Emotional intelligence (EQ) is currently a hot topic and one that global leaders and HR Directors are taking seriously. For many it’s an essential requirement when it comes to recruiting and promoting employees. So what is so important about emotional intelligence? Is it something we need or can we succeed without it? It used to be believed that qualifications and credentials guaranteed future career success. But when individuals such as Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Christy Walton, Ingvar Kamprad, Coco Chanel, Karl Albrecht and Henry Ford become billionaires without any formal college qualification, you have to concede there could be something else even more crucial to success than a degree certificate. This is where emotional intelligence comes into play.
Emotional intelligence has been defined as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others”. It has also been cited by some as the key to both professional and personal success. Dr. Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, recently wrote that emotional intelligence could not only boost your career but also save your life.
So, how do you know if you have high or low emotional intelligence? Here are 3 signs you might be low on that all important ingredient for success:
1) You don’t know what self-awareness is, let alone have it
So what is self-awareness? It is knowing yourself at the deepest level. You know what makes you tick and what you believe about yourself, people and the world in general. You’re highly conscious of your own emotional state, your personality, your strengths and weaknesses and even how you come across to others. People with low emotional intelligence often take feedback as criticism and quite often “can’t handle the truth”. Being confident enough to see feedback for what it is, and make improvements when necessary, is essential if you want to be considered for a promotion or leadership role.
2) You’re not taking responsibility for your emotions
“My boss makes me so angry!” So you’re telling me your boss is standing in front of you with a remote control, and with the touch of a button can dictate what emotion you feel? People with lower emotional intelligence still believe that people and external events control their feelings. They are not accountable for their emotions and often blame others or situations for how they feel. Being aware of personal triggers and being in control of your emotions is paramount to being successful – at both work and at home.
3) You only ever look at things from your perspective
People with lower emotional intelligence tend to think one dimensionally – how does this event affect me? They don’t consider what it must be like to be in other people’s shoes. Having the desire and the ability to see things from another person’s view point is crucial for conflict resolution and effective communication. It is a must-have for future leaders and for career success.
So now you have some idea of where you stand when it comes to emotional intelligence. The key question is, “How do I become more emotionally intelligent?”
While for some emotional intelligence is a natural gift, many have to work at developing it. Here are some steps to help you get started:
1) Get feedback from people you trust
Ask either a colleague, your boss, your spouse or close friend to give you some honest feedback. Ask them about how they perceive you – do you seem to be in control of your emotions and to care about other people’s emotions and viewpoints? How good are your communication skills, including listening? What do they dislike about you or find frustrating? What are your perceived strengths and weaknesses? Once you have the answers to these, you can incorporate them into how you see yourself – as you truly are. And if anything they say offends you or ‘makes you angry’, then chances are they might have a point…
2) Become an observer of your emotions
Some people get angry or stressed so fast they’re not even aware of it. Worse still, they have no clue how this anger or stress affects those around them. The key thing is to start being consciously aware of your emotions – and notice any patterns. Are there particular situations that cause you to feel a certain way e.g. angry, sad, stressed or disappointed? What behaviours in other people trigger an emotion in you? How do other people react to you when you behave this way? What can you learn ABOUT YOU in these situations that might help you control your emotions better next time this situation arises? Do you need to learn not to take things so personally? Or that perhaps your expectations are too high or unrealistic? Take a note of these lessons and carry them with you in the future.
3) Become a great listener and take an active interest in others
Emotional intelligence is not just about recognising your own emotions. It’s about being able to recognise emotions in others. A great way to start developing this skill is to become an active listener. Really focus on what the other person is saying and not on what you want to say. Note that while the content of what they are saying is important, emotions and attitudes are mostly communicated through their voice and body language. So when listening, focus a significant amount of your attention on their voice (tone, pitch, volume etc.), facial expressions and body language to get a genuine understanding of how they really feel about something.
4) Be humble and willing to change
Many of the greatest leaders in the world demonstrate one key attribute: humility. They know that even though they are a leader they are no better (or worse) than anyone else. They have the genuine belief that everyone on this planet has equal value. They are comfortable knowing they are not ‘the best’ – and that if they want to improve or be better, it’s up to them to change it. Sometimes people with low emotional intelligence believe that everyone else is the problem, so it’s others who should change and not them. Recognising the problem could lie with you and being willing to change it is a key step in developing emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence has been identified as the key component separating the good leaders from the great. While qualifications are important for career success, investing in the development of your emotional intelligence could catapult your career to a whole new level. Go on a course, buy a book, ask your boss for support or find a mentor or coach who can help you. Whatever it takes, make sure developing your emotional intelligence is at the top of your list when it comes to personal development. Your career and life could depend on it.
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