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Achieve More in Your Career by Boosting Emotional Intelligence

Guest post by Cameron Staudacher, Presented by BetterHelp.

 


Emotional intelligence (EI) is an increasingly popular framework to describe thoughts and behaviors that generally fall within “soft skill” categories in the workplace. Those with high levels of EI are generally better able to relate to others, work together on teams, understand nonverbal communication, and respond empathetically in work-related conflict. While most careers require some form of “hard skills,” like specialized training or years of experience in a niche area, nearly every career will require soft skills to advance. 

What is emotional intelligence? 

Emotional intelligence, in essence, is the art and science of harnessing your emotions to foster better communication, empathy, and professional relationships. It’s a series of skills that enables you to navigate the intricacies of social interactions, understand and manage your own emotions, and perceive the emotions of those around you.

Research suggests that EI consists of five fundamental components

  • Self-awareness: This is the keystone of EI. It’s about having a clear understanding of your own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and drives. Self-aware individuals are conscious of how their feelings affect them, their job performance, and how others perceive them.
  • Self-regulation: This involves controlling or redirecting disruptive emotions and impulses. It’s the ability to think before reacting, managing your emotional responses to situations in a socially acceptable way and beneficial to your long-term goals.
  • Motivation: Motivated individuals are driven to achieve beyond expectations, not just for external rewards but for internal satisfaction and a desire to accomplish something meaningful.
  • Empathy: This is the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people. Empathetic leaders can relate to others, understand their team members’ motivations, and work effectively with various personalities.
  • Social skills: Being adept in managing relationships, building networks, and mastering the art of finding common ground are signs of high EI.

Cultivating these skills can transform your professional path, enhance leadership abilities, foster stronger team dynamics, and improve decision-making processes. Unlike traditional intelligence, EI is considered to be a buildable skill. With dedicated time and effort, you can likely improve each domain. 

Emotional intelligence and leadership

One of the biggest boons provided by emotional intelligence comes through its association with leadership. Evidence indicates that leaders with high EI are more effective leaders than those who struggle to relate to their employees and coworkers. Emotional intelligence in leadership extends far beyond mere technical skills or intellectual abilities; it encapsulates the leader’s ability to understand their own emotions, recognize and influence the emotions of others, and navigate complex social networks within an organization.

Let’s examine how each of the components of EI can potentially bolster leadership abilities:

Self-awareness

Self-aware leaders can accurately assess their strengths and limitations, fostering an environment of trust and authenticity. This self-knowledge enables them to approach situations with humility and openness to feedback, qualities that encourage a culture of continuous improvement and learning.

Self-regulation

Self-regulation allows leaders to manage their emotions and impulses, displaying patience and restraint when faced with adversity. Such leaders are likely perceived as more reliable and composed, qualities that might bolster their credibility and influence.

Motivation

Motivation, driven by a deep passion for achieving goals beyond monetary gain, may allow leaders to pursue excellence and inspire the same in their teams. Their intrinsic motivation fosters an environment where creativity and innovation can flourish and likely helps nurture a growth mindset within their organization. 

Empathy

Empathy, perhaps the most transformative aspect of EI, equips leaders with the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Empathetic leaders can forge deep connections with team members, facilitating collaboration and fostering a sense of belonging and loyalty.

Social skills

Social skills enable emotionally intelligent leaders to navigate the complexities of organizational politics, build and maintain strong relationships, and effectively manage change and resolve conflicts.

Emotional intelligence allows a manager or director to transform into a leader, potentially creating a workplace culture that values emotional well-being, fosters meaningful engagement, and boosts performance. Emotional intelligence continues to be a key hiring factor as the business landscape evolves, making it a potentially helpful skill for all leaders. 

Improving emotional intelligence

Developing your emotional intelligence generally begins by focusing on your self-awareness and self-regulation. It is often helpful to thoroughly understand your emotions and reactions before working on motivation, empathy, or social skills. 

Self-awareness, self-regulation and motivation

To enhance your self-awareness, consider engaging in reflective practices such as journaling about your feelings and reactions to different situations or mindfulness meditation to help you become more aware of your emotional state in the moment. It is also often helpful to seek feedback from those around you, such as coworkers, supervisors, or those you have previously worked with. You may want to select people who you trust and be prepared for their feedback to have at least a few negative elements you may not enjoy hearing. 

Developing your self-regulation skills typically begins by understanding your emotional reactions, which is why self-awareness is crucial. Self-regulation involves learning how to manage your emotional responses to situations rather than letting impulses dictate your actions. Techniques such as deep breathing exercises or cognitive behavioral strategies to challenge negative thought patterns can be very effective. Setting personal goals focusing on behavioral changes can also help you practice self-regulation in real-world scenarios.

Self-awareness and self-regulation are both closely related to motivation. Increasing self-awareness will likely give you more insight into what motivates you intrinsically, while boosting self-regulation may make it easier to stay aligned with the goals that motivate you. It is important to consider your motivations and understand exactly what brings you to work each day. 

Empathy and social skills

Empathy and social skills are crucial for building strong, positive relationships in both your personal and professional life. To enhance your empathy, it will likely be helpful to start by practicing active listening. This means fully concentrating on what the other person is saying, understanding their message, and responding thoughtfully. Try to put yourself in their shoes to understand their perspective and feelings better. This can help you respond more compassionately and appropriately to their needs.

Improving your social skills involves becoming more aware of social cues and navigating social interactions more effectively. Pay attention to body language, tone of voice, and other non-verbal signals that can provide insights into how others feel. Work on your communication skills by being clear, concise, and considerate in your speech. Engaging in team activities or social groups can also provide valuable practice in interacting with others and building rapport.

Other ways to boost emotional intelligence

One of the best ways to bolster emotional intelligence and gain insight into yourself is by working alongside a therapist or other mental health professional. You might consider traditional face-to-face therapy, group therapy to improve social skills, or other forms of therapy that can help you become more self-aware. For example, art therapy is associated with increased insight and empathetic communication. BetterHelp, a leader in online mental health services, has more information about art therapy at this link:

http://www.betterhelp.com/advice/research/making-meaning-art-based-therapy-for-older-adults/

Whatever the case, it is likely that reaching out to a professional can help you bypass roadblocks and improve your emotional intelligence quickly. You might also find that as you increase your self-awareness, you discover things about yourself that you’d like to work on or change, even if they don’t adversely affect your life. While there are numerous resources to help you increase your emotional intelligence independently, a therapist might provide an easier path. 

 

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