Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. Emotional intelligence helps you build stronger relationships, succeed at school and work, and achieve your career and personal goals. It can also help you to connect with your feelings, turn intention into action, and make informed decisions about what matters most to you.

Emotional intelligence is commonly defined by four attributes:

  1. Self-management– You’re able to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.
  2. Self-awareness– You recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior. You know your strengths and weaknesses, and have self-confidence.
  3. Social awareness– You have empathy. You can understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.
  4. Relationship management– You know how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.

Why does emotional intelligence in the workplace matter?

We need emotional intelligence (EQ) most where we’re least likely to find it: at work. The workplace remains the last bastion of IQ worship because many people still believe that getting personal interferes with productivity.

At work, you don’t have the ties of love to motivate you to get along with others as you do at home. You don’t have the benefit of a shared history to help you understand what moves those around you. That makes it all the more important that you have a way to tune in to what those that you work with need right here, right now. You already have that facility – its active awareness and the empathy that flows from it. Using those elements of your EQ can help achieve success and solve problems on the job. Office politics, morale problems, and lack of cooperation don’t have to ruin your work life if you can read and respond to people’s feelings.

  • Cultivate employees, don’t coddle them. Despite what some managers believe, you can listen to your employees and show concern for their feelings without babying them. Remember, empathy is different from sympathy, and you must stay attuned to your own feelings while attempting to understand theirs. With a high EQ, you’ll be able to cut off a heart-to-heart talk before it becomes unproductive and interferes with your own goals, without offending your employee. You’ll be able to praise people for a job well done without fearing that it will result in a relaxed work effort. You’ll be able to balance your employees’ need to be valued, with your need to achieve goals. Your emotional acceptance will keep you from being manipulated by someone else’s distress.