When ranking the qualities of a good leader in the modern workplace, emotional intelligence is an attribute that has begun to gain attention. Emotional intelligence at work has a myriad of benefits, including a happier work environment, better collaboration among employees, and fewer office squabbles.
So, what is emotional intelligence? Put very simply, it is the ability to manage, express, and understand your emotions in positive ways. It is also the ability to have empathy for others so that you pick up on social cues, communicate effectively and have healthy relationships.
Since we are not robots at work, emotional intelligence in the workplace is extremely important. Those with high emotional intelligence work better in stressful situations and can manage teams with less conflict.
But what if emotional intelligence isn’t your strong point?The following are some ways that you can improve your emotional intelligence at work, and even in your personal life.
Identify Emotional Triggers
Does a coworker often lose their temper during meetings? Are you on edge or the brink of tears when dealing with a particular task at work? Stop for a moment and map out the events that have led to this emotional outcome. Is the task alone stressing you out, or is it part of a chain of events? Is your coworker’s temper because of the meeting, or does something else trigger this response? Looking at emotional responses this way can help you understand and proactively identify and prevent future adverse incidents.
Pause. Take a Breath. Then Proceed.
A highly charged emotional moment can be made more manageable by pausing, taking a breath or two, and then proceeding. For instance, if your boss is angry with you for a mistake, an immediate angry response isn’t going to help matters. If you pause, take a breath or two to gather yourself, and then express yourself calmly, you are more likely to be heard.
Pausing is also good for listening. When you take a few deep breaths while your boss is yelling, you can listen and better understand why they are so upset. Perhaps it’s not the mistake that has made them so upset. Instead, it’s the potentially jeopardized relationship with the customer that they are actually angry about. Then, when you reply, you can address the relationship with the customer first.
Look at Facial Cues and Body Language
Another benefit of pausing to listen and collect your thoughts is that it gives you time to look at the facial cues and body language of the person speaking to you. Make a practice of studying the facial expressions and body language of those you work with and over time, their nonverbal cues will tell you a lot. Then, by simply reading someone’s facial and body signals, you will have an idea of what kind of mood they are in, if they are stressed, or if it’s a good day to approach them with a new idea.
Being mindful means being in the present and eliminating thoughts of the past or future. Many, if not most, thoughts of the past and future are anxious or worried thoughts. But present thoughts generally deal with what is going on right now. It’s easier to deal with thoughts about the present than the future or past because you can have an immediate effect on the present.
Try journaling every day. Write about what you were feeling and thinking and take note of the events that changed your mental state. Did you feel better? Worse? Challenged? This process forces you to broaden your emotional vocabulary and better understand your feelings and the feelings of others.
Practice Makes Proficient
Just like anything unfamiliar or challenging, gaining a higher level of emotional intelligence takes time. So be sure to keep up your efforts and practice! Practice the above strategies until they become habits. Over time, you will have a deeper understanding of other’s emotions as well as your own.