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How to develop emotional intelligence at work

How to Develop Emotional Intelligence at Work – 5 Step Guide

Whether it’s reading a book, taking a course, or watching a documentary we all do things to get smarter. What you may not know is there’s a different type of intelligence and it’s far more important to your success. It’s called emotional intelligence. Studies show that those with emotional intelligence perform better at their jobs,  They even do better navigating the lockdowns during the recent pandemic. So what is it? Emotional intelligence is “the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.” Here’s how to develop emotional intelligence at work

1. Look in the Mirror


Most of us fly off the handle at one point or another. It usually happens when we are under stress. The body’s flight or fight response floods our system with hormones, our heart pounds, and our breathing accelerates. So while you may want to race out of the office, you wind up standing still and yelling at whomever happens to be handy. Or you break down in tears. Neither is ideal. 


The key to developing emotional intelligence at work is to first do a thorough self examination. When you are in a calm place, take a look at your triggers. Write down what upsets you at work (or anywhere for that matter.) Then develop coping strategies before you have an issue. You may want to learn helpful breathing techniques

or train yourself to count to ten. Yoga and meditation can also help. Practice mindfulness at work, and don’t jump to conclusions during upsetting situations. Start looking at things objectively. Knowing yourself is the first step. The next is understanding others.

2. Cultivate Empathy


If you hope to be a manager (or already are one), empathy is vital. It isn’t easy walking in someone else’s Louboutins. Chances are they don’t fit properly. Yet I like to remember the quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” Whether it was said first by Plato, Philo, or the actor Ian MacLaren isn’t as important as embracing its message. Your coworker struggling to meet a deadline may have lost a parent recently. Your distracted supervisor may have a child failing in an expensive school. Take the time to ask questions. Be curious, not judgmental. Not only will you gain emotional intelligence, you might gain a new friend as well.

3) Practice Active Listening


There’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth. Spending twice as long listening as talking is a good habit to develop. Think about a conversation with a charismatic person you met at a cocktail party. If you consider the interaction, you may find they asked you questions and seemed truly interested in your response. No matter how bright someone is, the ones who dominate conversations come across as blowhards. Being an active listener means asking questions based on what the speaker says. Make eye contact and paraphrase what they said rather than jumping in with an opinion or unsolicited advice. Instead of waiting for the other person to take a breath so you can make a brilliant point, let silences develop a little. Don’t try to one-up the other person either. 


4) Be Resilient


No one truly lives a frictionless life. Just being alive brings with it a host of challenges ––but it beats the alternative. Coping with and overcoming adversity will better prepare you for future challenges. Millennials are often stereotyped as having been coddled as children. Whether or not your parents did everything possible so you could avoid any sort of pain or discomfort, it doesn’t change the fact that my generation has faced not one but two life-altering economic downturns. Many of us graduated soon after the 2008 Global Recession. Studies show starting a career when jobs are scarce and salaries low can inhibit your lifetime earnings. At a minimum, it takes a decade to recover. So, a dozen years after the recession, the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the economy. The point is, being able to survive and even thrive despite these challenges will make you a stronger person. It will also make you more understanding of the obstacles faced by others. Having emotional intelligence means you not only have the tools to help yourself but other people as well.    


5. Expand Your Vocabulary


No, I’m not suggesting you buy a word-a-day calendar. Instead, start using specific language to solve issues. If you describe a meeting as “terrible” or “a total waste of time” you aren’t helping anyone. Emotionally intelligent people choose specific words to communicate deficiencies. Instead of waiting for someone else to take the lead, they work quickly to address them. If you suggest future meetings be focused on one area that needs improvement rather than a long list of them or that conferences include more  visual aids, you are helpfully addressing a challenge. People who do that often find themselves on a management track.


The good news is that emotional intelligence can be taught. Taking the time to learn this skill will pay huge dividends not just in your career but in your life as well.


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