When you look for traits in leaders, and new hires, we often focus on areas like passion, charisma, determination, responsibility and hard work. However, psychologists and experts have also come to the conclusion that emotional intelligence is just as important, if not more so, as one of the most important traits for people to possess - not just in their professional lives - but also their personal lives.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
The theory of emotional intelligence is often attributed to the work of Peter Salovey, Provost at Yale University, and Dr. John Mayer, Professor of Psychology at the University of New Hampshire, in their 1990 article "Emotional Intelligence.”
Salovey and Dr. Mayer describe emotional intelligence (EI) as “the capacity to reason about emotions and emotional information, and of emotions to enhance thought.” They believe that people with emotional intelligence can “solve a variety of emotion-related problems accurately and quickly.” In other words, people with a high EI “know how to use emotional episodes in their lives to promote specific types of thinking.” For a simple example: If an individual is angry, he or she could be dangerous. If a person is happy, that individual may be more likely to collaborate with others.
Emotional intelligence, however, is not agreeableness. Salovey and Dr. Mayer also state that EI isn’t happiness, optimism, calmness, or motivation. While these traits are important, they “have little to do with intelligence, little to do with emotions, and nearly nothing to do with actual emotional intelligence.”
After covering the work of Salovey and Dr. Mayer, author Daniel Goleman has since written two books, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ and Working With Emotional Intelligence, that detailed the five components of emotional intelligence, which include;
- Self-awareness. This is the ability to understand the moods, emotions, and drives for yourself and how it affects others.
- Self-regulation. People with a high EI can control or redirect impulses and their moods.
- Internal motivation. Those with EI are driven beyond money and status and seek internal rewards like learning something new.
- Empathy. This is the ability to understand the emotional makeup of those around them.
- Social skills. They can build rapport and trust with others to make them better at managing relationships and resolving conflicts.
Dr. Mayer writes that emotional intelligence is important because it “expands our notions of intelligence, it helps us predict important life outcomes, and it can be used to help people find the right work and relationships for themselves.”
Why Emotional Intelligence Is Important
Over the years research has proven that emotional intelligence is crucial for both leaders and employees. One such study, conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), discovered that “the three main reasons for failure are difficulty in handling change, inability to work well in a team, and poor interpersonal relations.”
Another study from search firm Egon Zehnder International, which analyzed 515 senior executives, found that individuals with a high emotional intelligence “were more likely to succeed than those strongest in either IQ or relevant previous experience.”
More specifically, emotional intelligence is beneficial because it can assist in;
Improving Mental and Physical Well-Being
Since emotional intelligence can help us realize, and cope, with our emotions, it can help us prevent anxiety, depression, and mood swings. Those with a high EI are also better situated to deal with stress. Because of this, EI can improve our mental and physical well-being.
When we have a more positive outlook on life and are able to manage the stress that’s all around us, we can reduce feeling fatigued or irritable, as well as decreasing the chances of health concerns like cardiovascular risk. Additionally, if you aren’t able to cope with stress, you can make situations worse, which will only add to the amount of stress in your life.
Build and Maintain Relationships
When we’re able to understand and manage our emotions, we can effectively communicate our thoughts and feelings to those around us, along with being aware of the feelings of others.
Instead of losing your cool with a colleague or your spouse, which could lead to making a brash and unhealthy decision, a person with EI regulates themselves and waits for that anger to pass. After some reflection, both parties can have a meaningful and constructive conversation.
Assists in Conflict Resolution
Being able to regulate one’s emotions and empathize with others makes it easier for conflict resolution to occur. In fact, it could even help prevent conflicts from taking place in the first place since we take into account the wants and needs of others. With this information, we can perceive any potential problems before they become a major issue.
Since those with emotional intelligence can understand and even anticipate some of the wants and needs or others, they can better understand what motivates their teams, foster stronger relationships, and they can be more empathetic so that they’re flexible with employees. For example, if anyone is going through a personal crisis, you may allow them a longer time to complete a project or be available to listen to them if they need someone to turn to.
Leads to Success
As noted earlier, emotional intelligence can help people become more successful since they have internal motivators that help them avoid procrastination, increase their focus on achieving goals, and boosts their self-confidence.
Furthermore, we can also use EI to develop stronger relationships so that we have a support system to help us overcome any setbacks.