Why Emotional Intelligence Is More Important Than Ever

by John Estafanous in June 21st, 2021
Why Emotional Intelligence Is More Important Than Ever

A previous version of the article was published in February 2019.

There’s a lot of buzz these days around emotional intelligence, often referred to as “EQ.” In fact, the World Economic Forum has ranked emotional intelligence as one of the top-10 most important workplace skills workers will need for success in 2020; and in recent years it has grown to be regarded as a crucial ingredient of great leadership.

There are lots of different definitions of emotional intelligence floating around. But in brief, it’s the capacity to be aware of, control, and express your emotions, as well as to navigate interpersonal relationships with both good judgment and empathy.

It’s easy to see why professional success today is so dependent on EQ. Emotional intelligence is directly related to resilience – our ability to engage with challenges, sustain performance, rebound quickly from adversity, and learn and grow from our experiences. When you’ve developed EQ, you can cope with stressful conditions and maintain a positive outlook, and are less likely to burn out.

Discover The Antidote to Ordinary

Psychologist and author Daniel Goleman – one of the most prolific writers on the subject of emotional intelligence  – breaks it down into four competencies buckets: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Within each bucket live “learned competencies” that make up those four larger competencies. Drill down into relationship management, for example, and you find core competencies of teamwork, conflict management, and influence, among others.

Interestingly, Goleman discovered these competencies by studying high performers. When he looked at what set top leaders apart, the skills that made the difference were those within emotional intelligence. In other words, EQ isn’t just a nice-to-have for high performance; it’s the distinguishing factor.

The Performance Connection

In fact, the value of emotional intelligence seems to jump dramatically with increased job complexity. (Indeed, Goleman found that CEOs get hired for their business expertise and intelligence and fired for lack of EQ – specifically, social awareness). Research also found that those with high EQ are 127 times more productive than those with low EQ, and that EQ is responsible for a hefty 58% of job performance. And when professionals who have similar technical skills and intelligence are compared, EQ accounts for 90% of what gets people promoted within an organization.

EQ is especially interesting when we think about teams. After all, social settings – which we find at work – are the most potent triggers of emotions in homo sapiens. Skills like sensing others’ development needs, being able to persuade them, resolving disagreements, and collaborating on shared goals help teams strengthen the connections that drive their performance. Individuals with high EQ build strong, connected teams – and strong, connected teams go on to deliver exceptional results.

Rate and Improve Your Own Emotional Intelligence

OK, so you recognize how crucial high emotional intelligence is to your career success. Now you need to get a sense of how yours stacks up, and what you can do to strengthen it.

For a quick, 15-minute assessment that includes helpful follow-up suggestions, we like this one from Mind Tools. You can also get a sense of whether your EQ needs your immediate (and possibly urgent) attention by considering the following questions:

Do you…

  • Find yourself getting in a lot of arguments?
  • Often feel that others are overly sensitive?
  • Struggle to understand others’ points of view?
  • Experience emotional outbursts?
  • Disengage/leave when you’re in an emotionally charged environment?

If you respond yes to any of the above, prioritize sharpening your EQ. Building your self-awareness, the bedrock of EQ, is a great place to start. (We’ve got some tips for you here.)

Higher EQ in Three Easy Questions

Want a simple tactic for better EQ, one you can use as soon as you finish reading this article? I like one Justin Bariso, author of EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence passed along from the comedian Craig Ferguson. Ferguson’s advice is that, before you say anything, ask yourself three simple questions:

  • Does this need to be said?
  • Is there a need for this to be said by me?
  • Does this need to be said by me now?

One reason this advice works is that it forces you to create space between a stimulus and your response. This is one of the core tenets of mindfulness and a powerful tool for self-management. It takes intention – particularly in a world wired for lightning-fast response – to pause, but doing so gives you the chance to question and correct any knee-jerk emotional reactions.

As you travel the path to higher EQ, take heart: emotional intelligence seems to rise naturally as we age. So there’s good reason to believe that you can achieve better, more satisfying relationships – and greater career success – as the years roll by.

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