Emotional Intelligence: Six Things That Can Help Improve Your EQ

In the 1990s, researchers set out to find why people with average IQs outperform those with high IQs in the workplace about 70% of the time. As it turned out, the missing link was emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is defined as 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 action. It affects our ability to work well with others, manage stress, and make effective decisions. It’s no surprise that recent research shows that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of workplace performance.

The study found that 90% of top performers have high emotional intelligence, and just 20% of bottom performers have a high EQ. People who are high in emotional intelligence also make an average of $29,000 more per year than those with a low EQ. An increasing number of companies are starting to realise that investing in the emotional intelligence of their employees will deliver better results for team leadership and overall performance. Last year in the United States, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection took out a contract with Blue Visions, which promises to improve the EQ of government employees.

While IQ is known to be static, EQ can always be developed to improve success in the workplace. If you’re interested in improving your EQ, here’s what you need to know:

1.  EQ is Determined By Four Core Competencies

According to Daniel Goleman, a leader in the field of EQ research, self awareness, self management, social awareness, and relationship management are the four core competencies of emotional intelligence, as shown in the matrix below:

  Image courtesy of maetrix.com.au 

Image courtesy of maetrix.com.au 

These competencies are all interconnected, and in terms of workplace performance can be summed up by these four abilities:  

  • Recognising and understanding your own moods, emotions, and drives as well as their effect on others

  • Controlling impulses, redirecting disruptive moods, and thinking before acting

  • Understanding the emotional makeup of other people and treating people according to their emotional reactions

  • Building networks, finding common ground, and building rapport

2. Start By Improving Your Self Awareness

Before you can begin altering your behaviour, you need to understand what is important to you, how you experience things, what you want, and how you feel. Take the time to notice and write down how you feel in different situations, especially during times of stress. Notice your body language - for example, if you’re slouching in your chair during meetings. Think about how your actions could be perceived by others. You might be slouching because your back hurts, but your colleagues might think you’re disinterested. Finally, engage in positive inner dialogue, as your thoughts can affect how you feel and act. Dr. Hendrie Weisinger gives the example of a performance appraisal: if you tell yourself, “this is going to be terrible,” your heart rate will increase and you will likely become defensive. Instead, try thinking, "This is an opportunity to learn how I can be more effective." You will keep cool, calm, and collected and will be more receptive to the evaluation.

3. Work on Self-Regulation

The ability to redirect emotions will help you to “rise above” petty arguments, jealousies, frustrations, and other disruptive thought/behaviour patterns. Try to stay uninvolved in office politics, and practice waiting a few hours before responding to emotionally-charged situations. When you’re frustrated, try brainstorming solutions or alternatives instead of complaining or acting out. And, most important, find ways to release and manage stress outside of work. Exercise and meditation are great ways to release stress so you won't feel the need to react in an emotionally inappropriate manner.

4. Empathy is Key

Empathy, or being aware of and sensitive to the emotions of others, is essential to our ability to connect with and understand others. In the workplace, it allows us to work together for a collective goal, defuse conflict, and de-escalate irate clients. You can improve your empathy by challenging personal biases and stereotypes to look for common ground with others. Imagine what it’s like to be another person, and try to understand their perspective even if you don’t agree. Perhaps the most important aspect of empathy is the ability to listen actively and deeply - consider the speaker’s motivations and ask follow-up questions to help you better understand. By trying to understand the motivations and feelings of others, you can begin to interact appropriately with your coworkers. Something as simple as acknowledging someone’s concerns can go a long way in keeping an interaction positive.

5. Coaching Can Help

According to the Harvard Business Review, coaching can help you see improvements of up to 25% in your EQ. They point out that honest and effective feedback is the most important aspect of emotional intelligence coaching, and that techniques drawing from cognitive behavioural therapy work best. There are also plenty of courses and programs that can help you develop your emotional intelligence.

6. There are Benefits Outside of the Workplace

Research shows that improving your emotional intelligence will make you happier, mentally and physically healthier, and will improve your social relationships outside of work. It can also help stave off stress, weight problems, addictions, sleep problems, and more. If higher earning potential and better workplace performance aren’t enough of a motivator, these quality-of-life improvements should be.