I Second That Emotion(al Intelligence)

Note: No, this isn’t an article about Smokey Robinson (hope I didn’t just lose any potential readers there).  

Consider the following scenarios:

The CIO tells a female colleague she needs to sit in the back of the room — as a joke. The VP of Procurement tells a subordinate he wouldn’t need a new office chair every two years if he’d lose 75 pounds. The CEO demands that a department do his bidding if they want to receive a sustainable budgetary allocation for the year. The VP of Sales regularly yells and cusses at his team for missing performance goals. The CMO is infamous for gossiping about subordinates and feigning ignorance when confronted.

Aside from being unprofessional, ill-behaved, and quite shady, what do all of these individuals have in common? The answer is that they are all severely lacking in emotional intelligence. They are creating distress and discord within the organization, and from a psychological standpoint, letting their ego drive their behavior.

So what exactly is emotional intelligence? According to Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso (2008), “Emotional Intelligence (EQ) includes the ability to engage in sophisticated information processing about one’s own and others’ emotions and the ability to use this information as a guide to thinking and behavior. That is, individuals high in emotional intelligence pay attention to, use, understand, and manage emotions, and these skills serve adaptive functions that potentially benefit themselves and others.”

In simpler terms, emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, and manage the emotions of oneself and others. It affects how we navigate social situations and make decisions concerning others. EQ is formed by four core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Depending on proficiency, each of these skills either aids or hinders a person’s ability to interact with others. When positively applied, EQ facilitates thought through the integration of emotions to foster beneficial work qualities such as creative problem-solving, initiative, empowerment, and autonomy — just to name a few.

And why exactly is it important? According to multiple studies, emotional intelligence is the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and is the strongest indicator of leadership and personal excellence. As a result, people with a higher degree of emotional intelligence make more money — an average of $29,000 more per year.

The good news is that EQ can be developed. The pathway for emotional intelligence begins at the spinal cord, travels through the limbic system — the place where emotions are generated, and then finally to the rational center of the brain. So, improving EQ requires effective communication between the rational and emotional systems. Here are four ways to become more emotionally intelligent:

Tune into your emotions.

Becoming more self-aware is the first critical step toward developing emotional intelligence. Practicing metacognition — the act of thinking about your thinking — allows you to be aware of your emotions as they happen. By expanding your mental awareness and understanding how your emotions develop based on preconceptions, thoughts, beliefs, values, and other intrinsic reflections, you are better prepared to react in a way that promotes positivity and empowerment.

Get out of fight, flight, or freeze mode.

When we are unaware of our emotions, we typically revert to our caveman instincts — stay and fight, run away, or become paralyzed with fear — none of which are helpful or productive in the modern workplace. Once you’ve developed a level of self-awareness, it becomes easier to manage your emotions. This entails acknowledging what you’re feeling and understanding how you would typically react in a particular situation. This process, often referred to as self-management, focuses on using self-awareness to remain flexible and supportive to those around you.

Consider your intended audience.

Once you’ve mastered the skills necessary for self-competence, it’s time to consider the recipient of your communication. This is called social awareness, which is essentially your ability to accurately identify emotions in others and understand how you may be perceived under certain circumstances. Because we each have our own unique history, we often have a tendency to interpret communication based on past experiences. This can include education, religion, adult and childhood experiences, ethnicity, socio-economic background, and relationships. Being mindful of these differences ensures a level of consideration and sensitivity that conveys respect for your recipient.   

Zero in on the end goal.

Shifting the focus away from our emotions and toward the desired outcome is essential to developing emotional intelligence. Referred to as relationship management, this skill involves maintaining a level of awareness of your emotions (as well as the emotions of others) to successfully manage interactions in a way that ensure positivity, growth, and productivity. Instead of reacting in an emotionally-charged way, try to determine the appropriate type of communication based on the end goal. Depending on what you would like to achieve, you may want to evoke feelings of empowerment, competency, and initiative, as well as other constructive, positive emotions.

Here’s the bad news: being a mature, emotionally aware individual isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for leadership. And unfortunately, we can’t always have the luxury of choosing our boss, but we can choose how we react to and communicate with those individuals. The ability to express, control, interpret, and understand our emotions is essential to the development of a healthy workplace, and while we may not be able to affect the EQ of others, we can certainly develop our own.


“Emotional Intelligence: New Ability or Eclectic Traits?” John D. Mayer, Peter Salovey and David R. Caruso. American Psychologist, September 2008, Vol. 63, No. 6, pages 503 – 517.

Puccio, G.J., Mance, M., & Murdock, M.  (2011). Creative Leadership-Skills that drive change.  Buffalo State:State of New York.  SAGE Publications Inc. Thousand Oaks, CA.


We would like to thank Whitney Lane for this post, Click Here to check out her website!