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How to Apply Emotional Intelligence at Work


Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to be aware of, self-regulate, and express one’s emotions; and perceive the emotions of others, effectively communicate, and empathize. According to Daniel Goleman’s original model, EI comprises five elements: self-awareness, self-management, intrinsic motivation, social skills, and empathy.


How to utilize EI in the workplace?


Practice taking the perspective of another. Our reality can be limited to our narrow perspective. However, when we expand our perception of the world from different angles, we become more informed and knowledgeable. Paul Graham summed it up well: "Looking at things from other people's point of view is practically the secret of success." Additionally, putting yourself in another’s ‘shoes’ and considering how they might perceive and construct things differently from how you do initiates empathy.


Ask for and be open to feedback. Showing others that you care about improving can go a long way, particularly in building self-awareness. However, it is normal to feel some resistance or defensiveness to feedback—particularly if asking for feedback is new for you. Exploring these feelings can help us understand what we are trying to protect or defend.


Implement feedback—even with small, incremental changes. If you are new to receiving and acknowledging feedback, contemplating it might be your first step. Mindfulness practices can help to foster a sense of calm in the context of stress or conflict. Committing to three to five minutes per day of meditation or any other contemplative practice can be a great place to begin to shift.


Actively demonstrate how you are working on making improvements and are motivated. Equally, be aware of your limits to ensure you do not take on more than you can handle, and understand and accept that you will not be able to integrate everything overnight.


Communicate often. Countless issues arise from a failure to communicate effectively, costing organizations money and team members and leaders time and effort to repair damages or make revisions. Additionally, a lack of communication can leave game-changing ideas and competitive innovations on the table. Rather than solving things entirely in your head or assuming that others are thinking as you are, initiate dialogue to help build social skills, reduce the risk of miscommunication, and gain and share new insight and ideas.


Act with cultural sensitivity and responsiveness. In the same vein as considering others' points of view, consider the cultural differences that arise in the workplace and how various cultural backgrounds may play a role in your interactions. Remain interested and aware of the intersection of identities around you—this infuses interactions with more empathy.


Bring awareness to your feelings. Becoming aware of what feelings are your own (as opposed to what you're absorbing from others) can provide important clues and help you better understand the feelings of those around you. This helps foster a practice of responding, rather than reacting, to others and therefore strengthens your interactions—particularly in moments of conflict.


Consider therapy or coaching. Delving deeper into this work with a therapist or coach can help improve the essential emotional intelligence skills. A therapist or coach can provide opportunities to explore any impediments to growth, both from the past or present, help hold you accountable, and offer a personalized structure or program to assist in making progress towards attaining goals.


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