You’ve probably heard the term “emotional intelligence” (or “EQ” for short), but may have only a vague idea of what it means. First popularized in a 1995 bestselling book, this trait — in a nutshell, the ability to manage one’s emotions and relate well to others — is strongly linked to on-the-job success.
High-EQ teams are efficient, productive and skilled at working through differences. Try these four steps to enhance or fine-tune your own EQ:
The first step toward working well with others is to have a clear understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses. People who are self-aware know what sorts of situations they thrive in, where they tend to struggle and what triggers certain emotions. Improving self-awareness isn’t hard, but it does take time and commitment.
Try this: Take notice of how you feel throughout the day and what may have triggered your feelings. Note what makes you feel good and what makes you anxious or irritated. Over time, these “self-check-ins” can help you better manage your responses to stress.
Think before you react
Being tuned in to your emotions makes it easier to take command of them. This helps you stay cool when things don’t go as planned — and it can keep you from saying or doing things you’ll later regret. Words said or emails sent in moments of frustration or in the heat of conflict often only make things worse.
Try this: The next time you’re in a stressful situation, pause before you react. If helpful, establish a protocol for yourself such as, “No emails for five minutes after I start to feel frustrated,” or, “Never respond before talking through my retort to a frustrating remark with someone.” Remind yourself that frustrations or uncertainties are an inevitable part of work life and that you’ve handled them before.
Turn your focus outward
Empathy — the ability to take another’s perspective — is at the heart of good relationships, both personal and professional. Trying to see things as your colleagues do isn’t always easy, but it will help you work together more constructively.
Try this: The next time you find yourself at odds with a co-worker, practice adopting that person’s point of view. Ask yourself why they might see things as they do and what the merits are of their perspective. Listen carefully to their viewpoints and acknowledge them — that could make them more willing to hearing your perspective in return.
Work on communication
A key component of EQ is the ability to express your own viewpoints clearly and effectively. This applies not only to disagreements, but also to situations when you need to set firm boundaries or establish expectations. Communicating clearly and respectfully — and taking others’ viewpoints into account — can keep misunderstandings from escalating into conflicts.
Try this: When preparing for a difficult conversation, practice framing your request in a way that emphasizes the benefits to the other person or the company. For instance, if you’ve been asked to manage a project and your boss is slow to provide needed input, explain that you are focused on keeping quality high and the customer happy. Relate the input you will need to accomplish those goals, then ask how you can help make that happen.