Research Articles

Developing Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Developing Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is an art, but the good news is that you can build upon your baseline knowledge and improve over time. unlike some of the hard-wired personality traits and IQ scores which remain fairly consistent from age 8 to 80, Emotional Intelligence skills can be developed.

How does one develop EQ?

Daniel Goleman outlines that emotional intelligence is a product of Personal and Social Competence. Possessing awareness of ourselves, our own emotions and managing how we handle those emotions as well as how tuned in we are to others and are able to relate to them. Below are a few strategies that you can begin practicing immediately to help you develop core EQ skills.

Developing Self-Awareness

The focus of EQ starts with ourselves and involves developing more self-awareness about our own emotions and the triggers that set us off. It requires being able to take a step back to understand what type of immediate reactions are happening “in the moment”.  Being aware of what triggers our emotions can help us remain calm under stress and positively influence the situation, particularly in challenging encounters.

To increase self-awareness, try this exercise a few times daily:

Begin paying more attention to how you are feeling at various moments during the day. Ask yourself the following reflective questions:

  • What am I thinking about at this moment? How am I feeling?
  • If I had to name this feeling what would I call it? Give it a name.

Once you are practiced at doing this by yourself, try it during a meeting; both before and during the meeting. Notice if anything in particular “triggers” a certain emotion; perhaps a client’s tone of voice, body language or words being spoken?

This exercise helps you accomplish several important things – first, it helps you begin to develop a language for your emotions and start to notice patterns of what triggers set you off.  Second, research has shown that simply naming an emotion actually helps to quell it. UCLA psychologist Matthew Lieberman, PhD. conducted studies using MRI brain scans and found that by simply naming a troubling emotion, you can calm yourself and your brain down. Learning to calm yourself down before responding to others will help to deepen your connections with other people.

Once we are aware of our emotions and some of the situations that trigger them, we can learn to manage or control our emotions — not suppress them.  It’s important to know which feelings are appropriate to express in particular situations, and involves not only what we say but also how it is expressed in our body language and facial expressions.

Practicing Empathy

Empathy is experiencing the world of others by thinking beyond yourself and your own concerns. It does not mean being “nice” or even sympathetic, it means that you can recognize emotions in others and begin to understand the other person’s reality.  It is an active process and involves being curious and fully attentive to the perceptions of other’s thoughts and feelings which in turn gives them a sense of connection and caring. To practice empathy, try doing the following during your next client interaction:

  • Put aside your viewpoint and try to see things from their point of view.
  • Validate their perspective. It’s important to remember that acknowledgement does not always equal agreement. You can accept that people have different opinions from your own, and that they may have good reason to hold those opinions.
  • Listen:
    • Listen to the entire message that the other person is trying to communicate
    • Listen with your ears – what is being said, and what tone is being used?
    • Listen with your eyes – what is the person doing with his or her body while speaking?
    • Listen with your instincts – do you sense that the person is not communicating something important?
    • Listen with your heart – what do you think the other person feels?

Other EQ skills include adaptability and flexibility which means we may need to make a habit of letting go of some of our natural tendencies and adapting our behaviors.

In conclusion, the argument for developing emotional intelligence skills should be clear-cut even to those with a tendency toward skepticism. Those of us that develop their EQ skills can reap a number of benefits, including building and maintaining high value partnerships, an enhanced ability to lead and influence others, resolve conflict and build stronger relationships. Most importantly it can help us build and sustain a much more rewarding career and help to shape a high-performance culture within our organizations.

Written by Colleen Franca