The topic of emotional intelligence has become all the rage in leadership circles and popular culture. And for good reason. Emotional intelligence plays a significant role in life outcomes, such as forming satisfying personal relationships and achieving success at work. This article focuses on the scientific study of emotional intelligence and how to harness it to make good decisions.
Emotional intelligence is defined as “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action,” according to Yale Psychologist Peter Salovey. Put simply, this skill allows people to navigate social situations more effectively by viewing emotions as useful sources of information. Below are ways people with a high level of emotional intelligence deal with problems.

1. They’re aware of their own emotions.

Emotionally intelligent people aren’t exempt from feeling angry, sad, or happy. The difference is, they rely on the logical part of their brain to address a difficult or uncertain situation. They realize that once they give into that emotion, all rational thoughts go dark and their body engages their innate “fight or flight” response mode.

2. They can read the emotions of others from a mile away.

They can detect and decipher emotions in body language, voices, and even photos and art. For example, if someone walks into a business meeting and picks up visible cues that something is very wrong (maybe a participant appears slightly disheveled or is acting more reserved than usual), they are better equipped to deal with it. They can determine how to defuse the situation and reach a positive solution.

3. They know how to use emotions to their benefit.

They harness different emotions to facilitate various cognitive activities, like trouble-shooting. For example, studies show that being in a slightly sad mood helps people conduct careful, methodical work while being in a happy mood can stimulate creative and innovative thinking. The emotionally intelligent person can capitalize on his or her changing mood in order to best fit the task at hand. Are you a morning person who prefers to tackle the hard stuff before noon or a night owl who is more focused when everyone else is asleep?

4. They are successful at managing their own emotions.

They can regulate emotions in both themselves and in others. For instance, a boss might stop himself from yelling at a subordinate who made a major mistake, and instead use the opportunity as a learning experience to ensure the error never happens again. As for the ability to manage the emotions of others, you’d be surprised to learn that even negative emotions can be leveraged to reach intended goals. For example, a politician might increase the anger in their tone to deliver a powerful speech and arouse righteous anger in others.

5. They weigh the pros and cons of the situation.

They people take the time to organize their thoughts in order to come up with a solution that benefits their organization. This skill comes from their ability to control or quiet the emotional side of their brain and activate the logical side. This enables them to focus on making lists and prioritizing to zero in on what matters most.

6. They consult other leaders, mentors, or advisors on their team.

Sharing an emotional experience is not only proven to be useful in a therapeutic sense, but it offers leaders to get an objective interpretation of the issue at hand. Emotionally intelligent people aren’t too proud to seek help and ask questions because they realize the benefit of seeking out experts.

7. They’re big-picture thinkers.

They analyze the problem rather than the transaction. This means that they are able to stick back on a situation, and instead of dwelling on hurt feelings inflicted by other parties, they ask: What didn’t go well? Why didn’t it go well? and How can we improve the situation?

8. They know when to walk away.

Emotionally intelligent people can identify when something is their issue or someone else’s. They know that while they can’t easily change another person’s emotions, they can change how they react. Half the battle is knowing what you can and cannot control.

9. They don’t let fear or uncertainty stop them.

The brain loves knowing what’s coming around the corner, but emotionally intelligent people view obstacles as opportunities rather than setbacks. Having a positive attitude and maintaining a clear perspective is paramount to overcoming uncertainties and dilemmas in the business world.

10. They love learning.

They’re theoretically-motivated individuals who seek out resources that offer knowledge to help them do their jobs more efficiently. By establishing new brain pathways, leaders will become more comfortable and adaptable to change, which will ultimately make them better at crisis management.

Featured photo credit: Sarah Cimino via imcreator.com

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