Why Emotional Intelligence Is More Than Just Being Nice

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is being aware of our own emotions, the emotions of others and the ability to use this knowledge to improve our relationships, to influence others and to build rapport.

People with a high level of EI know what they’re feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people. This makes them great to be around and to work for because they know what they want, they respect people and are respected themselves.  And they are not fazed by change or crisis because they know how to handle themselves.

Why it’s worth spending effort on your Emotional Intelligence

There are so many benefits of developing your EI.  Here are just a few:

Less panic under pressure

When we are under a lot of pressure we get stressed.  But awareness of how our emotions drive our thoughts and actions means we can better understand and manage our stress reaction.

More motivation and better performance

Our emotions, not our thoughts, motivate us. If we are not aware of our behaviour, emotions and actions we can’t change them and they drive us, instead of us being in control.

Financial advisors at American Express whose managers completed the Emotional Competence training program were compared to managers had not. During the year following training, the advisors of trained managers grew their businesses by 18.1% compared to 16.2% for those whose managers were untrained.

Healthier relationships all round

To build good relationships we need skills in managing emotions in others. People who excel at relationship management do well and influence others. They’re social stars, knowing how they feel and what effect this has on others.

Clearer communications

When our emotions are not getting in our way, we are open to more active listening. This has a massive effect on communication and rapport.  And knowing what we feel, our emotions, means we get our message across more clearly.

More respected by others

We all know someone who is calm under pressure, makes us feel good and really listens. This is high EI. They are great to be around and people want to be with them and do business with them.

A study of 130 executives found that how well people handled their own emotions determined how much people around them preferred to deal with them.

Superior career prospects

People with high EI are more likely to succeed. In some areas it’s considered as important, or even more important, than IQ!

Technical knowledge and skills are thought to actually contribute only 15% towards effectiveness and there is increasing evidence linking emotional intelligence to better performance at work.

Manage change more confidently

Knowing we can handle our feelings makes us confident that we can cope under pressure during change.

Better decision-making

Whether we are aware of it or not, decisions are made on emotion and then backed up by logic. So it’s essential to know ourselves, how we are influenced by our preferences, attitudes and past experiences.

What does emotional intelligence look like?

The four skills of EI are:

1.      Self-Awareness

Being aware of our thoughts, how they affect our actions and our mood.

A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes Mahatma Gandhi

2.      Self-Management

To manage the influence thoughts and actions have on emotions is vital. But first you need to be aware of your emotions so that you can understand your motivation (or lack of!).

Managing the way we think, feel and act makes us more resilient and we become more confident and trust ourselves to cope with any situation we find ourselves in.

3.      Relationship Management

This comes down to handling other peoples’ emotions so that we get better at conflict management, problem solving and we can be more assertive.

One of the more visible signs of a high EI leader is the high level of competence in persuasion, conflict management and collaboration.

4.      Social Awareness

This is essential so that we can express our message in way that moves others to take action.

Think of martin Luther King JR mobilizing the civil rights movement with his powerful refrain ‘I have a dream’ – this was an awareness of the power of an emotional message – it would not have inspired so much if he had used ‘I have a plan’!

How to develop your EI – key steps

Getting to know yourself is the first step and you can do this in a variety of ways:

Practice noticing how you feel

When we’re rushing around many of us lose touch with our emotions and go onto automatic pilot. But when we pay attention to how we’re feeling we learn to trust our emotions and become better at managing them.

From time to time, during the day stop and note how you’re feeling emotionally. See if you can identify where that emotion is showing up physically and what the sensation feels like.

The more you practice; the more this will become second nature.

Be aware of how you behave

Learning to manage our emotions is something we can only do if we’re consciously aware of them.

Notice how you act when you’re experiencing certain emotions and how this affects your behaviour. Don’t judge these emotions just be aware of them.

Take responsibility for your feelings and emotions

This is probably the most challenging step, but it’s also the most helpful.

Your emotions and behavior are yours. Full stop. You are in charge of your mind, no one else can put any thought, feeling or emotion in there.

So it follows that no one can ‘make’ you feel bad, angry, sad, silly etc.

Your reaction to any situation is totally under your control and is totally your responsibility.

Accepting this will have a positive impact on all areas of your life and you will realise how much choice you really have in your life. Changing your mindset around this can be literally life changing.

Respond rather than react

There is a very subtle but important difference between responding and reacting.

We react unconsciously when we experience an emotional trigger and behave in an unconscious way.

Responding is a conscious process that involves noticing how you feel, then taking a decision about how you want to behave.

So an example of this would be that, instead of being upset at someone for being rude, you decide to ignore it and move on with your day or calmly point out to them the inappropriateness of their rudeness – but you don’t feel bad about it.

Be patient

EI isn’t something you develop overnight.  You need to understand what it is and want to change the way you are.  But it can be done and you can have more control over the way you feel and act, so that life is less of a roller-coaster and more of a smooth ride.

About the author:

HazelHazel McCallum helps managers and their teams to perform under pressure and develop the skills they need for the workplace of the future.

Advances in technology, an increasingly younger workforce and increasing competition posed by globalisation means that competencies need to be ‘future proofed’ if Managers and their teams are to survive and thrive.

Hazel’s interactive workshops use emotional intelligence skills to increase performance, focus and other practical interpersonal skills so that organisations can attract and retain the best talent and maintain a competitive edge.