Emotional Intelligence and its importance

emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence, how much we have and how we learn to deal with emotions all starts in our childhood.

How often were you told not to behave like a “sissy” and not to be so hysterical? What do you tell your teenage children when they slam the door after an argument with you? Do you ask them to behave and/or shout back at them? Where’s your emotional intelligence then?

The very same can be observed at work, when a member of staff or colleague angrily leaves your office – maybe even closing the door with a bit more vigour than you would consider acceptable…

What exactly was the message they were looking to get across to you? If you got it – and are sure you got the right end of the stick – well done on your emotional intelligence. If not – what prevented you from listening on a focused level and seeking to understand them?

‘Exaggerated’ emotional reactions aren’t tolerated easily. What is often difficult to keep in our awareness – especially if we are at the receiving end of a strong emotion either as parent or in the workplace as a leader – is the fact that emotions are essential to create passion, enthusiasm, progress, as well as increase creativity and performance – in ourselves and the people we work with. This is what introduced emotional intelligence into the leadership literature in the first place.

However, it’s not so easy to cope with strong emotions, when we meet them – in ourselves or others. To do so requires emotional intelligence. – So, what is emotional intelligence about, then?

In brief: managing and utilising our emotions as an additional source of information to enable us to self-reflect, which increases our interpersonal awareness. This allows us to make better decisions, empathise with the people we live and work with and become more effective in our communication.

Makes, sense? Easier said than done, though? Probably. Let’s have a look at where to start:

How about we begin with ourselves: only if we are able to recognise and identify our own emotions in the moment we feel them, can we manage, articulate and express them. And if we can do that, we have a greater chance of being heard – and even understood – by the people we live and work with. This allows us to utilise our own emotions effectively, and with that we open the potential within ourselves to understand the emotions and impacts in others.

In the specific moment, when we recognise AND accept our emotion (or that of the other person) for what it is – and understand the reason(s) we are feeling it – we have a chance to express it verbally. This is the 1st step to utilising emotional intelligence effectively. If we are aware of why we feel what we feel, we are able to act/respond – rather than react.

This means we are in a position of power in which we can decide how we want to use the emotion we are currently feeling to harvest exceptional results, which will allow us to take actions that move us towards our goals, rather than away from them or remaining stuck.

According to Dr. Daniel Goleman (a psychologist, who’s 1996 book ‘Emotional Intelligence’ introduced the subject to the business community) the key to sensible personal decisions is to watch our feelings and learn to interpret emotions in order to utilise them effectively in our decision making.

It seems to me that’s a skill worth acquiring and practising – what do you think? Or maybe a better question would be ‘what do you feel?’

Author: Margit Jones-Hochstrasser