How communicators can bolster workplace emotional intelligence

To ensure your career ascends instead of ends, focus on self-awareness, empathy and social skills—and help others to do the same.

Bolstering workplace emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence might seem an innate quality.

However, even the most inartful among us can do plenty to beef up social skills and improve crucial workplace relationships. For better or worse, emotional intelligence might be the biggest indicator of how far you’ll go in your career, so it’s well worth serious self-examination.

Here are ideas to consider and ways to improve:

Defining emotional intelligence

In 1990, researchers Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer (not the “Your Body Is a Wonderland” guy, apparently) described “emotional intelligence” as a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.”

Author Daniel Goleman scooped up this idea and ran with it, developing five key pieces of the emotional intelligence pie:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

What might improvement in these areas look like for communication pros? Let’s consider practical ways to bolster, flex, stretch and improve skills in each category.

1. Self-awareness. Do you consider yourself a “natural” communicator and thus forgo things such as media training or crisis communication prep? Perhaps you think of yourself as a writer, but when’s the last time you submitted your work for a thorough edit?

Self-aware people are confident people—which breeds confidence in others. Self-awareness is being tough enough to delegate or admit when you’re wrong. Self-aware communicators are cognizant of their strengths and weaknesses and can find niches, fill gaps and complement (or compliment) colleagues accordingly.

To boost self-awareness, take honest stock of your unique skills and glaring deficiencies. Work to tailor your role to suit personal strengths, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

2. Self-regulation. What’s your move when someone shades or slights you in a companywide email?

Communicators with high levels of emotional intelligence are typically able to resist the urge to pop off with a salty retort. Instead, they calmly assess the situation, wait for the vexation to pass, and then respond with firm, measured grace.

Self-regulation is about more than keeping a cool head under pressure. Communicators must also put a lid on petty workplace jealousies or rivalries, and they should be an oasis of confident calm when nerve-jangling change is afoot. Self-regulated communicators help steady the ship.

3. Motivation. Mindfulness and thoughtful listening are not enough.

Being a motivated, productive and influential worker is a hallmark of keen emotional intelligence. Communicators should be at the decision-making, agenda-setting table instead of just passively taking orders.

Are there initiatives you can launch? Can you trim, delegate or shelve any projects that aren’t driving ROI? How can you prove to execs that your team is doing indispensable work? Work on motivating yourself, motivating others and motivating the CEO to greater heights.

4. Empathy. Empathetic communicators are adept at capturing, crystallizing and conveying the emotions and viewpoints of other people. This happens when you prioritize listening and make your work staffer-centric.

Communicators who edify, praise and fight for their colleagues tend to ooze emotional intelligence.

5. Social skills. Affability is a sign of emotional intelligence, though communicators should aspire to more than just “being nice.”

Those with savvy social skills are bridge builders who create understanding and dialogue among diverse colleagues. Social skills can help you boost engagement, productivity and morale, though it takes effort, planning, investment and strategy to create connections.

Use your communications to forge genuine, meaningful and substantive relationships across your organization, and use your perch to preach the good news of unity and cohesion. That might be the most profound hallmark of workplace emotional intelligence.

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