Scroll through any social media platform and you will witness intelligent people losing sight of their own emotions while reacting to the emotions of others. Politics, mask mandates, even reality TV. These same people are employees in the business world and this zealous behavior may flow into their professional lives. There is an increasing need to develop high emotional intelligence at work.
With the rise of hybrid work policies and remote workers not being face-to-face, it is more difficult to read emotional signals and social cues. There may be higher levels of stress in personal lives that trigger different emotions. Building a high level of emotional intelligence with employees and managers will drive positive results.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to better understand the emotions of ourselves and those around us so we can be more productive. A high degree of emotional intelligence will help us reduce stress, prevent conflict, develop better work relationships, and improve interpersonal skills and social skills. It will help to develop emotionally intelligent leaders and a more empathetic workforce.
The term had been circulating around in academic papers since the 60s, but was only truly developed in a pair of articles written by Peter Salovey and John Mayer in 1990. They coined the term “emotional intelligence” describing it as a:
“Form of social intelligence that involves 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.”
The concept has continued to evolve and there are several models of EI.
- Mixed model. Combines ability EI and trait EI.
- Trait model. Developed by Konstantinos V. Petrides and encompasses behavioral dispositions and self-perceived abilities.
- Ability model. Developed by Peter Salovey and John Mayer. Focuses on the ability to process emotional information and use it to navigate the social environment.
The idea of emotional quotient or EQ gained prominence with Daniel Goleman’s 1995 best-selling book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.
Since then, EQ has been credited with making the world a better place. The idea has been proposed that, if we could just teach people to be emotionally intelligent, there would be less bullying in school, more compassionate healthcare workers, and more supportive work environments.
However, as Greenspan and Salovey have discussed in many publications written after the book’s release, most people have emotional intelligence all wrong.
EQ Is Not a Trait, but a Set of Skills
Emotional intelligence is about influencing emotions -- your own and those of others. But many who try to apply EQ to the business world are more concerned with how we can measure it. And, most likely, how we can use those measurements to screen employees and promote potential leaders.
This makes emotional intelligence seem like a trait: Either you have it or you don’t. EQ is more a set of skills one can learn, practice, and improve upon. It includes things like social awareness, understanding of mental health and personal goals, and a high level of general intelligence.
EQ Is Not Just Awareness, but Changing Behavior
Researchers widely recognize that raw knowledge, by itself, does not change behavior. Knowing something is not enough. You also have to be motivated to change your behavior and have the right kind of environment.
This means simply knowing another person's emotional state is not EQ. You need to have the capacity to use that knowledge, as well as the motivation to do so. This applies to social interactions, stressful situations, and day-to-day workplace occurrences. It’s a fundamental element of human behavior that can be impacted by training.
Merely screening for emotional awareness is not sufficient. Sure, it helps to find people with the capacity for it. But you would be better off training people in the skills that make up EQ and then building a culture and an atmosphere where those skills could be put to good use.
EQ Does Not Make You a Better Person
There is research showing the concept of emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of positive job performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs. Unfortunately, people have assumed a high EQ must make you a better person across the board.
Not so. An emotionally intelligent person can recognize how a person feels and use those emotions to steer that person toward a particular direction...whether it’s a good one or a bad one. In other words, EQ provides the capacity for changing how people feel about difficult situations, but it may also be used for manipulation.
This means things like purpose, compassion, work ethic, and morality count just as much as EQ. Finding someone with emotional skills does not guarantee these things. Teaching them does.
How do you train EQ?
The takeaway here is this: EQ does exist -- not as a personality trait or a bit of knowledge or awareness, but as a skill set that can be learned. And it needs to be trained alongside other soft skills training topics and required technical skills.
If you recognize the importance of emotional intelligence in your organization, you might consider ej4's off-the-shelf library of business skills. You could easily curate a curriculum to develop this important skill.
It's not surprising we offer a series on emotional intelligence that is designed to help your employees develop more effective ways to do their jobs by building strong relationships and managing emotional reactions. The series talks about developing empathy and more effective relationships along with self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, and empathy.
Our DISC series is extremely helpful for many situations. We explain the four DISC personality types and provide guidance on how to best interact with each one to build and strengthen relationships. This training may also help you read other people’s emotions. We offer additional DISC content for selling and leadership situations.
Taking care of your mental health and physical health will help you handle stress and react to other people’s emotions who are in stressful situations. The first step is to understand the difference between avoidable and unavoidable stress, and then learn how to handle and manage stress. Ideally, this will help you to take a deep breath, and develop higher emotional intelligence as well.
This series will help your employees understand the difference between a fixed and growth mindset and the importance of embracing "yet." We explore the idea that "yet” means you know or expect something to happen in the future. It just hasn’t happened “by now." Having a growth mindset can have a positive impact on solving complex problems for your organization.
An important skill related to emotional intelligence is the ability to read facial expressions and body language then learning to react or respond in a positive way. In addition to reading the nonverbal communication of other people, our series will guide you on how to align your own intentions with your nonverbal communication.
Communication at work happens in many different ways. Face-to-face, telephone, and email are standard for most organizations. In many companies, workplace chats, instant messaging (IM), and texting have become the norm. This series talks about formal and informal communication, when they’re appropriate to use, and some things that can get in the way of healthy communication.
Other topics you might include in your emotional intelligence training are mental health, critical observation, unconscious bias, and organizational dysfunction. These courses address emotional strength and observation skills to affect emotional intelligence in different ways.
If you would like to watch any of the courses I have mentioned, sign up for a free trial of Thinkzoom, our LMS. You will gain immediate access to these courses from our Business Skills Library.
- Improve Employee Social Awareness Through Workplace Empathy
- What is Cognitive Load, and Why Does It Matter for Corporate Training and Development?
- How Do You Train Critical Observation?
- 7 Tips for Managing Negativity