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How to Improve Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

How to improve emotional intelligence in the workplace

Have you heard of the secret sauce that often separates top performers from everyone else? It’s such a vital ingredient that one cosmetics company started using it as a hiring criterion. Turns out the people they hired with this quality outsold those without it by almost $100,000. Having it predisposes someone for leadership. That’s because others naturally gravitate toward people with it and are willing to follow their direction. It’s called emotional intelligence or EQ.


What is EQ? Well, in a nutshell it’s the ability to regulate your own emotions while also being aware of other’s emotional needs. Although the term is nearly 30 years old, it is craved by 21st century employers. That’s because as EQ expert Daniel Goleman explains, there is “widespread recognition that …self-awareness, self-management, empathy and social skill separate the most successful workers and leaders from the average. This is especially true in roles like the professions and higher level executives, where everyone is about as smart as everyone else…” Unfortunately, generally speaking it’s an extroverted quality. That doesn’t mean shy introverts can’t develop it. There are steps that anyone can take. So if you’re curious about how to improve emotional intelligence in the workplace, here are some suggestions.

Know Thyself


The age of the self-involved brash entrepreneur hasn’t passed by any means. Yet while many people who start successful start-ups are bright and innovative, they don’t always play well with others. Having a high level of emotional intelligence means working well with a team. If you’re wondering where you fall on the EQ scale, your first step should be a self-assessment. Most of us aren’t very good at understanding how others perceive us. A good assessment can help with that. It will identify your strengths and weaknesses. Start by writing down your emotions in a handy notebook and the events that trigger strong reactions. You can also look at your performance reviews and speak to colleagues. You might also want to take online tests to determine your EQ level.

Once you discover where you land on the EQ chart, you can start to make changes to your approach to other people.


Regulate Your Emotions


I’m not suggesting you become a robot. But if you have a tendency to blow up or lose your cool on the job, then addressing your behavior is an important part of how to improve emotional intelligence in the workplace. Before the next problem presents itself, start practicing mindful meditation. There are apps that can help you. Learning how to live in the moment without obsessing over the past or future-tripping is a great skill. It can also help you calmly and rationally analyze a situation and look for resolutions. You’ll also find that as you present a calm exterior, others are more eager to help. Often people with low EQ are more reactive. This is often their way of dealing with stress. Because mindfulness meditation is a proven treatment for stress and anxiety it can really help you score higher on the EQ meter.  

Be a Team Player


If you’re used to going it alone, reaching out to others may not feel natural. Try to develop closer ties at work by asking others about their challenges or even minutiae like how their weekend went. Learn how to be an active listener –– instead of waiting for a pause that you can fill with your own opinions, paraphrase what they said and ask questions about it. Pay attention to non-verbal cues –– people with low EQ often ignore these. When you have an obstacle in your path, see if there are co-workers who have suggestions on how to overcome it. They might surprise you.

Be Humble


We often perceive confidence as the loud talking, brash salesperson who seems to have all the answers. Yet this isn’t true confidence. It can even mask deep insecurity. Humble people acknowledge compliments without seeking them and take pride in a job well done. They are approachable and willing to give credit to others. Humility like many things can be learned. 


No matter how much emotional intelligence you have, there are many ways to improve it. As you develop this quality you may find that you not only enjoy your job more but the rest of your life as well. 


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