As business professionals, we pride ourselves on our technical skills, industry expertise, and innovation. These hard skills are what make our resumes stand out, but ultimately they’re only one part of the equation. According to Harvard Business Review, emotional intelligence (EQ) is “the key attribute that distinguishes outstanding performers,” and is the leading differentiator between employees whose IQ and technical skills are approximately the same. In fact, in a 2015 study, TalentSmart found that EQ is the strongest predictor of work performance, accounting for 58% of success in all fields.
In a business world increasingly dependent on negotiation, compromise, and collaboration, the importance of Emotional Intelligence cannot be understated. EQ can make or break client relationships, our work environment, and our ability to successfully communicate with our colleagues. Consider these 5 ways to grow your interpersonal skills.
- Seek Self-Awareness: Being honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses is crucial to developing higher EQ. Do you tend to lose patience when team meetings get off track? Do your customer service skills need work? Take note of areas for improvement, and seek ways to improve your work relationships by practicing patience, empathy, and understanding. In doing so, you develop key soft skills that will boost your performance and increase the quality of your work life.
- Eliminate Emotional Interference: Studies reveal that our brains process an emotional reaction before we can logically react to a provocation, and it takes up to 20 minutes to recover from an emotional stimulus. Before letting visceral reaction take over cerebral reason, acknowledge any stress or anxiety you’re feeling and resolve it before moving forward. Calm yourself with a short walk, meditation, or a cup of tea, and then revisit the situation without negative emotions influencing your actions.
- Evaluate Objectively: Whether we’re dealing with a difficult client, or still smarting after an offhanded comment from a coworker, depersonalizing the situation is key for maintaining healthy relationships. We tend to assume that people act or speak in relation to us personally; when in reality they do and say things because of themselves, not us. Don’t take everything personally, and strive to accept other’s actions as a reflection of them instead of you.
- Proactive, Not Reactive: When issues arise, decide your next move based upon what will resolve the problem most effectively. Taking a reactionary approach by retaliating, going straight to your manager, or giving up on a client will only create more challenges down the line. Instead, seek solutions that address your counterpart’s concerns and prevent future conflict. Deciding to act proactively instead of reactively demonstrates the EQ skills of self-management, emotional intuition, and empathy.
- Act with Empathy: One of the greatest indicators of Emotional Intelligence is empathy, or our ability to understand another’s feelings and perspective. Be sensitive to emotional signals such as tone of voice, body language, and eye contact to understand why your counterpart is feeling a certain way. Then, evaluate your course of action in relation to their viewpoint, so that you’re providing the best service for their situation.
Whatever workplace situations arise, handling them with Emotional Intelligence fosters healthy relationships and long-term professional success. Remember these five insights to boost performance, grow your soft skills, and create a positive work environment.
Sharon Schweitzer and Amanda Alden co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards
Amanda Alden is an intercultural research assistant with Access to Culture. She graduated with honors from St. Edward’s University with a major in Global Studies and a minor in French, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Intercultural Mediations at l’Université de Lille III. Feel free to connect with Amanda at on LinkedIn.