How to Cultivate and Demonstrate Emotional Intelligence

by Samantha Wood
In a previous blog, my colleague Ines Temple highlighted the growing importance of Emotional Intelligence in today’s working world, and in particular the value of empathy.

You may be asking yourself, “Okay, that’s great information, but how can I exude these qualities in my day-to-day working life?”

The key to all this is gaining a deeper understanding of what we mean by Emotional Intelligence, or EQ.

Simply put, EQ is the capacity to see how your actions and words affect others in the workplace. More importantly, it is the manner in which you respond to the needs and emotions of others.

It’s a simple enough concept, but difficult for many of us to put into action. Our working lives are full of stress and frustration. The more we confront these hurdles, the more likely we are to react in a ways that are selfish and distracting or even destructive for the well being of people we work with.

Emotional intelligence requires a sense of self-awareness and empathy. The former, so that we understand how our reactions affect others; and the latter to ensure that we are always considering the impact of important changes or setbacks at work not only on us, but also on the people we work with.

Make no mistake, EQ is a highly desirable quality that many employers are looking for when they are recruiting or promoting. More and more organizations realize that it is no longer enough to employ the smartest and most qualified people. Those organizations need people who can work well with others, who know when to lead and follow, and who understand that everything they say and do affects others.

How can you master EQ, and demonstrate it in job interviews or interactions with managers? Consider these simple guidelines:

Weave EQ responses into your answers. In most interviews today you will be asked to describe your strategy in responding to a particular scenario. It is always a good idea to acknowledge that you are aware of how others were impacted by that scenario. Don’t belabor the point; keep it to a small portion of your total answer. But definitely acknowledge that you understand there are people other than you affected by most challenges.
Be critically self-aware. When you are stressed, how do you tend to react? Do you take out your anxiety on the people around you? Are you able to put aside your own fears to help others deal with theirs? The hallmark of a person with a strong EQ is an ability to challenge their own reactions to any situation, while being mindful of how others are affected.
Get Feedback. Many times, self-awareness is not enough to give us an accurate picture of our EQ responses. In those situations where you might not have a handle on your reactions, it’s always a good idea to ask people you respect to tell you how you affect others. Demonstrating courage by reaching out to others is another strong EQ trait.
Remember, it’s not all about you. When asked about why you would be a good candidate for a job, try not to focus just on your skills and credentials. Remember that employers want to also hear about how well you work with others, whether you can be an effective member of a team, and whether you can help co-workers that are struggling.

Although there is still not a lot of formal assessment for EQ being done now, many forms of predictive testing and behavioral assessments are essentially searching for signs that you have some degree of self-awareness and emotional maturity.

Our jobs are stressful and can often drive us to the edge of our emotional capacity. Acknowledging that reality, and being self-aware about how we affect others around us, will make us better colleagues and ultimately more successful professionals.