Expert career counselors agree that your emotional intelligence (EI) determines your level of success far more so than your IQ. But what exactly does emotional intelligence mean, and more importantly, how can you increase it so you can reach your career aspirations?
EI refers to the ability to control your emotional reactions to other people’s actions and to handle interpersonal relationships with calmness, tact and empathy.
People with strong EI approach even difficult situations and conversations by putting themselves in the shoes of the other person and looking at the world through their eyes.
Individuals evidencing high EI often excel in leadership roles as they balance their teams’ emotional needs with the goals of their organization, so if you’re hoping to climb the career ladder, follow these eight tips to develop your EI.
1. Know Thyself
To increase your emotional intelligence, you’ll need to do a bit of soul searching to honestly evaluate how you react to different situations and difficult people. Maybe you thrive on fast-paced work environments but become quickly impatient when others don’t match your frenetic pace.
Maybe you express yourself well in one-on-one conversions with coworkers but freeze and become tongue-tied when the time comes to meet with your boss.
Knowing yourself means analyzing your strengths and weaknesses and identifying areas that need improvement. Those high in EI know the process of self-development takes time and patience.
Identifying areas of deficiency doesn’t mean beating yourself up over your failings — it simply means admitting you have room for improvement like everyone else.
2. Banish Negativity
Those high in EI refuse to allow negativity to stand in between them and their aspirations, nor do they associate themselves with the Debbie Downers of the world. Building strong EI means viewing challenges as opportunities, not as chores to trudge through with a scowl.
3. Examine Your Motivations
Another way to increase your emotional intelligence is to examine the reasons why you behave the way you do. Identifying what drives you helps you evaluate your reactions to external stimuli to see if these behaviors bring you closer or lead you further away from your goals.
Knowing what you hope to accomplish provides a bit of a road map of the behaviors you must embrace to achieve success.
4. Build Strong Communication Skills
Individuals high in EI choose the most precise language possible to communicate their needs and desires clearly and assertively without stepping on other people’s toes or making them feel inferior. Note that this doesn’t mean using vocabulary worthy of Einstein.
Rather, it simply refers to understanding the connotations of certain words and phrases to avoid accidentally offending someone and speaking in a manner that confers authority but avoids belittling other people.
5. Think Before You Speak
Once words are spoken, it’s impossible to take them back. People strong in EI know this, and therefore take the time to reflect upon what they wish to say before speaking out loud. This allows time to temper harsh words and frame them in a more positive and respectful manner, so develop your own EI by mirroring this example.
6. Emphasize Empathy
Those high in EI practice empathy like an art form. Empathy involves putting yourself in another person’s shoes and seeing the world from their viewpoint, embodying the golden rule of treating others as you would wish to be treated.
Additionally, individuals high in EI assume the best, not the worst, about those who commit minor infractions or engage in irritating behavior. For example, instead of assuming that Becky in accounting consistently arrives late to work because she’s lazy, they consider factors like traffic jams, delays in public transit or certain illnesses as a reason for the tardiness.
When people high in EI address the negative behavior someone exhibits, they avoid jumping to conclusions and instead listen carefully to the explanations a person provides.
7. Give Yourself Space
No one, not even Mother Theresa, behaves perfectly all the time. Folks with high EI recognize and accept when they feel particularly irritable and cranky and take the time to process these emotions before interacting with others. If you need to shut your office door to collect yourself after an emotional encounter, by all means, do so.
8. Survive and Thrive After Setbacks
Finally, people scoring high in EI refuse to let disappointment drag them down. They don’t deny feeling let down, but they don’t permit their feelings to stop them from proceeding on their course. Take a similar approach in your own life when dealing with setbacks.
Developing EI can accelerate your career faster than taking additional coursework or staying late every single night. By improving your emotional intelligence, you’ll not only reach your career aspiration, you’ll also become a more mature, pleasant person in the bargain!
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