5 ways to improve your emotional intelligence

Have you ever misread the tone of message from a friend? Or found yourself wondering why someone responded in that way? With people working from home, in different locations and communicating more online, being aware of how you come across to others is more important than ever. As the future of work becomes even more digitised, there couldn’t be a better time to develop the skills that help you connect with others.

What is emotional intelligence?

Having emotional intelligence means being self-aware, being able to show empathy and see things from other peoples' points of view. It means you can adapt and flex your style and approach, whilst remaining resilient and calm in the face of pressure and change.

Psychologist and thought-leader Daniel Goleman characterised emotional intelligence (also commonly called EQ, in contrast to IQ) through five pillars: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and people skills. What are they – and what do they mean for you?

Self-awareness

How well do you really know yourself? How do you come across to other people? Knowing your characteristics – and what you’re good at – will help give you a strong foundation to build on for the future.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses – if you’re not sure, ask a friend or family member to help! Understanding what you're not so good at and knowing when to ask others for help will help you move forward in your career.

Self-regulation

Can you think of a time where you said something in the heat of the moment, only to regret it afterwards? Or struggled to contain your excitement (or disappointment) at something that happened in your life? Self-regulation means being able to control how you react and express yourself.

One way to do this is to use ‘the pause’, to stop and think before acting or responding. By doing this you’re less likely to react on instinct or strong feelings, such as anger or fear, and instead respond mindfully and with reason.

Motivation 

What drives you to get out of bed in the morning? Are you driven by deadlines, motivated by financial incentives or do you prefer to do things for recognition from others?

Not everyone is motivated in the same way. Self-motivation is a valuable tool – and it’s important to be aware that how motivated you appear might impact the people around you,
especially if you aren’t in the same location.

Empathy

Have you heard the saying “walk a mile in their shoes”? Being empathetic involves connecting with people on an emotional level and trying to see situations from their viewpoint.

Developing your empathy skills will help you understand and interact with those you work with. When was the last time you read a different source of news? Try to break out of the bubble of your conversations to hear other perspectives.

People skills

What can you do to improve the way you work with others? Building a rapport with colleagues, even those you find difficult, will help you get further. Try to find common ground – it might be sports, fandom or another interest.

Making an effort to understand how other people prefer to learn, work and communicate, and modifying your behaviour accordingly, will help develop better working relationships.

Improving emotional intelligence for now and the workplace of the future

Being self-aware means being able to adapt your style to work effectively with others, regardless of culture or background. It also means understanding the perspectives of your classmates, clients or colleagues and treating everyone with respect.

While the current workplace involves lots of online human interaction and communication, technology is advancing rapidly. For example, cobots (collaborative robots) are designed to physically interact with humans. They respond to movement and guidance and are likely to be used more in the workplace of the future.

Understanding how we interact, with other people face-to- face, online, and with artificial intelligence is a key skill. Your emotional intelligence will help develop your connections, networks and relationships, and make a meaningful impact throughout your career.