In case you aren’t familiar, emotional intelligence (sometimes called EQ) is a collection of traits, skills, and abilities that allow you to be aware of and control your own emotions. These skills also allow you to be more empathetic, and allow you to better handle your interpersonal relationships.
It’s a concept that’s getting a lot of attention in the business community, even though it sounds like something better suited for discussion in a therapy session. Higher emotional intelligence can obviously make you a better friend and a better partner—but the question is, can it make you more productive?
Benefits of high emotional intelligence in the workplace
Let’s examine some of the benefits of higher emotional intelligence in the workplace, and how they may play a role in increasing your productivity:
1. Emotional self-regulation
You intuitively understand that mood is related to productivity, though you may underestimate just how big a role your mood can play in dictating your performance. With a higher EQ, you’re more capable of regulating your emotions.
For example, rather than letting a frustrating commute ruin your day with lingering anger and anxiety, you can calm down, stay in the present moment, and work as if nothing happened.
That doesn’t mean you can flip a switch to make yourself happy, but you can minimize the impact of negative emotions on your personal performance, thus improving productivity and focus.
2. Emotional awareness and stress management
With high enough emotional intelligence, you can recognize when you’re getting close to the breaking point, and take breaks, vacations, or other measures necessary to circumvent these negative outcomes.
This enhanced stress management provides a huge lift for workplace productivity. One study by Health Advocate found that workplace stress costs businesses approximately $600 per year, per employee in lost productivity. Stress.org estimates that 75 to 90 percent of visits to primary care physicians are at least somewhat related to stress.
Being able to better regulate your stress levels benefits you, your career, and your workplace.
3. Patience and de-escalation
In a crisis, this can help your entire team be more productive. It’s a critical skill for managing customer relationships. A recent report from Salesforce found that 57 percent of customers choose companies based on customer service, so putting high-EQ professionals in customer service and sales roles can be highly strategic to increasing sales and revenue.
4. Empathy and conflict resolution
Empathizing with other people is essential for better conflict resolution. High-EQ people are able to see things from other peoples’ perspectives, which means they are able to find better, more appealing compromises, and are be able to minimize interpersonal tensions that can get in the way of a peaceful solution.
Working in an office environment with co-workers over months or years often leads to interpersonal tensions, so the ability to detect and mitigate these tensions is critical for keeping employees happy at work. Being happy at work means lower company turnover and higher productivity. In fact, a study in Finnish manufacturing plants found that self-reported job satisfaction was correlated with a 6 percent increase in productivity for each hour of work.
There is plenty of other supporting research that shows that satisfied employees are more productive. Empathy and conflict resolution skills keep everyone in the office happier and more satisfied, which contributes to higher productivity for everyone in the office.
5. Motivation (for you and others)
Emotional intelligence also factors into your understanding of motivation. If you have a better understanding of what motivates you, you can create circumstances and rewards that inspire you to work more efficiently.
Similarly, you’ll better understand what motivates other people, and you can create systems that inspire better performance in your teammates. From employee recognition, to raises, to promotions, to office parties, it’s important to keep yourself and your team motivated to maximize productivity. And knowing how to motivate your team starts with understanding what motivates you.
6. Overall relationship management
However you choose to exercise your EQ, it’s going to help you work more efficiently and be more productive.
Improving your emotional intelligence
If you don’t know how to use Excel, you can watch YouTube videos and read guides to improve. If you’re a slow typist, you can learn to touch type and use exercises to improve your dexterity. But if you have low emotional intelligence, how are you supposed to improve it? And how can you even tell if your EQ is high or low in the first place?
Fortunately, while the concept is somewhat abstract, there are some concrete ways you can improve your emotional intelligence. For example:
- Actively listen: One of the best things you can do is actively listen to the people around you. In the moment, it will help you better understand another person’s perspective, buy you time to regulate your emotions, and demonstrate patience to others. Over time, repeated active listening will help you understand how people think and operate overall, giving you insights and skills you can apply to all relationships in the future.
- Practice empathy: Most of us think of empathy as a subjective feeling, and one we can’t help. But it’s also something you can practice, like any skill, and the more you practice it, the more it will become second-nature to you. Whenever you’re talking to someone, reading about someone, or even watching a movie or TV show, think about how other people think and feel—and why they think and feel that way.
- Meditate: There are many forms of meditation, but almost all of them are intended to improve your attention to the present moment. With practice, you’ll have more control over your thoughts and feelings, and you’ll be less affected by the actions of people around you.
- Journal: Try spending time journaling each day. Writing down your emotional reactions and inner thoughts is a self-reflective exercise that helps you better understand the inner workings of your mind—and in many ways, the minds of others.
Emotional intelligence can’t be learned the same way you can learn a foreign language, or how to use a new app, but it can be developed over time—and it has a massive impact on your overall productivity.
Invest in your EQ the same way you would any workplace skill or ability, and keep challenging yourself to find new ways to use and improve it. Having a high EQ will not only help advance your career by making you more productive and hirable, it’ll have an impact on everyone in your office who interacts with you.