The power of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is often hugely underestimated as a factor determining career growth and development. Research has proven that employees with a higher EQ than their peers often earn better salaries and climb the career ladder a lot faster than those whose EQ needs to be developed. Most people are hired for their IQ – their qualifications, their skills and their merits. Most people are fired for their EQ – breaking work rules, behaving inappropriately and saying things that are detrimental to their professional health and well-being.
The good news is that the psychological fraternity has also proven that EQ is a learnable skill. For a long time, the emotional and social skills of individuals were deemed to be inherited traits, but research has shown that EQ related skills like empathy, influence, motivation, etc. can be learnt. Commitment and willingness to change are, however, key drivers to the journey.
The road to improved EQ needs to begin with yourself – your self-awareness is the starting point. Know your values, your emotional responses, your capabilities and how you are able to adapt to given situations. Take time to introspect, because when you are aware of who you are, you are ready to see yourself as worthy.
Having self-worth does not imply that you are perfect, it means that you are aware of who you are and you respect yourself, your character and all that makes you who you are. You are also able to respect others, because you are at peace with yourself, you can exercise independence, optimism, confidence and drive. Having self-worth makes you see the world as a sunnier and brighter place. Optimistic people tend to be more successful than their pessimistic counterparts.
When we are self-aware and we have self-worth, we are able to regulate or control our thoughts and actions. Self-regulation is concerned with stress management, motivation, adaptability, our ability to forgive and being able to exercise a sense of humour. Higher EQ leads to better self-regulation, where we are able to operate more positively and functionally in our everyday environments.
EQ is not entirely about the ‘self’, it is essentially about the ability to recognise, understand and manage our own emotions so that we are able to recognise and influence the emotions of others to achieve the best possible outcome. A high EQ means that you are able to interact with others in such a way that you meet their emotional needs or their emotional state. Aristotle once wrote: “Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – this is not easy”. Aristotle was essentially writing about emotional intelligence – essentially highlighting that all social and emotional interactions should be informed by the emotions that we identify in our audience.
The first step to effective social interaction is social perception. Social perception involves doing a social scan or taking a contextual snapshot. This will allow you to anticipate what your next moves should be, what kind of empathy or understanding you need to exercise and then how you should respond appropriately. The key to social perception is being mindful or present – without which you will not fully appreciate the social context.
Once a social context has been perceived, social interaction is the next step. When you engage with others effectively you need to listen actively, strive to establish connections and build relationships and these are best achieved when you are transparent, direct and open. Taking cognisance of diversity is a vital part of social interaction, but more important is the inclusiveness that follows as a logical action to the acknowledgement of diversity. Inclusiveness is the operationalising of diversity difference.
Social Effectiveness is the culmination of the EQ journey that commences with self-awareness. Social effectiveness is determined by how you manage conflict, how you influence others, how you are pleasantly assertive, how you let grudges and conflicts go and how you co-operate and interact with others for the best possible outcome.
There are numerous examples of companies that have experienced gains from EQ development initiatives. Some of these include Sheraton Hotels, L’Oréal, Johnson and Johnson, Metropolitan Life and American Express. It is important to recognise that enhanced EQ levels in an organisation will increase business impact – but this is because of the improved attitudes of the personal within the organisation. Higher EQ leads to higher emotional understanding and engagement between staff – within and across traditional hierarchical levels. A happier working environment leads to a more productive and collaborative work space – where outcomes are improved. The internal EQ improvements are in turn, experienced by the clients who will have a better engagement with the organisation and its employees. Improved EQ is a win-win … all-round!