What is Emotional Intelligence—and Why You Need it

Career Services Director at Touro’s Lander College for Men explains why emotional intelligence is vital to success in our careers and our personal relationships

When you meet someone, you can tell if they have, “it.” Someone who carries themselves with self-confidence and poise, while simultaneously being able to stop what they are doing to listen to a friend’s problem and empathize has “it.” Someone who can look you in the eye when speaking with you has “it” too. They are aware of themselves and others and can connect because of their emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the secret ingredient in interpersonal relationships.

Twenty-five years ago, the psychologist Dr. Daniel Goleman popularized the idea with his book Emotional Intelligence. His goal was to study the human mind through the lens of anthropology, sociology, and psychology. The business community quickly adopted his ideas.

Someone with emotional intelligence will be in touch with himself and be able to forge new relationships. Gemma Leigh Roberts, a Chartered Organizational Psychologist, defines emotional intelligence as being able to understand and express emotions and use empathy. She explains that our psychological make-up has three parts: emotional intelligence, also called emotional quotient or EQ, personality and IQ, or overall general intelligence. While one’s personality and IQ may be fixed, Roberts claims that anyone can increase their EQ by learning and practicing new skills.
How do we measure EQ? Roberts says that EQ is measured by being aware of emotions, expressing emotions, controlling emotions, and relationship management. There is an inward focus and an outward focus as well. Inwardly, people need to develop their self-awareness and self-management. Outwardly, people should aim to improve their social awareness and relationship development.

emotional intelligence

We need to be aware of our feelings. Sometimes it takes great effort to put on a smile because we had a difficult morning. The kids did not behave or you missed the bus so you were late to work. It is harder to put on a smile at work after surviving that morning. Are we aware of the hurdle we must overcome to get back to “normal”? We are more irritable than usual and therefore we might need a few minutes to calm down before diving into our first project at work. Being self-aware and managing ourselves is half the battle of emotional intelligence.

Externally, we can increase our social awareness and develop stronger relationships. The body language of our co-workers provides a clue. Are they walking with slumped shoulders while staring at the floor? Maybe they have creases running across their forehead because they are worried. If we take the time to notice the details about our co-workers’ body language and facial expressions, we can respond accordingly. We can express concern or be supportive, instead of plowing through our agenda even though we had a meeting scheduled. We can be human first—and co-workers second. By doing this, we gain trust and build relationships. We also develop leadership skills and earn promotions at work. It’s a win win scenario overall.

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