I was fortunate to learn as a young student that emotional intelligence (EI) is as important as intelligence quotient (IQ). My career as a doctor helped me understand that we can continue to refer to intelligence as a general, all-encompassing quality, but it’s really our ability to confront problems with empathy, imagination, and patience that determine who we are.
When, in 1995, psychologist Daniel Goleman wrote a book and popularised the concept of emotional intelligence, it influenced the way I thought about emotions and human behaviour. It taught me that we are used to crowning mathematical, linguistic or technical intelligence but we do so while observing a deficit: a person is young and bright but restless, rich monetarily but with a hot temper, powerful but depressed.
In pointing out what each of these people lack, we are actually pointing out a shortage of emotional intelligence. The reverse, then, can also be true and an injection of emotional intelligence - or an ability to understand and manage our emotions - can change how we live and work.
As I practised emotional intelligence with my patients in my day-to-day life, I began to unpick human psychology. For example, when I saw a patient’s relative lose her temper, I would know that this, in reality, is unaddressed fear or request for help. I took these lessons with me as I entered the corporate world, and, in doing so, I have now identified a number of strategies that the emotionally intelligent follow.
I like to say – ‘Show me a contemplative, reflective person and I’ll show you a life well-lived. We need emotional intelligence because it determines our ability to work with ourselves and others and, therefore, our chances of success. To do either, it’s important to not just be technically adept but also emotionally sound.'
The emotionally intelligent, therefore, have a filter
The best time to think about your weakness is not during an interview but in the privacy of your home. Emotionally intelligent people meticulously think about their feelings and address them. They are self-aware. They know that a current mood can erroneously influence their thought processes and decision-making, and they must, therefore, not fall for the superficiality.
The emotionally intelligent put in conscious effort to resist becoming a slave to one’s emotions. They instead try to achieve a balanced state of mind. The best strategy, then, to inch closer to equanimity is their practice of pause. Some of us might need a minute, others might need a day or a week - but it’s the pause that allows swirling thoughts to align and make good decisions.
When working with others, it’s not just our own emotions at stake but also those of others.
Therefore, emotionally intelligent people prioritise empathy.
When one has trudged on the path of self-awareness, they’ve automatically also developed empathy, or the power to relate with others. Empathy is not blind agreement but an effort to understand where someone else is coming from and thus build stronger relationships.
Like emotional intelligence, empathy is the most underrated management tool, even though studies on middle management have shown that those with empathy are much more likely to rise.
Management is not about authority or technical prowess, but instead about accomplishing work, and it’s the empathetic leader who has an edge over others in this crucial management task.
In a study on emotional intelligence as the road to success, over 200 managers were observed and they found startling similarities in how they function -
* Emotionally intelligent managers listen more than they speak.
* They spend a significant amount of time in helping their team, offering feedback and ensuring that the line of communication is clear.
* They don’t believe in creating cubicles of power but in decentralisation and empowerment.
* And, finally, the managers who rated the highest on emotional intelligence were also the people who willingly offered appreciation and praise.
Numerous such studies help me infer that emotional intelligence is not a band-aid solution, but, in fact, a way of life that helps all-round development.
Looking within and connecting with ourselves helps us get rid of insecurity and negativity. It helps us build self-awareness and empathy, which then brings another crucial emotionally intelligent quality of being analytical and adaptive. Emotional intelligence is cyclic - it’s about understanding one’s emotions and using that to understand others. But in this process, an emotionally intelligent person continues to contemplate and reflect.
They become resolute thinkers who analyse who and what they are and how they function. They conquer their minds as they pay close attention to their thoughts and habits.
And, in doing so, they develop resilience and an ability to trust, adapt, assimilate, and move on.
It’s therefore that emotionally intelligent people rarely allow failure to spell the end. Instead, they approach it with a contemplative acceptance and move ahead.
They are neither exalted by success nor distressed by failure.
Here are five ways to become more emotionally intelligent at the workplace:
1. Think deeply and analyse your feelings
2. Prevent emotional turmoil by controlling your thoughts and practising patience
3. Understand others and show empathy at workplace
4. Collaborate with others using trust and adaptation
5. Develop resilience in the face of failure