Raghav’s superior analytical skills had once again helped him solve a difficult technical problem at work. In his 6 year career, he had yet again proven his technical acumen and he felt on top of the world. What more did he need to succeed and be an achiever in life he thought? Actually, Raghav needs to supplement his high Intelligent Quotient (IQ) and technical skills, with just one more ability viz., Emotional Intelligence!
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Simply put, Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to manage ourselves and our relationships with others effectively. It has the following five aspects:
Research shows that the need for EI increases with increased levels of responsibility. It determines who excels in any given job and is essential for being a good leader.
Benefits of improved EI
In Raghav’s case, improving his EI will ensure he is more effective in his career and has a more fulfilling personal life by helping him….
- Motivate himself to do his best and stay focused on his goals
- Strengthen trust with others to build productive relationships
- Deal with everyday job stresses
- Develop his courage to make difficult decisions
- Have kindness to create great customer service
- Build resilience to persevere through adversity
- Ignite the best and most inspired performance from his team members
- Have confidence to constantly change with the world around him
Clearly the benefits of using EI are many. But what if our EI is low, can we improve it? Yes, the good news is unlike IQ, which tends to remain fixed throughout our lifetime, EI can be improved over time. And there is more good news. Most people's EI increases with experience and maturity. So what are some of the behaviors that demonstrate high EI? How do we go about improving our EI? Let’s find out.
Using EI techniques to be more effective
While each of us needs to evolve specific strategies to improve the EI aspects we are not good at, there are some EI techniques that can be used by all to be more effective.
- Understand and take responsibility for your emotions- When one fails to understand one’s feelings one tends to blame others or the environment for one’s emotions. Realize that you create your feelings of happiness or sadness and others are not responsible for them. Once you are aware of what you are feeling, the odds of successfully dealing with your emotions are greatly improved.
- Develop constructive coping skills for specific moods- Learn to relax when your emotions are running high. When you feel angry, use the energy that the feeling brings for something that will release that anger, not feed it. Go for a run when you are feeling blue. Look for the silver lining, humor or a lesson in a negative situation.
- Talk to yourself differently- When faced with challenges say to yourself, “I will try. I can make a difference.” instead of, “Why should I even try. It won’t make a difference.” Optimistic thinking is more likely to lead to successful outcomes.
- Remember you are not your emotions- There are no “bad emotions”. So don’t feel guilty for feeling emotions which you think are not appropriate. It's how you respond to those feelings that matters.
Care for others- There is nothing like caring for others to release good feelings in oneself. To genuinely care for others put into practice the proverb "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you".
Have a supportive network- Build trusting relationships with friends, family and colleagues. By choosing the right people, you will be able to surround yourself with those who care about you and help you feel good about yourself.
Put yourself in others’ shoes- Try imagining what it must be like to see things from others’ perspectives. Ask questions and listen attentively to what is said. Paying attention to non verbal communication can help you empathize better. So, watch faces, listen to tone of voice, and observe body language.
Stop responding automatically- Take control of the way you think and act by listening to your emotions and thoughts. Find out why you react the way you do. Whatever you feel is giving you valuable information, either about the situation you are in, or about some event that has happened that you need to learn from. Mentally prepare yourself for improving how you think and act in future.
- See meaning in your work- People who see meaning in their work are more positive than people who believe their work is meaningless. Do more of what is meaningful to you.
- Use your energy wisely- You need immense energy to tackle life’s challenges. If you are constantly worried about things you cannot change, you will be left with little time and energy for things that you can change. So, quit fuming about those traffic jams and think of how you will improve your team’s morale.
Improving our EI
Understand the aspects of EI
The starting point to developing your EI, would be to understand thoroughly the various aspects of EI. Don’t just stop with reading this article, go ahead and read more on EI. Read books on EI. Do some googling on the internet for articles.
Understand your current level of EI
Next step would be to know what your current level of EI is. Studies have shown that we usually rate our own Emotional Quotient (EQ) higher than what other people rate us since we have justifications for our behavior, in spite of the negative impact the behavior might have. Hence, though there are self-assessment tools available to assess one’s EQ, a better option would be a 360 degree assessment ie., your EI is assessed by people who know you well viz., family, colleagues, bosses, team members etc.
Choose behaviors for improvement
Now that you know what you need to improve don’t be over ambitious and attack all of them. It is essential to limit yourself to only one or two behaviors to work on at a time to ensure success. Also the more specific the behavior change planned the better. For example, you may decide to work on your tendency to avoid difficult colleagues. Though it is a good idea to select behaviors which impact your work and personal life the most, they may not be easy to improve. So start with those that can give you some quick wins.
Find alternative behaviors
After identifying a behavior to work on, identify the alternative behavior you need to develop. Alternative behavior in our example would be not avoiding difficult people (that was easy :-). If you have always behaved this way, you must be wondering how you can change it. Hmm…this is a habit, not an innate ability. Habits can be broken. New habits can be learned and retained through intentional effort, practice, repetition and of course the motivation to change. Understanding reasons for the behavior and benefits of alternate behavior can help. It also helps, if you identify someone with a high EI and think of how he/she would respond to the given situation.
We are primarily emotional beings. There are emotions everywhere, at work, at home even on the roads. It is our emotional intelligence that will help us become more effective everywhere. Yes, it takes time, patience and a high motivation level to improve our EI. But it is worth it!
- Kravitz, SM & Schubert, SD, 2004, ‘Developing People Smart Strategies’, First Indian edition, Viva Books Private Limited, New Delhi.
- Patten ,M ,‘Sharpening Professional Effectiveness’ , http://ezinearticles.com/?Sharpening-Professional-Effectiveness&id=646031.
- ‘10 Emotional Intelligence Techniques to Help You Cope with Life’, http://www.i2lifeselfgrowth.com/emotional/permalink.php?article=emotional-intelligence-techniques.txt.
- Jarboe, E, April 12, 2004, ‘Emotional Intelligence’, http://www.pioneerthinking.com/ej_ei.html.
- Henry,S, ‘4 Steps to Develop Your Emotional Intelligence at Work’, http://www.martinwenger.com/id7.html.