How do you use emotional intelligence at work?

While most people have been told their whole lives that emotions should be left at the door, “emotions in the workplace always have a seat at the table,” said Brackett.

The Yale research on emotional intelligence distinguishes four main impacts of emotions: the ability to make decisions, our ability to perform, our ability to take care of our mental and physical wellbeing, and the ability to build and maintain quality relationships.

Hoban points at a situation in which you’re about to make a huge presentation at work. Imagine you’re just about to leave your desk for the meeting when you read an email that really angers you. While you felt great earlier, now you’re not in the best mental state to deliver a killer presentation.

“If I can have a set of strategies that I’ve worked on and that I know work to regulate these angry feelings and put me in a more positive state of mind, then I’ll walk into that meeting really ready to work,” said Hoban.

Instead of ruining your presentation, emotionally intelligent people will “execute a strategy or a practice that they know can shift them into a more helpful emotional state”.

Who needs emotional intelligence?

Emotional skills are crucial to not only building successful relationships, but also to maintaining a happy lifestyle for oneself.

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Some may think it’s only important for leaders to focus on emotional intelligence, but it’s important for each role in the workplace to enhance their emotional intelligence.

Hoban points to the operating room, emotional intelligence is critical to the performance of surgeons and anesthesiologists alike. Additionally, a data analyst can use emotional intelligence skills to decrease their anxiety created by deadlines.

An individual in customer service must have to skills to regulate their own emotions as identify and handle the emotions of the customer.

“I can’t think of a situation where emotions don’t impact performance,” said Hoban.

How to use emotional intelligence as a leader

While a high EIQ is important for each member of a team, it’s important that strong soft skills are being exemplified at the top of any organisation.

Emotional skills come into play during every day of a leader’s life, whether it be a normal Tuesday or one filled with performance reviews.

In addition, leaders must be emotionally intelligent enough to realise when extroverts are overtaking introverts. During a meeting, a leader should be able to read the body language of people in the room.

While a lively discussion is great, a leader should shift attention to those who haven’t participated and make them feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts.

Emotional intelligence also plays a huge role in delivering feedback, and can determine whether or not the feedback is constructive criticism or destructive criticism.

History of emotional intelligence

Wayne Payne first used the official term “emotional intelligence” in his 1985 doctoral dissertation. Psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer gave the term an official definition and introduced the concept to the science world in their 1990 landmark article.

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Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and New York Times science writer, popularised the term into vernacular with the release of his 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ.

Goleman broke up the subject into five key elements:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Self-motivation
  4. Empathy/social awareness
  5. Social skills.

The concept is now studied at major universities, including the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, which works to build awareness of the impact emotions have in the workplace and in places of education.

In 2009, emotional intelligence experts Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves published Emotional Intelligence 2.0, a self-help book that outlines 66 strategies for enhancing one’s own emotional intelligence.

While there are many self-help books that claim to help others strengthen their emotional intelligence skills, Bradberry’s work includes research and was even praised by the Dalai Lama himself.

As the term was embraced by the professional psychology world, universities began to implement the subject as a part of the research.

Founded in 1987, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence has grown to conduct research on emotional intelligence. Findings from said research have been used to create programs that help educators embrace and use emotions in schools.

Is emotional intelligence a soft skill?

Soft skills are desirable qualities that are often learned through one’s environment, rather than through formal education or training. So, is emotional intelligence a soft skill?

“Oftentimes emotional intelligence is classified as a soft skill, but I would argue that it’s harder than the hard skills,” said Brackett.

Hard skills, once learned, don’t need much fine-tuning over the years. On the flip side, emotional skills are way more complex and require continuous development.

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Cold, cognitive skills stick with you, but because emotions are ever-changing, so are the skills that come along with regulating them.

For example, one day you may be able to talk to a co-worker calmly about a joke you didn’t enjoy, but what if you’re in a bad mood the next time you hear that joke? You may be way more reactive and require a different set of skills to handle the situation.

What is emotional energy?

Emotions are not just good and bad but actually, exist on a spectrum of pleasantness. Emotions can be evaluated as positive versus negative as well as on a separate axis called the energy spectrum.

Certain emotions, such as feeling drained or sleepy, are low-energy emotions, while excitement and panic are high-energy emotions.

Labelling emotions based on low or high energy helps people identify what they are feeling and how to change or use that emotion in their favour, given a circumstance.


This article was originally published on The Ladders.