What is Emotional Intelligence and Its Importance for Success

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Table of Contents

During the 2000’s, technology advanced tremendously along with the advancement of something else: the human use of technology.

Devices including computers, mobile phones, and tablets have us constantly glued to our screens.  As a result, we spend more time on these devices and less time around people. Our communication with others is mostly done through texts, emails, and comments on social media.

This has had a negative effect on our social skills, interpersonal skills, and ability to connect with others. Because of this decline, something called Emotional Intelligence has become more important now than ever.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (also called EQ or EI) is the ability and capacity to recognize, understand, and manage our emotions to direct us on our thoughts and actions. 

It also involves your perception of those around you. Understanding how someone feels, why they are feeling a certain way, and how that affects their actions are common traits held by someone with EQ.

Emotional intelligence is considered a soft skill that is highly sought after nowadays. Studies have shown that EQ may have twice the power of predictability of performance than IQ.

Emotional intelligence has 5 elements to it:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social skills

Those who have high emotional intelligence are able to:

  • Understand what they are feeling
  • Understand what others are feeling
  • Use emotions in a positive way
  • Communicate effectively
  • Build stronger relationships
  • Be resilient and overcome challenges
  • Confront and resolve conflict

Deep Dive Into the 5 Elements of Emotional Intelligence

Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is all about understanding ourselves, our emotions, our reactions, and how we deal with things internally that affect our thoughts and behaviors.

When you are self-aware, you… 

  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses
  • Have self-confidence or know how you can become self-confident
  • Understand how you react to certain people and situations
  • Know what you value
  • Know what drives and motivates you
  • Willingly accept constructive criticism
  • Understand how you come off to others

Self-Management

If self-awareness is about understanding ourselves, self-management is about managing and controlling ourselves and our actions. This involves control of impulsive feelings, our mood, our reactions and responses, and overall behavior we exhibit internally or externally.

When you self-manage, you…

  • Regulate your mood
  • Suppress impulsive behaviors and cravings
  • Manage emotions in a healthy manner
  • Respond rather than react to situations
  • Redirect disruptive emotions and behaviors into something positive
  • Follow through on commitments to yourself and others
  • Are willing to bring on change and adapt to it

Motivation

Motivation involves cultivating and harnessing internal resources to become driven and passionate towards something.

Those with motivation…

  • Channel emotions and direct them towards achieving a goal
  • Take massive action
  • Have passion for the work they are pursuing
  • Have optimism and energy
  • Are driven to excel by any means
  • Have the diligence and perseverance to weather tough circumstances
  • Commit and follow-through

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and feel the emotions of others. You understand others and know how you should react and behave in response to the emotions and feelings exhibited by a person or group.

You basically have the skill of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.

When you are empathetic you…

  • Understand the emotional makeup of others
  • Consider the feelings of others when taking action
  • Understand the needs of others
  • Can easily relate and connect with people
  • Pick up on social and emotional cues
  • Pick up on cues from body language
  • Can mold, adapt, and fit in with any crowd in any situation

Social Skills

Social skills involve the ability to build and maintain good relationships with others.

Those with social skills…

  • Know how to develop and maintain relationships
  • Are naturals at networking
  • Confront, manage, and dissolve conflict effectively
  • Have the ability to lead, inspire, and influence
  • Work well in teams
  • Are comfortable and effective in negotiating

Traits of Those With Low Emotional Intelligence

  • Get upset and stressed easily
  • Become overwhelmed with emotions
  • Feel misunderstood
  • Have problems being assertive
  • React impulsively and with outbursts
  • Can’t maintain friendships
  • Don’t let go of mistakes of the past
  • Commonly get into arguments
  • Rub people the wrong way
  • Blame others for the reason behind their emotions

Why Emotional Intelligence is Important for Success

A good amount of people believe that emotional intelligence has more predictability of success than IQ, with research to back it up.

Steven J. Stein and Howard E. Book talk about this in their book, The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success.

The smartest people aren’t always the most successful or the happiest in life. There are plenty of cases out there of people who had genius IQ’s, perfect GPA’s, and exceptional standardized test scores that did not end up achieving the general idea of “success.”

