Emotional Intelligence (EI) is not a key soft skill but the framework in which all soft skills are housed in. There is an increasing demand for good soft skills when organisations are looking for new employees. While many such organisations might not admit it, most of them are actively testing for Emotional Intelligence in every job interview.
Now I suppose you are here to learn more about Emotional Intelligence and that’s what I intend to deliver to you, however I don’t intend to define Emotional Intelligence with this article but to reflect my experiences around the subject and hope you find it useful.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence overall is a skill set used to comprehend and manage emotions internally and externally. It is not about manipulation and not about suppressing emotion, rather about control, awareness and mindfulness and can improve how you interact with others and how you feel throughout your day and finally might even have a positive impact on your overall health.
This is how Wikipedia describes Emotional Intelligence:
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.
What Are Emotions?
Unlike mood, which mostly have a longer duration, emotions are impulses or bursts within your body that send you signals on how you should behave. Like everything about your body this function serves physical, personal and social purposes with a solemnly positive intent.
It is not uncommon that people have a hard time explaining and expressing their emotions. This is perfectly normal and if you are uncertain whether or not you have identified an emotion correctly, it’s handy to have a look for that particular emotion you believe you are feeling in a dictionary and check if that is really how you feel right now. This practice will educate you very quickly around a set of emotions and their definition. Next time you are feeling it, you will already not have a hard time explaining the emotion anymore.
“Any emotion, if it is sincere, is involuntary.”
– Mark Twain
Emotions are also often indicators whether you want something (e.g. jealousy) or don’t want something. (e.g. disgust). This can happen in any kind of strength of emotion from a plain “liking” to be afraid or even horrified. If you are afraid of something then often, you believe it might cause you lethal harm against your instinct for self-preservation.
One type of non-verbal emotions (body language) is haptic communication, which is one of the strongest transport vehicles of emotion. A pat on the back or a hug between friends can communicate very positive and reassuring emotions from one person to another. On the other site, the end of all reasonable communication, would be a punch in the face, with an almost absolute negative emotion as result.
There are some things in communication and interaction with other people which are dependencies for your skill of Emotional Intelligence. For example you rely on your communication counterpart as well and their ability for understanding emotion and managing that just as well as they rely on you for the same thing to happen. The result of that is a reasonable communication.
Other dependencies are group dynamics which you are exposed to as well as cultural differences (including socialisation differences) and level of empathy felt for the other person and their empathy felt for you.
In scientific readings Emotional Intelligence is mostly split into four main categories which are:
- Self-Awareness – Identifying and understanding your own emotions
- Self-Control – Managing your own internal emotions
- Other people awareness – Identifying and managing other people’s emotions
- Managing other peoples emotions – Not controlling other’s emotions but anticipating and driving towards a consensus
Failing at Emotional Intelligence
There is no hard “failure” based on a certain threshold but if your own emotions are suppressed they will find another way to the surface – and “leak”. Such leakage could have a lot of shapes. It could be a panic attack, harassment of others, passive aggressive behaviour or a sort of a crying fit. If you are continuously blocking others from expressing their emotion and thoughts it could be also possible that you cause same or similar effects on them if they have no means of valving.
Since that can lead to negative effects on your mood and finally on your health, it is possible that other people who identify such a behaviour will seek to get distance to you. To prevent that it is good to openly talk and give room for emotion and thoughts to be released in a reasonable manner, in an early state, where the exchange of information adds value to all involved parties. Delay causes distress and drama that can be prevented without damage to the mood if the emotion is properly managed.
How to Improve My Emotional Intelligence?
Here are my top pointers which can be easily implemented into your life and help greatly to improve your Emotional Intelligence skills:
- Mindfulness is key to awareness
If you are actively mindful of your emotion, mood and environment you achieve an awareness that allows you to manage your emotion better. If you can’t identify your emotion, don’t expect others to be able to do that.
- Write a mood journal
Capture events and feelings in a journal throughout the day and then assess it at the end of the week. With a clear mind and outside of the scenario you have a more neutral perspective and will be more easily able to categorise your emotions and find a root cause for both good and negative moods. Try to avoid everything that repetitively made you feel bad or solve the underlying problem once and for all.
