Improve Your Emotional Intelligence at Work

Coworkers use emotional intelligence to support each other at work.

When you think of the personal traits involved in becoming a successful small business owner, does emotional intelligence (also known as emotional quotient, EI, or EQ) immediately come to mind? If not, don’t feel alone. Many of us first think of “harder” traits such as adaptability, problem-solving, and risk tolerance. Even a zest for challenges and a strong drive to succeed may come to mind.

But if you’re not thinking about the “other type of smart,” or emotional intelligence skills, you may be missing out on some impressive business benefits. In fact, these benefits can even cross over from business into your personal life and contribute to healthy relationships, faster conflict resolution, and improved mental health. Who wouldn’t want to be a more effective, successful, and empathetic leader who enjoys less stress?

Taking a Closer Look at the Business of Emotional Intelligence

In his groundbreaking book Emotional Intelligence, psychologist Daniel Goleman defines emotional intelligence as a person’s ability to manage their feelings so that those feelings are expressed appropriately and effectively. Born in the 1990s, the topic is now prevalent in schools and businesses, among other industries. Increasingly, people are realizing that IQ is not the only predictor of success; emotional awareness and management is an essential set of skills that demands attention, too. And while IQ is something you’re born with, emotional intelligence can be nurtured.

Not long ago, being emotional and being intelligent were thought to be incompatible. Being both, at the same time? Oxymoronic. But in recent years, psychologists have been exploring how our emotions and cognitive processes interact with our behaviors. And what they’ve discovered is valuable to you — and, ultimately, your small business success.

Diving Deeper into the Benefits of EQ

According to research by Dr. Travis Bradberry of TalentSmart, emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of success at work, accounting for 58% of success compared to 33 other workplace skills. In fact, Dr. Bradberry says it has a “direct impact on job performance, employee engagement, talent development, organizational performance, and overall climate in the workplace.”

Here’s an overview of the benefits you can expect when you invest in your EQ:

1. A healthier workplace environment

When people are managing their emotions and related actions more effectively, the workplace functions more positively, with a higher level of emotional awareness and stronger relationships. Imagine a workplace where employees are passive-aggressive and speak ill of each other constantly — this is poor relationship management. In contrast, now imagine a workplace where people have developed strong listening skills and are communicating their negative emotions with few intense feelings and more empathy. This will foster healthier interpersonal relationships, allow the workplace to function more smoothly. 

2. Improved conflict management

When you can more effectively control your emotions (think fewer emotional outbursts) and notice the emotions of others you’re communicating with, you’ll be less likely to escalate a conflict by saying something that unintentionally (or intentionally) angers a coworker. Emotionally intelligent people are able to take deep breaths, control their negative emotions and come to a resolution — all while remaining calm and empathetic. This ability to come to a resolution without escalation will not only help you find success at work, but success in life more broadly.

3. Stronger leadership

Leaders with strong EI are more likely to realize when pride and other emotions are influencing their thinking. This allows them to make more rational choices, according to the Forbes article, “Why Emotional Intelligence Is Indispensable For Leaders.” Emotionally aware, intelligent leaders also are able to be active listeners and ignore disruptive emotions that get in the way of business goals. As a manager, your relationship with employees will only be enhanced.

4. Less stress.

Starting and running a business often puts you in stressful situations – and stress can take a toll on your mental and physical health. Don’t you want to be more resilient when inevitable stressors crop up? According to the PsyPost article, “Emotional intelligence is more important for being a successful entrepreneur than mental ability, meta-analysis finds,” that’s what happens. You’re less likely to get stuck in a rut with negative feelings that can lead to more problems or new conflicts. Healthier relationships mean less stress overall.

How Does Your EQ Stack Up?

Now that you know more about the advantages of improving your emotional intelligence, let’s take a look at where your emotional capabilities fall. If you’re reading this article and feeling like you could stand to sharpen your skills, here’s some positive news: Emotional intelligence is not something you are born with, but instead something you have the ability to nurture and grow. So if your current situation isn’t where you want it to be, don’t worry — just get to work. Here’s how:

1. Practice Self-Awareness

How are you feeling? How are others you’re working with feeling? Identifying the feeling(s) in the room is the first step. If you’re frustrated, others around you may notice. Once you’re aware of how in-tune you are with your personal feelings and emotions, you can then determine how to apply and manage them in the most effective ways. You can also assist a coworker who could use a little help. 

Practical Steps to Improve Your Self-Awareness:

  • keep a diary
  • meditate
  • learn to trust your gut
  • learn what sets you off
  • learn what makes you feel out of control

2. Self-regulate

Now that you know exactly how you’re feeling — maybe it’s a difficult emotion such as anger — you can manage that feeling. Rather than trying to make yourself stop feeling the emotion, just observe how strong it feels in the moment. Remember, feelings are fleeting. Instead of snapping, take a moment to consider a different action that may better align with the situation. The goal here is to act instead of react. After all, yelling in a meeting isn’t going to help you achieve your common goal; it’s only going to make everything worse. Take a deep breath or practice meditation, if needed. Both can go a long way towards helping you calm down, according to Greater Good Magazine.

Practical Steps to Improve Your Self-Regulation:

  • H.A.L.T. In other words, if you’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, save challenging or emotional conversations for later.
  • Channel overpowering emotions into something sensory or  physical
  • Go back to the basics. Getting hangry (hungry-angry) is a real thing. Are you eating well? Are you dehydrated? 

3. Employ Empathy

Make a genuine effort to understand the why behind people’s actions and words. A coworker could seem distracted because they’re not happy in their job, but it’s more likely something is happening in their home life. Major life changes such as divorce, or even just daily living during a pandemic, can cause stress. Empathetic people don’t just assume their coworker is a negative person. Instead, they realize we’re all doing our best and sometimes life gets in the way of our best intentions. 

Practical Steps to Improve Your Empathy:

  • Practice being curious.
  • Listen more than you speak. Facial expressions and nonverbal communication skills are just as important as the words you choose. 
  • Be approachable.
  • Try being vulnerable.

4. Enhance your Social Skills

Finally, strengthening your social awareness is also important. If you’re one of the lucky ones who was born with top-notch social skills and can read the emotional state of the room with ease, then you may be set. But if you’re like the rest of us, it’s time to pay your social awareness a little attention. Social skills help you collaborate positively with other people and manage conflict effectively. Boost your interpersonal skills by engaging with others, actively listening, and observing how others communicate. These are the foundational skills of effective leaders and team players.

Practical Steps to Improve Your Social Skills:

  • Practice. Join a group you share similar interests with, like a book club. Meetup is a great tool for this.
  • Set reasonable expectations for yourself. No one expects you to become a social butterfly overnight.
  • Imitate a role model. Who do you admire that has considerable social skill? Model your social behavior off of theirs and observe the results.
  • Pay attention to tone and body language. Your words may be nice, but are you saying them nicely?

Building a More Emotionally Intelligent Business

We want you to succeed in your business — and your life. To do this you need not only grit and determination, but also awareness of and control over your emotions. From there, you can employ empathy and hone your leadership skills. Understanding how the people around you are feeling and helping them regulate their emotions are key skills for success. Integrating this type of emotional control into the daily challenges of your business can help you in numerous ways, from solving challenges with ease to cultivating confident, successful teams and long-term relationships that are critical to future success. Go on and grow your EQ — Become an emotionally intelligent person and you’ll be achieving both personal and professional success in no time.

Check out our complete guide to improving your business skills!

Thinking about starting a business or franchise? Or are you already running a business but need additional financing? Guidant Financial can help. Reaching out to Guidant is easy: contact us online or call 888-472-4455.

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