Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

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Emotional intelligence is a competency that varies from one person to the next including differences of opinion and how different people react in similar situations. Every person who has been part of a team has experienced these various interactions between colleagues. Learn more about emotional intelligence, its components and how you can increase your emotional intelligence to improve your working environment.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is a compilation of soft skills that allows you to form the ability to recognize, understand and control your emotions. The skills that compile emotional intelligence include self-motivation, empathy, self-management, communication and self-awareness. Emotional intelligence in the workplace can be extremely beneficial in terms of allowing for a more harmonious working environment, enhanced collaboration, higher productivity and better quality of work.

Why is emotional intelligence important?

Continuous development of emotional intelligence is important to succeed in terms of job satisfaction and performance, personal relationships and the ability to manage the stress of everyday events. With a heightened emotional intelligence, you can learn to make better decisions, resolve conflicts more constructively (or avoid them altogether), be more receptive to constructive criticism meant to help you to improve and be a better problem-solver. Each of the basic skills that facilitate emotional intelligence can add nuance to how you handle everyday situations.

Common skills related to emotional intelligence

Here are some of the most common skills related to emotional intelligence: 


Often stemming from a genuine passion for your work, the ability to motivate one’s self is linked to optimism, a desire for continuous improvement and accomplishing tasks for the simple satisfaction of accomplishment.


Self-awareness centers around understanding your own strengths, weaknesses, values, reasoning and reactions as they affect yourself and those around you. 


Understanding and relating to how others feel, think and react are keystone traits of an empathetic person. Someone with a strong sense of empathy can visualize a situation from another perspective and relate to their response to the circumstances.

Communication skills

Communication and social skills involve having the ability to relate to other people and build rapport and trust with them. People who are good at influencing others typically have strong social and communication skills. 


Once you have become more self-aware, self-management becomes the next logical skill to master. Self-management involves remaining in control of your impulses and redirect your urge to react emotionally to a set of circumstances. Rather than stifling your genuine human emotions, self-management is more about funneling those emotions into a constructive action or reaction, leveraging them to turn a negative experience into a positive, productive one.

How to improve your emotional intelligence at work

Here are some steps to improve your emotional intelligence at work:

1. First, hone your communication skills

Communicating effectively involves learning how to assertively yet respectfully speak to colleagues, whether they’re positioned above, below or level with you, to earn their respect and trust. A large component of communicating is actively listening when other people speak. Active listening is the act of focusing completely on the person speaking without interruption and without tuning them out while you wait to respond. 

Being an active listener helps you to gain clarity and understanding of other peoples’ points of view and help you learn to pause and process before reacting. Listening to understand also teaches you to pick up nonverbal cues, which can add an extra layer of comprehension to the interaction and allow you to respond thoughtfully and intelligently.

2. Next, heighten your self-awareness

As one of the key factors of emotional intelligence, self-awareness can be practiced consciously until it becomes intuitive. One of the best ways to practice self-awareness is to pay attention to the emotions you feel in certain situations and how those emotions tend to affect the way you react. If you find your emotions are more on the negative side, take the time to consider alternative reactions and how differently a situation can end depending on your reaction. Doing this regularly will eventually become innate to your everyday activities and soon you’ll find that you’re self-correcting before someone else feels the need to provide the critique.

3. Then, learn to respond rather than react

If any sort of conflict does occur, it’s important that you self-manage to avoid making situations worse with emotional outbursts or defensiveness. Practice remaining calm during stressful situations and refrain from making impulsive decisions. Your response should come after a period of internal reflection and should contribute toward finding a resolution. This style of responding to conflict tends to create trust and rapport between colleagues, facilitating a more peaceful, convivial working environment.

4. After that, find out what motivates you

Focus on the things that bring you joy. What you find the greatest satisfaction in may not involve money, status or reward but simply the satisfaction of accomplishment. Look for the high points of your day and you’ll soon discover a pattern of things that you love about your job. This will help you set meaningful goals and maintain optimism while you work towards them.

5. Finally, be empathetic

Empathizing with others is key to becoming more emotionally intelligent. Make it a habit to consider situations from another perspective in order to gain more understanding about why they feel the way they do, see the merit of their opinions and bring you closer to finding a mutually beneficial solution. 

Tips for becoming more emotionally intelligent

Consider the following tips for increasing your emotional intelligence:

  • Work on finding healthy outlets and constructive techniques for mitigating stress. Many people have hobbies that are unrelated to their job to help them create a healthy work-life balance so that they can be more effective at both.
  • Allow yourself time to calmly reflect before making important decisions. Consider the ramifications of your decision before making it.
  • Remain attentive when others are speaking. If you urgently wish to address a point, quickly jot down a note and continue listening actively to the speaker.
  • Every time you find something you dislike, make it a point to find an aspect that you like.
  • Share your journey with your colleagues. At the very least, they’ll appreciate the effort you’re putting into improving your interactions with them and at most, they’ll be inspired to embark on a similar journey.

You can carry your newfound emotional intelligence into your personal life, applying the techniques you’ve learned for improving the environment at work to enhance the quality of the interactions between you and your family or friends.