- Link building and NLP anchors
Learn what makes you feel good and increase such activities in your life. If it’s a person then spend more time with that person and if it’s something you like to eat – make sure you always have a portion of it in your fridge. The practice of NLP anchor setting is very similar to this but is more based on virtual things such as thinking back to that lovely holiday trip you had some years ago in your favourite holiday country. More on NLP anchors can be found in this article on Trans4Mind.com and this one at NLPU.com.
If you are not in a stable good mood you should always try to calm before starting any interactions. This is a common practice when receiving upsetting emails. Just wait to respond with your email reply or try to communicate slowly when on phone or in face-to-face conversation. Haste often yields suboptimal communication results.
How to Handle Jealousy?
Jealousy is just one negative emotion out of many but since it is a very common source of disputes, I’d like to share some insight in how jealousy can be handled for a good emotion management.
Firstly I want to say that it is okay to be jealous and it is also fine to freely state you are jealous of someone or something. It is afterall a sort of a compliment that you’d wish to be that other person or have what he or she has.
Nevertheless it should be possible to harness that emotion with reason. Even though humans are often not very reasonable creatures, I know you can do it! But how? Try to assess the situation first. Are you jealous? Why are you jealous and of what? Maybe Bob bought a really nice new car that you always wished to have. Fair enough, new cars are always nice. Maybe Bob lives alone in a small apartment and just has a bit more money left because of that and because he is not married and has no children. You on the other hand might be married with children in a lovely suburban house. If you look at things from a different angle and compare you realise that both you and Bob you are just fine.
“Jealousy is the fear of comparison.”
– Max Frisch
After Bob spent a half hour looking for a parking lot near his central apartment and coming into a dark place without anyone in it – maybe in that moment it’s Bob who is jealous of you.
This is not said to discriminate anybody for their lifestyles at all but it is a scenario to put things into perspective. Everything is relative and you need to put it into the right context. Suddenly you are no longer jealous, but you also don’t feel above Bob – you are just genuinely happy for him and his new car. You just won empathy and maintained your good mood.
Other than physical needs such that are needed for your body to survive your mood (or mental stability) required some emotional needs that you should consider and take care of. If you are a leader of any sort you also have to take care that everybody in your team has opportunities to take care of these needs:
- Feeling safe and secure
- Freedom and control, you are able to implement choices
- Self respect and self esteem is healthy
- Doing meaningful things, having a purpose and achievement (feel competent and capable, get challenged and be creative)
- You are emotionally connected to others, acknowledged, accepted, included (you are where you belong)
Communicating with Others
Here are some pointers around applying Emotional Intelligence in verbal conversation with others:
- Be clear and honest, tell them if you don’t have time for them right now, if that is the case and plan for a dedicated catch-up, rather than giving them only half an ear of your attention. (The Myth of Multitasking by Dave Crenshaw)
- Listen actively and encourage others to complete their thought, don’t add external influence to the “story”. Often a conflict can solve itself through a clear exchange of neutral information, without any emotional hooks to it.
- If you are not certain about something, go ask them “Do I understand you right, that you feel like x?” Don’t ever assume something in such a dialogue because it creates a gap between both your standpoints that is unnecessary.
- Arrange information in its appropriate context.
- Avoid absolute terms as good as you can in conversations. Instead of “Why are you never on time?!?” try for “I would appreciate if you could be on time in the future.” Check my recent article on “Appreciative Inquiry” for more on this particular way of communicating positively.
Break-glass procedure for conflict communication:
- Involve a neutral third party to aid with conflict management.
- Build on top of the other person’s statement instead of discarding and ignoring it.
- Knowledge, wisdom and experiences are versatile – don’t forget that you might be wrong afterall.
- Stop the finger-pointing and identify the actual problem together
Don’t forget that nobody is without flaw and even if you feel you are not doing well at Emotional Intelligence, you still get a thumbs-up from me for admitting it. That’s the first step to improve yourself. Being aware of gaps on how you interact with others is actually a good sign for social behaviour and finally an indication for Emotional Intelligence and a lot more adequate than just feeling that you are doing perfectly fine regardless of the arguments you are having with everybody all the time.
Thanks for reading and like always I would be happy to hear about your opinion in the comments section below.
If you are interested in researching this subject further I recommend the following books:
Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves
Emotional Intelligence by Gill Hasson
Go Suck a Lemon: Strategies for Improving Your Emotional Intelligence by Michael Cornwall
Photo credit: Kaje Yomama