By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes
What comes to mind when you think of emotional intelligence? If you’re anything like I once was, you probably think about being aware and accepting of your emotions. But that’s only half of it.
The second part is an ability to recognize emotions in others—and use this recognition as a way to effectively manage relationships that can contribute to your professional success. One study by Johnson and Johnson showed that the highest performers in the workforce were also those that displayed a higher emotional intelligence. Specifically, the more successful managers and leaders demonstrated increased self-awareness, self-management, and empathy—cornerstones of emotional intelligence.
So, how can you develop your emotional intelligence to serve you in the workplace?
- Assess your reactions to stressors. I recently had a client complain to me that her mornings were always stressed because she woke up (and addressed) work issues via email and text. I asked her why she felt the need to respond before even getting out of bed! Emotionally intelligent people recognize that negative reactions create negative experiences, and practice self-management. Resist the temptation to answer that email groggy from your bed. Have a shower and a cup of coffee before hitting reply to avoid a negative, knee-jerk response. Get into a peak state before you engage.
- Choose your words wisely. Expanding your vocabulary can help you become a stronger communicator, an extremely valuable tool in the workplace. Had a bad meeting? Get more specific. Was it disorganized? Tense? Unproductive? Emotionally intelligent people tend to use more specific words that can help communicate deficiencies and immediately work to address them. Excellent communication skills are often correlated with effective conflict-resolution, team building, and professional transparency.
- Walk a mile in their shoes. I once asked a client what was the single most valuable piece of information she received at leadership training. His reply? Be a better listener. Focus is the gateway drug to empathy; you cannot understand another person if you are not focused on them. Centering on verbal and non-verbal cues can give you invaluable insight into the feelings of your colleagues, superiors, or clients. Being empathetic has proven to have numerous benefits in the workplace including increased employee satisfaction, greater strategic alignment, and a better foundation from which to lead.
At the end of the day, growth is a process, not an event. Take your time in improving yourself, and know that listening is a practice—a muscle that you build over time. After working with thousands of job seekers around the world, I can tell you this much: the emotionally intelligent ones happen to have a bank account that is growing at a faster pace.
You’ve got this.