It’s not being smart. It’s not your experience level. It’s not your education. None of these are the determining factor between why one person is successful at work and another is not. It’s something else that few people know about. It’s a kind of intelligence that has only been identified in recent years. It’s called emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence has been the focus of two researchers, Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer, for more than two decades. They define emotional intelligence as “a person’s ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide thinking and actions.”
Boiled down, their research tells us that our level of emotional intelligence predicts how successful we are at work and how influential we can be with others.
You see emotional intelligence in action every day. The person who can’t seem to express his anger in an appropriate way has a lower level of EI than a person who is able to manage a rude customer with a smile. This kind of intelligence is marked by four key elements:
Self-Awareness is a person’s ability to recognize and understand her/his own emotions.
Self-Management refers to the person’s ability to manage the expression of the emotion.
Social Awareness is a person’s ability to understand the emotions or feelings of others in a situation.
Finally, Relationship Management is your ability to combine understanding of the prior three elements and take action in a way that effectively manages your relationship with others.
Building your emotional intelligence
You can improve your level of emotional intelligence. In the same way you learn any skill, you can develop your ability to be emotionally intelligent. Here are four ways you can begin building the four elements of emotional intelligence:
Focus on self-awareness.
The first place to begin is to start monitoring your emotions. You can do this by taking a moment during an emotional state to define what feelings you are experiencing. Sometimes it is hard to stop and think during a volatile situation. So, if you miss it, it’s okay to take some time after the situation has ended and reflect on what happened and then define what you were feeling.
Reflect on your behavior.
Think about a past conflict or emotional situation you experienced and how you acted. Ask yourself two questions. First, “Did I respond in the most appropriate manner?” and, second, “How could I have responded differently and in a way that would be more productive?”
Look for the emotions of others.
You can build your Social Awareness by looking to define the emotions of others. This can be tricky because what you see is not always the emotion the person is experiencing deep inside. For instance, a person may be angry, yet their emotions may be of disappointment or frustration. Consider the problem the person is facing, put yourself in their shoes, and define what emotions they are experiencing and what needs the person has in the situation.
Seek to meet the needs of others.
Your awareness of the emotions and needs of others can be used to guide your actions for meeting their needs. Of course, you can’t meet all the emotional needs of another person; however, you can look for the needs a person may have in a work situation. If you take action to help them meet this need, you will be showing sensitivity and will build a stronger relationship with the person. In return, that person may be willing to help you in the future.
Emotional intelligence is a skill we can all develop that will improve the way we work and live with others. Our commitment to being sensitive to the needs of others, and managing our relationships to the benefit of everyone are ways we reveal our character.