You can’t possibly have failed to hear about emotional intelligence.
It’s certainly one of the most bandied-about phrases in the history of business psychology jargon, and it’s still going strong almost three decades after it was first introduced to the public. The fact that it has stayed this long with us suggests there’s something about it that’s probably worth exploring.
So, what is Emotional Intelligence?
Here’s a simple answer:
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand and manage our responses to our emotions. It’s also our ability to empathize with and influence the emotions of other persons.
We know that our emotions drive a lot of our actions. More often than not, they determine how we act in different circumstances. This is true for our private lives as it is for our experience at work. You’ll recognize the truth of this if you’ve had to interact with an angry customer or will yourself to grind on when your workday isn’t going well.
On the whole, you will typically need to keep tabs of your emotions when they’re likely to veer off from rational behavior. In other words, you have to exercise your Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ) when you’re under pressure or facing potential pressure, or when you’re trying to influence others to channel their emotions to good use.
It could be when you’re:
•Trying to beat deadlines.
•Struggling to manage limited resources.
•Adapting to change and disruption.
•Interacting with clients and partners (e.g when offering and receiving feedback).
•Managing difficult relationships.
Your ability to recognize and manage your emotions could be the difference between pulling your business or career through a trying period and quitting in the process. It could determine whether you retain your most skilled staff or lose them to competing companies. It might be what rescues your venture from the brink of sinking and shoots it up the growth ladder.
How do you become an emotionally intelligent person? And how do you deploy this skill in building your business or career and managing your working teams?
Steps to Becoming an Emotionally Intelligent Businessperson
The experts usually present five broad steps to becoming more emotionally intelligent. Let’s break them down here so you can apply them easily to your life and work.
1. Become More Self-Aware
First off, this isn’t about being ‘self-conscious’ in a negative way (like beating yourself up about your weaknesses all the time).
It’s about understanding what brings you pleasant emotions and what evokes the not-so-pleasant ones in you. You have to know what you’re feeling at any given moment and why you’re feeling that way in order to handle such emotions the right way.
The first step to becoming self-aware may be to remove the distractions that block your view of your true emotional state. Here’s why this is necessary: we have immersed ourselves so much in smart devices, TV, the internet, and all the text and motion that comes with these things, that we don’t realize what we’re feeling most of the time (let alone why we’re feeling like that).
This process may take the form of breaks from these distractions and finding solitude and quiet for a short period of time (maybe ten minutes per hour, maybe a weekend). When you’re away from the noise and motion for long enough, you’ll get to know your ‘internal life’ better.
If you’re already scared at the thought of being with yourself for longer, you may well have an EI issue that’s waiting to be fixed.
2. Take Charge of Your Emotions
A more precise way to put this heading would be: take charge of how you respond to your emotions.
The fact is, you may never be able to bring your emotions under check. But what you can do is to manage your response to whatever emotions arise.
This phase of the EI journey comes after you have identified what triggers certain sorts of emotions in you. For example, you may have frequent angry outbursts at work. You may not realize that it’s because you regularly hold a lot of your dissatisfaction and frustrations with work processes at your business on the inside of you, and fail to communicate them until you ‘explode.’
When you’re able to tell what ticks you off or makes you downcast, you’ll be able to manage your response and keep them positive.
3. Motivate Yourself
You can even ‘rewrite’ the order of cause and effect with emotions and reactions by doing things that evoke positive emotions.
You may be putting off responding to an angry email from a superior at work because you’re feeling anxious. How about just motivating yourself to do it? After all, you can. You’re smart enough to diffuse the tension, or at least to send your point across in a non-confrontational but self-respecting manner. Just do it.
When you take on challenges like this with a measure of belief in your abilities, you’ll be rewarded with a rush of positive emotion. That emotion can, in turn, spur you on to take on even more challenging tasks that you’ve been shying away from.
4. Understand the Emotions of Other People
When you work with a team, you’ll have to interact with people on a regular basis. Sometimes there will be a conflict between members of the team, or between the team and other persons or teams. Dealing with such conflicts will require some degree of emotional intelligence. You will want to understand the emotional state of the individuals and the conflict in order to know how to respond to them.
This is part of the social awareness side of Emotional Intelligence. It begins with putting yourself in other people’s shoes- mentally speaking, and empathizing with them.
While you can’t possibly be certain of what’s going on in their minds, you could get a glimpse into their emotional attitudes. Like you do when you have to evaluate your own emotions, you might be able to find out what ticks them off, makes them downcast, or keeps them happy.
5. Manage and Influence their Emotional Attitudes
When you are able to empathize with others, it will be easier to find the possible routes out of the impasse they’re involved with.
This also applies when you’re seeking ways to motivate your team or colleagues. With a better grasp of their emotional behavior, you can influence their attitudes to executing specific tasks and achieving the general goals of your business.
Remember that your Emotional Intelligence works well when your self-evaluations, empathy towards others, and efforts at cultivating positive responses to emotions are all motivated by good values. They are the foundations on which successful business teams are built.
Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.