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Emotional intelligence skills
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Emotional intelligence: The essential workplace skill to advance your career

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This critical skill remains undervalued and overlooked, but now is the perfect time to make it a priority for all learners – including (and especially) L&D professionals.

1st Mar 2022
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L&D professionals will be very aware of the importance and benefits of an emotionally intelligent workforce. This has been even more so the case through the global pandemic, where much of our interactions have been virtual and social cues more difficult to read. Emotional intelligence is a critical skill in today’s corporate world, and if your organisation is not looking at addressing this skill gap already, they would be wise to start doing so. 

It's all about communication

As a first step though, learning professionals may want to consider their own emotional intelligence. One key ingredient to L&D’s success is the ability to communicate and connect well with people across many parts of the business, including the C-Suite.

Taking a moment to process and name your emotion will help you identify this emotion in others

Making efforts to enhance your emotional intelligence (even if you feel you’re pretty well equipped in this area) will strengthen your interpersonal relationships at work and build stronger bonds with senior leaders. It will also make you a more authentic leader and provide numerous benefits to your personal life as well. 

How do you build upon this workplace skill? Let’s first remind ourselves of what emotional intelligence involves and the role inner awareness plays.

Label your feelings

Emotional intelligence is the capacity of individuals to recognize their own and other people’s emotions. It is the ability to differentiate between a variety of feelings and label them appropriately. Leaders use emotional information, or cues, to guide thinking and behavior. Having a high emotional intelligence allows you to relate and interact with others in an authentic and meaningful capacity. 

Often when we experience an emotion, we react to it before identifying it. Practice saying to yourself in your head the emotion you feel - I feel anger. I feel upset. Taking a moment to process and name your emotion will help you identify this emotion in others. Remember, different emotions come with different degrees of intensity. You can be upset, or you can be outraged - the two are quite different. Do not reserve this exercise for negative emotions. Practice with positive emotions as well. 

Imagine your colleagues throw you a surprise party. When you walk through the front door do you feel happy (low intensity), elated (medium intensity), or speechless (high intensity)? The same goes for negative feelings. If your colleague makes a huge error on a report that costs your company thousands of dollars. Are you angry (low intensity), irate (medium intensity), or belligerently furious (high intensity)? This deliberate labeling of feelings will increase your emotional intelligence over time. 

Social awareness awakens our sense of empathy. By continually improving this skill, we can channel our empathy for others

Social awareness is key

Emotional intelligence is not just about looking at the self; it is also about recognizing and correctly identifying emotions in others. What is that person feeling, and how did those feelings arise?” Notice we do not ask ourselves WHY they feel the way they do. Instead, we open the gates of exploration with a HOW question. How did the feelings happen? 

We do this because it helps create a sense of understanding for the other person’s emotions. If we ask why they are feeling a certain way, we may never know the answer as we are not them. But if we change the lens to ask ourselves how the feelings happened, it becomes easier to surmise the inciting action or circumstance. 

Social awareness awakens our sense of empathy. By continually improving this skill, we can channel our empathy for others. Be attuned to the things that wake up your human side. Empathy can pacify negative emotions instantly.

Even if it is just a small feeling in your stomach, don’t ignore it. Empathy is essential when it comes to emotional intelligence. Imagine for example an irritating colleague is your best friend, just for a few moments. Notice how your attitude changes with this visualization exercise. 

Look at relationship management

We cannot determine how another person may want to feel. If someone is sad, we cannot just assume they want to feel happy. So, we ask ourselves, how do I want the other person to feel? and what do I need to do to make them to feel that way?

When someone is angry with us, we want them to stop feeling angry. Using self-awareness, we can determine what actions we need to take to help the other person not feel angry anymore. These questions and self-reflection may seem complicated, but you are probably already doing many of these things without even thinking about it.

Taking a moment to process and name your emotion will help you identify this emotion in others

When you introduce a new person to your team, you probably go the extra mile to make them feel welcome. When you see someone who is uncomfortable, instinct tells you to help them feel more comfortable. 

Practice makes perfect

Remember that things are going to upset you. Work will stress you out from time to time. No one is perfect. The best thing you can do is take each situation you encounter and learn from it. Our mistakes are our greatest teachers. High emotional intelligence also means having a high degree of self-compassion and self-awareness. 

By practicing these tactics, you can elevate your emotional intelligence and see the benefits in your professional life. You will not, however, be able to improve your emotional intelligence overnight. It is a journey that takes practice. But with each step, you will feel more confident, more aware, and more attune to others’ emotions as well as your own. 

Above all, awareness of your own emotions and those surrounding you is key. Once you process that information it is up to you to determine the most appropriate way to respond (not react). Over the past two years, our world has seen unprecedented changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, it is important to embrace the humanity we each possess and demonstrate authenticity through emotional intelligence. 

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