I say that because success is different in everyone’s eyes, but the general idea of success includes things like living comfortably financially, excelling in your field of work, and being happy.

We’ll break down why emotional intelligence is important for success in 3 areas:

  1. College
  2. Work
  3. Everyday life

College

College is a period of time of substantial development for anyone, consisting of many ups and downs and finding who you are.

Emotional intelligence is important in navigating all events and people you encounter in your years in school.

Self-awareness will allow you to recognize who you are and who you want to become on the path to your career. Understanding your emotions and what causes them will help you taper the massive highs and lows that college can bring.

Self-management will direct you on what actions to take. Managing yourself will help you build positive habits, resist the impulse behaviors of college culture, and keep yourself on track.

Motivation is a must-have in pursuit of a degree. You need to have motivation for what you are studying and what you need to do to get there. Procrastination is always tempting, but with motivation you can get over that obstacle to reach your goals,

Empathy is huge during your years in school. When you attend college, you’ll be exposed to hundreds and thousands of individuals you have never met that come from across the world.

These people were raised in different regions with different cultures and values. You’ll be working with and interacting with these individuals in group projects, extracurriculars and in friendship.

Understanding the emotions, motivations, social cues and circumstances of others is essential in working well with others, building friendships, and networking.

Social skills piggy back off the reasons above for empathy for importance. College is when you are supposedly making your “life-long” friendships and building your network of connections you’ll keep throughout your life.

To do this effectively, and with a high volume of numbers, you’ll need to have a certain level of social skills.

Get off the phone and computer every once and a while and make it a mission to go out and have social interactions. Join some clubs, attend your classes, go to campus events and meet people. If you are currently socially awkward, this will be tough at first but it becomes much easier with each time you engage in a social activity.

Work

Emotional intelligence has increased in importance in the work place and has been brought forth into the light in recent years. Employers look for those high in emotional intelligence and even test for it during the interviewing process.

Maybe you have taken a personality test as part of the interviewing process before. During interviews, interviewers will ask questions categorized as “behavioral” or “fit.”

These are questions like:

  • Talk to us about a time there was a conflict on your team and how you resolved it?
  • Tell me about a time you made a mistake and how you handled it?
  • If your boss implemented a policy that you disagreed with, would you say something? How would you go about it?

In this Careerbuilder Survey of 2,600 hiring managers in the US, it was found that 71% of employers value EQ over IQ.

Advancing your career

Once you are into your career, having emotional intelligence is important in working well with your team, rising up the ladder through promotions, delivering great service to clients, and leading a team.

Self-awareness in the workplace involves knowing what you are good at and where you need to improve to bring the most value to the business. It is understanding your role in the team and company and how to optimize that role.

With self-management, you’ll utilize interpersonal skills to stay organized, manage your time, and deliver excellent work on time. When conflict arises (which certainly happens often), you’ll know how to react and respond in a professional manner.

Situations and circumstances are also in a constant change during a career. Having high self-management will help you become adaptable to any change you encounter.

Motivation at work will keep you engaged and performing. Working without motivation can only be done for so long. I understand this from personal experience. Without motivation, you don’t feel like working, you don’t feel like learning, and everything and anyone irks you.

Finding ways to get yourself motivated and maintain that motivation is key to progressing as a professional.

Imagine you are in a career and expect to stay with a company for 10 years. During those 10 years, you’ll be around the same group of people for at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Having empathy is imperative to work efficiently with everyone.

By having empathy, you’ll build strong relationships with your colleagues, clients, investors, and customers. Strong relationships will make work much more enjoyable for you and those you interact with. This will also lead to promotions and opportunities down the line.

Putting yourself in the shoes of your colleagues and your boss will help you in deciding how you could best work best with them and make a positive impression.

You’ll also be able to see behind people’s motives, whether good or bad. You’ll  see past everyone’s facades and into their true underlying intentions and behaviors. You’ll be able to identify and avoid those who are cancerous to the company or your team and gravitate towards those who have sincere intentions and will help you in your career.

Along with empathy, having social skills also aids in working well with everyone and building strong relationships. Social skills at work do differ from social skills that are normal in college and your personal life.

