We often try to separate our personal and professional lives. We like to keep them in different boxes and we imagine that we think and feel differently in each arena. After all, our careers are the things we’ve trained for. It’s why we went to school or received on-the-job training; it’s sometimes where we feel the most adept or knowledgable, whereas our personal lives can sometimes feel more like a guessing game where we have little expertise. However, studies have shown that characteristics that cause us to build lasting relationships and succeed in our personal lives are the same ones that launch our career successes. Contrariwise, the lack of these characteristics will manifest in similar ways in both personal and professional areas as well.
These characteristics aren’t based upon our scholastic education, skill levels, subject knowledge, or IQ, but rather upon our level of emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is a phrase that was coined by psychology professors, John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey in a 1990 research paper. According to Mayer, emotional intelligence can be defined as “the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions.”
Another popular work on emotional intelligence, “Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ”, was written by Daniel Goleman in 1995. Goleman says, “The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence… Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.”
As it turns out, a single point increase in emotional intelligence brings up to $1,300 in additional annual income. Not only that, but 90% of high performing employees exhibit high emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence makes a huge impact on success. It leads to stronger interpersonal relationships, improved leadership abilities, and greater job satisfaction. People with high emotional intelligence are more likely to embrace cross-cultural experiences, feel positively toward their employers, remain with a company longer, and earn promotions and salary increases. One 2021 Spanish study, high emotional intelligence was shown to be a greater predictor of salary than both age and gender.
So what does emotional intelligence look like? What are the characteristics in day to day life? There are five main indicators of an emotionally intelligent person. First is self-awareness, or the ability to understand one’s emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. A self-aware person is more likely to take accountability for their mistakes, ask for help when they need it, work to improve their shortcomings, and understand how their emotions impact their work.
Secondly, emotionally intelligent people are good at self-regulation. They can manage emotional reactions and respond reasonably. This kind of person is more likely to control their words and actions regardless of their feelings, wait for strong emotions to pass before responding, accept change and adapt to new situations, and make calculated rather than impulsive decisions.
The third emotional intelligence indicator is empathy. An empathic person is more likely to accurately detect other people’s emotions, understand how their actions impact others, consider others before making decisions, and communicate well in difficult situations.
High emotional intelligence will also mean having good social skills. This kind of person is more likely to be well liked by others on their team, to communicate clearly with diverse groups, to respond appropriately to group emotional climate, and to maintain strong relationships with clients.
Lastly, an emotionally intelligent person exhibits self-motivation and keeps pushing forward despite the obstacles. Part of this means being able to ask for feedback to continually improve, to monitor progress toward their goals, to feel positively about goals and duties, and to improve team morale and motivate others.
It’s easy to see how this kind of person is more reliable and handles a variety of pressures well. All of these characteristics make emotionally intelligent people excellent leaders. In fact, those with high emotional intelligence are 7x more likely to be effective leaders, and emotional intelligence is linked to up to 60% of performance metrics for supervisors and executives. Emotionally intelligent leaders increase employee engagement, which means lower turnover, higher productivity, and higher customer / guest satisfaction.
Restaurant managers with high emotional intelligence generate 34% more profits, increase guest satisfaction, and improve employee retention.
Emotional intelligence does come more naturally to some than others, but it is a skill that can be learned and increased by anyone. The first step is to understand your own feelings. Practice identifying your own emotions in times of stress and think about how your feelings might have an impact on your responses and reactions.
The second step is to monitor your own reactions. Pay close attention to how you’re reacting to stress and practice taking a break or waiting before you respond. Very often, the choices and words we use while in a “hot” emotional state are not what we would predict our reactions to be while in a “cool” emotional state. It’s best to respond after a cooling period to be able to tap into greater logic and analytical thinking.
Other ways to build emotional intelligence are by finding a mentor and keeping a daily journal. Studies have shown that mentorship can improve emotional intelligence, and keeping a daily journal can help you identify your own emotions and responses and to become more self-aware.
It doesn’t matter how smart you are; emotional intelligence is the key to success.