Improving emotional intelligence

According to PsychologyToday.com, emotional intelligence is:

“…the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people.”

The Chamber of Commerce recently hosted an event called Leadercast Women. It was much like our Leadercast event held in May every year, but was different in that Leadercast Women had a cast of all female presenters. The day was filled with incredible content. One presenter, Neeta Bhushan, was described in her bio as, “an emotional intelligence advocate.” She was an excellent speaker with an incredible message.

I have heard of emotional intelligence, sometimes called emotional quotient, but have never thought too much about it. Until now. When I saw that Neeta was introduced as an emotional intelligence advocate, it led me to seek additional reading on the topic. If I wasn’t standing strong behind the importance of increasing your emotional intelligence before, I certainly am now.

Study after study demonstrates the value of having high emotional intelligence. One study by Talent Smart shares that 90 percent of high performing employees have a high emotional quotient, while 80 percent of low performers have a low emotional quotient. An August 2017 article on success.com shares characteristics of individuals with high emotional intelligence. Those include being a change agent, self-aware, balanced, curious, gracious, and other positive descriptors. Those with low emotional intelligence tend to be insensitive, arrogant, and selfish.

Having an elevated level of emotional intelligence sounds like a good thing, right? I am sure there are people you can think of who don’t seem to have a high level of emotional intelligence. Maybe it is the person who yelled at the waitress for being out of an item, or your fellow employee who refuses to do anything outside of his or her job description when it is clear someone else could use a hand. Maybe it is the person who pulled out in front of you, causing you to hit your brakes, only to turn a moment later (Which is even worse when there is no one driving behind you). It could be the person who always seems to be surrounded by drama, or the person who complains relentlessly but never changes anything.

The good news is that emotional intelligence can be acquired and practiced over time. Following are some ways to do so. Observe how you feel at certain times and how you react to people. Ask others about how you react to them in difficult situations. Reflect on these behaviors and feelings. Consider how others react to you. Use a pause to make sure to stop and think before you act. Explore why something is happening, why you are reacting a certain way, or why another person may act a certain way. Learn from mistakes and criticism, don’t take offense.

When I started thinking about people I know who seem to have high emotional intelligence, I realized they were the people I prefer to deal with, don’t treat others poorly, who are generally great leaders, and are a pleasure to be around. I thought of people I know who I think have low emotional intelligence. Those are the people who I may keep at an arm’s length distance as I never know what they will do next. I don’t feel like I can trust them, and I am certainly not excited when I must work with them. I started thinking about the behaviors of people in the first group. They tend to invest in themselves (perhaps attended our Leadercast event). I can count on them to follow through with their commitments.

What would change if we raised emotional intelligence levels of everyone? I assume some of our social issue disagreements might be talked about more constructively. Levels of personal responsibility would likely increase. Perhaps employees would be more engaged in their work, or would find work more fitting for them. I would expect an increase in businesses that practice conscious capitalism. Some positive, impactful outcomes.

It would benefit us if we would practice improving our emotional intelligence. There are areas I am better at and areas in which I could use practice. I thought Neeta’s presentation at Leadercast Women was incredible and, if reflected upon and acted on, could help many people increase their emotional intelligence. I will leave you with my favorite comment from her presentation to get you started, “What if things happening to you were actually happening for you?”

Jackie Krawczak is president/CEO of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Thursdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.