When hiring managers or promoting from within, decision makers often look to factors like previous experience, familiarity with the existing team, and ability to achieve goals. But there’s an important element of management success that isn’t easily listed on a resume, nor is it taken as seriously as it should be in most professional circles: emotional intelligence, or EQ.
Emotional intelligence is a complex concept in the field of psychology that refers to an individual’s ability to monitor and recognize both their emotions and the emotions of other people. When emotional intelligence is high, a person can easily identify and compensate for their own emotions, empathize with other people, and live a happier, more authentic life overall.
So why is emotional intelligence so important for managers, and what steps can they take to improve it?
The Value of Emotional Intelligence
These are some of the best perks of emotional intelligence for managers:
- Emotion is strongly linked to motivation. What makes your employees want to do their best work? What makes them want to waste time and go home early for the day? Learning to recognize the emotional triggers that lead down these very different paths can help you steer your team in the right direction. It can also help you be honest and reflective about your own motivations, and keep you enthusiastic about your job during even challenging moments.
- Any good leader will be able to empathize with their subordinates and followers. Empathy allows you to subjectively feel what your employees are feeling, creating a culture of connection and respect. An empathetic manager can provide solace during your team’s toughest moments, and celebrate in unison with the team when you achieve something great.
- Self-awareness. Emotional intelligence gives you enhanced self-awareness, which is vital for a manager. A high EQ makes you humbler and allows you to recognize when you’re being unreasonable, or when you phrase something in a way that miscommunicates your point—or even offends somebody. Awareness is always the first step to improvement.
- Self-control and self-regulation. Higher EQ also allows you to stop or mitigate your negative emotions before they form, giving you a chance to regulate your responses. You’ll stay calmer in more stressful situations, and more productive when you’re feeling down or defeated. Plus, emotional regulation is associated with a higher sense of wellbeing.
- Communication and social skills. Emotions are a key element of communication, whether you realize it or not. Being aware of both your emotions and the emotions of others will allow you to construct more meaningful, considerate sentences, and convey meaning more appropriately in practically every situation.
There is, however, a problem with the value of EQ: it’s hard to quantify. You may have trouble listing it on a resume, or proving that you’re more emotionally intelligent than another candidate. Even worse, business leaders may devalue EQ compared to other, more tangible skills or experience. Still, if you land the position or continue improving yourself as a manager, the results of your superior EQ will speak for themselves.
Improving Your Emotional Intelligence
If you’re interested in becoming a better manager, or just living a happier, better-connected life, there are steps you can take to improve your emotional intelligence:
- Practice mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is all about focusing on the present, ridding your mind of distractions and giving yourself more space to consciously process your own The more you practice it, the more time you’ll have to think through your emotions in everyday situations, and the faster you’ll be able to return to “baseline” after a negative emotional experience.
- Frequently identify and express emotions verbally. Practice naming your own emotions as often as possible. That could mean saying aloud, “I’m feeling angry,” or recording your feelings in a journal as they arise and pass. This will help you recognize how your own emotions develop, and give you a richer vocabulary to think about and talk about the emotions of others.
- Notice patterns in others’ behaviors. Pay attention to the words, body language, and habit changes of other people as they experience different emotions. Do they fidget when they’re uncomfortable? Do they tend to slow down when they feel less confident? You may have difficulty spotting these changes at first, but it will get easier.
- Eliminate negative self-talk about emotions. It’s important for you to think about all emotions as being acceptable, rather than thinking of negative emotions as something “bad” to be eliminated. Repressing or masking negative emotions may end up making them stronger, while weakening your coping skills. It’s better to accept them and let them pass.
Emotional intelligence is a deep topic, and unfortunately, one that can’t be easily summarized in the body of a single article. Many different types of EQ exist, and the topic has been studied and interpreted by many different researchers throughout history, including Peter Salovey, Daniel Goleman, and Travis Bradberry. If you’re interested in honing your own emotional intelligence skills, study as much as you can, and keep practicing emotional awareness exercises to improve.