What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Posted on 19th Sep 2014

Emotional Intelligence is the idea behind many of the personality profiling tools used in team building, for example Myers Briggs (MBTI).

The idea of emotional intelligence has been around since the 1930s, and was first referred to as social intelligence by psychologist Edward Thorndike, who defined his term simply as the ability to get along with other people. The concept didn't gain traction in the business world until the 1990s, but these days it's recognised as an essential skill for people in many jobs and industries. Studies have shown, for example, that salespeople with high emotional intelligence generate more revenue, and that hiring applicants with high emotional intelligence reduces employee turnover in many different industries.

Emotional intelligence is the awareness and understanding of your own emotions, and those of other people, and how you deal with them. There are four different factors that contribute to emotional intelligence.

Perceiving: refers to the ability to use, notice, and correctly interpret nonverbal emotional cues, like facial expressions and body language.

Reasoning: how we use emotions to motivate and prioritise thinking about and responding to things that are important to us.

Understanding: the ability to interpret the cause and meaning of your own emotions, and those of other people. For example, if you feel angry, are you able to correctly identify the emotion, and understand what provoked it? If someone else is angry, how well are you able to interpret what they're feeling and why?

Managing: effectively regulating your own emotions, and responding to situations and people with appropriate emotions. For example, do you have a tendency to overreact in certain situations, or react with anger in situations that don't call for it? How comfortable are you with other peoples' emotions, such as anger, anxiety, or frustration?

Emotional Intelligence at Work

In defining emotional intelligence and its various aspects, it's easy to see exactly why it's so important in the workplace. Emotional intelligence in all its facets is a key skill for people in leadership and management positions, in sales, in the recruitment industry, and anywhere else where interpersonal skills are an important part of the job.

There are several particular areas where emotional intelligence is important—so much so that competency in these areas contributes more to workplace performance than cognitive ability and technical skill combined. In each area, people typically use a combination of the four different factors of emotional intelligence.

Intuition and empathy is your level of awareness of other peoples' needs and emotions. In customer service, for example, it's important to anticipate peoples' needs and be sensitive to their concerns. As a personal or professional coach, a vital skill is uncovering the emotions that motivate people, and sensing what they need to develop their talents.

Social and political skills determine how good you are at communicating, at leading and influencing people, at resolving conflicts, inspiring change, creating and building trust in relationships, and facilitating teamwork—all of which is particularly important for people in management roles.

Self-knowledge is about how well you understand and manage your internal emotional state, your strengths and weaknesses, what motivates you, and what your limits are. In general, someone who is highly self-aware is more flexible, more comfortable with new ideas, can take charge or act on their own initiative, and pursue goals in the face of setbacks. These skills are highly valuable in any job or industry.

We can deliver team building using team dynamics tools such as Belbin and MBTI alongside appropriate fun team building activities. Call us for a chat about the most suitable programme for your team.

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