To say 2020 was a tough year would be an understatement. The rise of Covid-19 infections and deaths, lockdown after lockdown, and financial and job uncertainty had us all overwhelmed and disheartened and in need of solid coping mechanisms. It is thought that people who have greater emotional intelligence (EI) are able to deal with stressful circumstances better because they see and understand their own emotions as well as those around them.
A change of perspective can play a key role in gaining a higher EI. Speaking about his experience during the pandemic, Anirudh S., a marketing professional from Bangalore, says, “Working from home during the lockdown blurred the lines between my personal and professional life. I’d be opening my laptop at 6 am when I woke up, teaching my kids in the afternoon or doing household chores and working late into the night. It was getting frustrating but, after a few weeks, I tried to accept the situation instead of letting it get me down. I also kept in mind that this was temporary and everyone in the world was going through these difficulties together. It helped me gain some perspective, reduced my irritability at work and renewed my enthusiasm for what I had believed was a sea of mundane days.”
You might have heard career coaches, LinkedIn posts and business leaders mention emotional intelligence, and not been exactly sure what it means. Far from being a buzzword, emotional quotient (EQ) or emotional intelligence (EI) can help individuals communicate better, solve problems more effectively and nurture good relationships with colleagues and customers. And, for these reasons and more, it’s an important skill to practice.
A high IQ is certainly important to climb up the career ladder. However, having the ability to recognize and understand your emotions and those of the people around you is perhaps even more vital to thriving in the corporate world. These unique qualities can be summed up in two words: emotional intelligence. Though it may seem to come naturally to certain people, these skills aren’t always innate and can be learned with time and patience.
Radhika Bapat, a clinical psychotherapist from Pune explains, “Emotional skills are crucial for academic, interpersonal and occupational success. Being able to regulate your emotions makes it possible to exercise better self-control, resist temptations and resist acting impulsively. This in turn helps with what is known as ‘executive functioning’ in cognitive science. This includes better attention, better memory, creatively thinking ‘outside the box’ and quickly and flexibly adapting to changes in one’s circumstances. All of these skills ensure and enable healthy relationships with co-workers, family and yourself and long-term mental stability.”
Defined by researchers in the 1990s, EI refers to the ‘effective regulation of emotion in self and others’, which means someone with EI can rely on their feelings ‘to motivate, plan and achieve’. Put simply, they have:
“Recognising a feeling as it happens is the keystone of emotional intelligence,” says author, science journalist and EI thought leader Daniel Goleman, who has written a number of bestselling books on the subject. He encourages people to pay close attention to physical feelings that may have an emotional cause – like being tired when depressed or experiencing headaches because of stress. Goleman believes that, by understanding our emotions, we are in a better position to manage them.
Just as some with EI take a moment to reflect on their feelings as opposed to acting impulsively, they are able to acknowledge the viewpoints of others while withholding judgment, which is an important skill to have when it comes to working effectively with colleagues and business associates. As Goleman says: “Leaders with empathy do more than sympathise with people around them: they use their knowledge to improve their companies in subtle, but important ways.”
The journey isn’t always simple and obstacles may stand in the way, but having EI means acknowledging life’s highs and lows. People with EI are highly motivated and nothing gets in the way of them pursuing their short and long-term goals.
Office juniors, small business owners, management teams and CEOs can all benefit from nurturing their EI within whatever professional environment they find themselves in. After all, we all experience emotions as we go about our daily lives, and when faced with tight deadlines, negative customer feedback or unforeseen setbacks. The way we respond reveals a lot about who we are and can impact the people around us.
The next time you are faced with a difficult situation, think about how it makes you feel, and how it might make those around you feel. Rather than reacting instantly, take a moment to evaluate your emotions and respond in an appropriate way. Look for ways to channel your emotions into achieving a positive outcome.
Often, we respond to things automatically and out of habit, so it can take time to train yourself to ignore your initial impulses and instead have a purposeful response. Knowing the things that make you feel bad can help you handle your emotions and – best of all – avoid finding yourself in these situations in the future. For example, if someone chasing you for a piece of work makes you feel anxious, set yourself early deadlines so you always deliver your projects on time.
That said, it’s not about dismissing your negative feelings – it’s about understanding and managing your feelings. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos delivered a masterclass in this element of EI when he announced a wage increase for employees in a press release saying: “We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead.” Instead of getting angry or arguing back, he considered the situation and responded in a way that was good for everyone.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented changes to our work and personal lives. There is the worry of loved ones and yourself getting ill and a lack of social life or participation in recreational activities that were previously used to let off steam. Lockdowns, working from home and homeschooling have made each day filled with tough tasks, with little time to unwind. Added to this, the economic slowdown, loss of jobs and salary cuts have also made the future uncertain for millions of Indians. In these times, the best way to tackle tough situations is to take a step back and evaluate through an objective view. This is where emotional intelligence can give us the tools to face difficulties head-on without getting overly stressed out or overwhelmed. For example, if the thought of you or a family member getting ill is keeping you up at night, getting good health insurance can ease your worry about future financial burdens due to medical care. You cannot always prevent illness or accidents but you can be prepared in case an unfortunate event does occur.
Twitter: Empathy, self-awareness, resilience – all traits of a person with emotional intelligence. Give your career a boost by nurturing your EI
LinkedIn: Far from being a buzzword, emotional intelligence can help individuals communicate better and nurture good relationships with colleagues and customers. That’s why it’s an important skill to have
Facebook: The way we respond to situations reveals a lot about who we are and can impact the people around us. That’s why it’s so important to nurture our emotional intelligence. Here’s how to do it
Agent: A high IQ can help a person climb the career ladder, but having the ability to recognize and understand their own emotions and those of the people around them is equally important. We look at how to nurture emotional intelligence in the workplace.