Knowing these differences on what is acceptable and appropriate for social interaction in the workplace will help you maintain a clean and professional reputation. Rubbing people the wrong way and crossing boundaries is a quick way to ruin opportunities.

I’m sure you are aware of the importance of networking for your career. Networking requires excellent social skills to meet the right people and maintain relationships with those people.

Everyday Life

Outside of work and school, emotional intelligence is equally important to your everyday life. Arguably, even more important.

With life comes anything and everything. You have family, friends, and strangers you interact with. Surprises, for better or worse, enter your life at the perfect time or the worst time. Tragedies and emergencies are unfortunate, but do occur.

The goal in life is to live happily with things in order, but things can become chaotic every now and then.

By having high emotional intelligence, you will be able to deal with life’s surprises and manage your emotions and your actions to live the best life you can.

How to Become Emotionally Intelligent and Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is hard to quantify, which makes measuring your improvement a little tough.

Becoming more emotionally intelligent will come down to several steps:

  1. Learning more about each element of emotional intelligence
  2. Becoming aware on where you lie on the spectrum of each element
  3. Making the conscious decision towards improvement
  4. Practicing and implementing
  5. Continual self-reflection
  6. External feedback from others

The 5 elements of emotional intelligence are each packed with a lot of components to them. Focusing on all of them at once can be impossible. It may overwhelm you to the point where you end up quitting or not starting in the first place.

Begin by choosing a few areas you want to focus on and take small steps forward each day towards implementation and improvement.

I’ll list out some bullet points for small things you can do to improve each element of emotional intelligence.

Self-Awareness

  • Ask yourself what you are doing throughout the day
  • Ask yourself why you are doing things
  • Recognize what emotions you are feeling and what spurred those emotions
  • Think about why others are acting the way they are
  • Do self-evaluations
  • Reflect on how you react in stressful situations
  • Question your thoughts and opinions

Self-Management

  • Choose to respond rather than react
  • Track your behaviors in situations in a journal
  • Take criticism well
  • Channel and direct your emotions
  • Practice gratitude and positivity

Motivation

  • List out what your goals or passions are
  • Create reasons bigger than yourself to motivate you (e.g. achieving to provide for your family)
  • Focus on taking action, not just thinking about taking action
  • Create small steps and goals that will lead you to your larger overarching goals
  • Practice being resilient by embracing discomfort and challenges
  • Follow-through on your commitments

Empathy

  • Focus on active listening when having conversations
  • Take note of people’s behaviors and try to understand why they are behaving a certain way
  • Examine how your actions affect others
  • Observe body language and other cues people project
  • Be compassionate and focus on connecting with others
  • Put yourself in another person’s shoes

Social Skills

  • Observe how those you consider successful interact with others
  • Make an effort to be more sociable
  • Practice your communication and reflect
  • Read up on leaderships skills and practice
  • Focus on coming off as approachable
  • Instead of thinking of how someone can help you, think about how you can help them
  • Interact with people in different social settings

Summary

From my reflection on my own personal experience, I believe my emotional intelligence is what has carried me throughout college and into my career.

I don’t think I have a gifted IQ. I was never the smartest one in the class in college and I wasn’t the type of student that just showed up and got A’s on exams.

I had strong emotional intelligence that allowed me to be diligent, hard working and resilient to progress. My social skills and empathy lead me to building connections that have lead to opportunities in my career.

In the workplace, emotional intelligence has allowed me to work well with nearly anyone. I’ve built great friendships and connections that I will keep in contact with throughout my career.

Emotional intelligence is important and I hope this post has brought that to your attention. Having it and improving it will substantially improve your life across the board.

Brandon Hill Photo

Author: Brandon Hill

Brandon is the creator of Bizness Professionals and author behind each post. He is currently a working professional, primarily in finance, and looks to provide resources to aspiring or current young professionals for well-rounded professional and personal development. Find out more on the About page.

There may be affiliate links on this page, which means I may receive a small commission for any purchases made through links in this post. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Products that are linked are ones I highly recommend and have used/tested myself.

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