awareness and ability to empathize, try the following:
- Read More Literature. Andrews advises reading more literature to improve your empathy. Reading stories from other people’s perspectives can help you understand how others’ think, feel, and act in certain situations.
- Listen to Understand. Listening to understand is different from listening for what you want or expect to hear. It requires you not searching your own mind as another person talks and being curious about what they have to say. Ask questions about their experience and how they feel to help you gain better awareness of their experience.
- Expand your network or social circle. If you mostly surround yourself with people who are similar to you, you’re going to have a harder time empathizing with people with different backgrounds, cultures, or experiences. Make an effort to diversify your relationships to increase your social awareness.
Refining Your Social Skills
Improving your self awareness, self regulation, and social awareness will enable you to refine your social skills, which allows for better teamwork, conflict management, leadership, and relationship building. A few ways to improve your social skills are to:
- Increase your curiosity: Being curious about other people’s lives, experiences, and perspective allow you to build relationships with a wider variety of people. Curiosity creates a genuineness that can’t be faked and leads to better social interactions.
- Forget Your Agenda: Others can tell if your interactions with them are based on a self-serving agenda. It’s ok to have goals and rely on others to help you achieve them, but to value another person based on what they can do for you will lead to poor relationships.
- Don’t People Please: By trying to please everyone you will please no one and potentially compromise your values and integrity along the way. Allowing people-pleasing to drive your actions often produces negative outcomes. Being strong in who you are and what you have to offer without worrying about what other people think about it will help improve your social skills.
Developing More Authentic Relationships
Improving your emotional intelligence will dramatically improve your ability to build authentic relationships. In business, your EQ is just as valuable, if not more, than your IQ because it allows you to build the relationships that will help you grow, thrive, and succeed. Never stop striving to improve your emotional intelligence and your relationships will get better and become more valuable.