Every Wednesday, I try to share a short post on any useful nuggets of information people have given me, interesting tips or tricks I’ve picked up this week, quotes that have resonated with me, in the hope that they might help one of you lovely lot as well*.
This week’s wisdom is something which a very wise person I work with is always going on about: emotional intelligence.
There is a generally accepted norm that in most professions, when you come to work, you leave personal emotions at the door. But we are by nature very emotional beings. My colleague’s theory is that there are often two types of ‘intelligence’ at play in the workplace, intellectual intelligence, and emotional intelligence.
It’s similar to the slightly more scientific idea of ‘IQ’ and ‘EQ’ (or ‘Intelligence Quotient’ and ‘Emotional Quotient’). IQ is probably the term you are more familiar with, and is essentially an assessment, based on testing, of your ability to learn, understand and apply information, and things like your logical reasoning skills, word comprehension, maths skills, and critical thinking. Your IQ is what you use to get your job done, perform your tasks, complete your objectives, write reports and documents, manage your inbox etc. EQ however, is all about your ability to identify, control and express your own emotions, and to perceive and assess others’ emotions, and respond to both in an appropriate way.
Your IQ is what will help you with complex or challenging tasks. It can help you analyse information and make connections, plans and conclusions, and it can help with research projects and development of strategies. Your EQ on the other hand, is what you need to be able to work in a team, to demonstrate leadership and bring people along with you to help you achieve your goals, to maintain successful relationships and partnerships with the people you work with.
There are lots of ways you can put your emotional intelligence into practice to help you do well in your job and ensure you progress in your career. To put it in context, lets look at the example of example of ‘Janet’ (Janet is totally not me or based on anything I’ve done in the past…..). Janet gets an email from a colleague, who’s come up with an idea that Janet thinks is pretty rubbish and will not work for a number of reasons. Putting into practice her IQ, Janet spends the next 20 minutes drafting a well crafted and excellently worded response email, laying out her reasons for disagreeing with said idea. She is totally right and correct, and makes lots of valid, evidence-based points. She copies in all the relevant people who she knows will agree with her points, and hits send, sure that she’s won the argument hands down… But in doing so, she also potentially upset a colleague, and made them feel embarrassed and put down. That colleague might now feel like they can’t involve Janet in any discussions about their ideas, and might even complain to their own manager or other colleagues that Janet just isn’t all that nice.
She didn’t *technically* do anything wrong or unprofessional, but if she had used her emotional intelligence, she might have done a few things differently. My advice for these kinds of situations would be to consider both the emotional and the intellectual side of any aspect of your job that involves other people. If you’re writing a report or analysing some numbers independently of anyone else, by all means fire all the IQ you’ve got at it and make it as intellectually jazzy as possible. But when it comes to interaction with colleagues, remember that we are all human beings. If Janet had taken the time to think about how she might feel receiving her own email from someone else, would she have phrased it so bluntly? Would she have copied in lots of colleagues to validate her oh-so-correct argument? Perhaps her EQ could have helped her to take a few minutes to consider, maybe take out some of the harsher sentences, and try to find some positive things to say about the sender’s idea. She might have also listened to her EQ’s little voice saying ‘maybe sleep on this one and reconsider in the morning’, and then with some perspective she could have changed her tack slightly. While your IQ can help you do lots of great work and get lots done, a lack of EQ will always hold you back if it means you can’t play nice with others.
EQ also comes into play when you need to get something from someone else. A friendly and positive interaction with the person you’re asking to do something for you, as well a as an offer of assistance and a simple ‘thank you’, will be just as much of a boost towards you getting what you need as a detailed written request and comprehensive set of tasks will be, if not more. Similarly if you are not getting what you asked for from someone, using your EQ to talk to them and determine if there is something they are not publicising that’s affecting their performance, or perhaps a roadblock they’ve come across and can’t get past, could get you a lot further than sticking your IQ nose in to objectively and critically evaluate progress.
None of this is to say you should compromise your values or integrity or your own success so as not to upset anyone, or be fake or false at work to get what you want. What I take from my wise colleague’s little snippet of advice here is just to make sure I utilise and work on my emotional intelligence and skills just as much as I do my intellectual. Think about the impact your actions, however ‘intelligent’ they are, will have on others emotionally. How can you make things positive, rather than negative? Can you get your point across in a more sensitive way? Or is there perhaps a better approach, like just having a chat with the person rather than sending a keyboard-warrior email, or offering an alternative instead of just poo-pooing someone’s suggestion? The combination of a high IQ and a high EQ are what will take you places long term.
As with most things in life, it’s about finding a balance. But don’t underestimate the power of an above average EQ.
How do you feel about using your emotional intelligence at work?
*Disclaimer: ‘Wednesday wisdom’ posts may not always be everyone’s definition of ‘wisdom’. Sometimes they’ll be serious, sometimes they might be silly. I will endeavour however to always make them things that have helped or encouraged me, even in a small way.