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Philip Piletic

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Emotional Intelligence in business and education


Have you ever, before doing something or taking some sort of action, thought to yourself that maybe what you are about to do is not a good idea? Or maybe it was the opposite - maybe you thought you should have had taken a certain action but chose not to. Later on, you would find out that what you chose to do or not to do was the wrong choice. Once you realize your mistake you say, "I knew better!" This is one aspect of Emotional Intelligence: Self-awareness.

Emotional Intelligence Starts With Leadership

Over time, organizations have begun to realize that it's not only about productivity but it's also about emotional intelligence. Employees can be quite productive, yet without the ability to work with others and coping with their emotions, the workplace environment can become strained and productivity lost. Studies have shown that those with a high emotional quotient can handle minor differences that are bound to occur among people and keep focusing on what is good for the team as a whole - this maintains productivity. These same people are better equipped to handle more serious issues that inevitably arise in day-to-day life.

But it emotional intelligence starts with an organization's leadership. If there are no other good examples for employees to follow, leadership can't expect the same from their subordinates.

Russell Cullingworth, MBA, founder, and president of EQ Advantage Learning and Development Inc.and the Centre of Excellence for Young Adults, explains:

“Workplace impact is not about legal issues, job descriptions, payroll, processes or performance evaluations.  It is about people.  How you deal with people above, below and beside you.  Emotional intelligence competencies lead to a deep awareness of how you show up, how you collaborate and motivate others, and how you build rapport, trust and ultimately, interpersonal influence. It is that ability to influence that will create the lasting workplace impact that every HR professional dreams seeks.”

Emotional Intelligence Is Something Developed, Not Intellectualized

One of the primary keys to developing emotional intelligence is understanding that you can't intellectualize it - no amount of training courses will ever be enough to persuade you to see, feel, and understand other people's emotions. It takes understanding self first and foremost.

I have listed some ways I have developed emotional intelligence. These steps may not exactly work for everyone, but it’s good to begin somewhere. These steps are the most basic and are a good starting point.

1. Managing Your Own Negative Emotions First

Negative thinking and negative emotions are the driving forces behind most conflicts. You can’t control someone else’s negative thoughts or feelings, but you surely can manage your own.

For example, you ask one of your employees how come a certain task hasn’t been done yet, and instead of giving you a clear answer that makes sense, they seem to be making excuses about why it’s not done. On top of that, you sense a tinge of attitude in their demeanor, as if it’s your fault. Our first thought would be to set them straight. But is that really conducive to productivity?  

The better way to handle the situation would be to take them aside and ask if everything is okay. “I am only asking because I care. I don’t want to overburden you. If you would like me to give it to someone else to handle, that is perfectly fine. I won’t hold it against you as long as the other duties aren’t suffering as well.” More than likely the employee will see that you care and they might try harder.

2. Stay Cool When Things Get Tough

The business world is full of stress. Even CEOs feel stress - and probably more so than anyone else in the company. People in charge of HR are no stranger to stress as well. Believe it or not, the people who work under you are watching every move you make. If you aren't able to keep your cool under pressure, it's hard to keep others cool.

Keeping cool is not something that can be taught - keeping cool is something that must be acquired through practice. When I was training in the police academy, cadets have to be drilled on how to handle tough situations. But there are those few who are simply born with that sense of cool. And even after years on the force, some officers still lose their cool and end up losing their job, or worse.

That may seem like an extreme example, but it is the best one I can offer. That’s because it shows that people can be trained to be cool under pressure, yet also gives good examples of those who, after years of training, fail under the stress of the job.

Show People Empathy

There is a huge difference between sympathy and empathy. "Nowadays sympathy is largely used to convey commiseration, pity, or feelings of sorrow for someone who is experiencing misfortune." I think most would agree that when people show us “sympathy” rather than empathy, we feel even worse. Sometimes sympathy can be misunderstood as condescending. On the other hand, when we are shown empathy, we somehow feel more connected to that person - as if they truly understand our plight. This helps you as a leader connect with people.

Author Profile Picture
Philip Piletic

Blogger, writer and editor

Read more from Philip Piletic

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