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What's your emotional intelligence?

Much is made of an individual’s intelligence quotient (IQ) but another factor that is becoming increasingly important when being assessed for a job or climbing the career ladder is your emotional quotient (EQ).

An EQ relates to how well a person can handle and control their emotions and empathise with those around them. In short, the higher your EQ rating, the more effective you will be at managing relationships in the workplace.

The term EQ was coined back in 1990 by two US academics Peter Salovey and John Mayer but was popularised by Daniel Goleman in his international best-seller, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. His second book on the subject, Working with Emotional Intelligence, did much to put it on the corporate agenda. Since then HR departments and recruiters have placed considerable importance on it when deciding how good a fit a person is for a particular role. Some are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others but the good news is that a high EQ can be developed.

Why is EQ important?

Before discovering more about your own EQ, it is essential to understand why it is important to your career.

Engineering and technology sectors rightly place a great deal of emphasis on technical ability but experts reckon a person’s EQ can prove to be a significant differentiator.

“Daniel Goleman’s research repeatedly shows that emotional intelligence differentiates performance more than cognitive intelligence,” says Yvonne Sell, UK director for leadership and talent services at global management consultancy the Hay Group.

“Once you become an engineer, your peers are all in a similar bracket in terms of intelligence so it is people skills that really make the difference.

“For example, being able to ask the right questions with the right tone of voice and understanding what people are really saying via body language, are helpful to ensure you deliver what’s right for your internal and external clients,” she continues. Equally, staying resilient and managing your emotions when things get tough will also help you shine in the workplace.”

How can I assess my EQ?

Individuals with a heightened level of self-awareness are likely to have higher EQs so it is important to understand yourself, your motivations, ambitions and sensitivities.

Ask yourself some frank questions: do you often get frustrated with other people? What makes you react in an aggressive way? How good are you at controlling your moods and emotions? How do you react to criticism? Assessing your own EQ in isolation is difficult though so it is a good idea to take one of the online tests that exist such as the Hay Group’s. Be mindful that these tests won’t give you a comprehensive picture of your EQ but will serve as a useful introduction and increase your awareness of emotional intelligence in general and illustrate how it can be applied.

While the answers to some of the questions may seem like common sense it is surprising how often a person doesn’t react in the most emotionally intelligent way when they are in a particular situation, especially when pressurised. Such tests will typically provide you with a score that will help you to build a picture of your EQ.

Upping your EQ

There are a number of ways that you can sharpen your EQ. First off, it is important to consistently reflect on your behaviour in given situations such as a project meeting as well as in day-to-day life. Consider how people are behaving towards you and the impact what you say and do is having on them.

Sell recommends taking time out from a busy schedule to reflect and determine the “root emotion” of your behaviour and also meditating to help with self-control.

“When a meeting didn’t go as expected, take some time to reflect on what was going on in the room, did you notice people’s body language,” she says. “Did you respond to changes in tone of voice appropriately? What was your body and tone saying?”

She adds that it is also important graduates learn to ask open-ended questions to get a deeper insight into other people’s feelings and “less obvious” concerns and also learn to “truly listen”.

“This means not thinking of the answer or the next question while someone is talking but actually listening to both their words and the unspoken parts.”

If you feel you are struggling to acquire more emotionally intelligent skills, ask your manager what learning and development opportunities might be available in this area.

Applying your emotional intelligence

Possessing a high EQ will serve you well at the start of your career when working as part of a team and when leading one as you progress through the ranks. Sell stresses that it is also useful for reading a room, figuring out organisational politics and determining underlying customer needs as well as help to ensure you are considered for interesting and challenging projects.

“It can also help you not make career limiting moves through a lack of understanding or organisational politics,” she says. “And of course, being able to manage your emotions means you can handle stress more effectively, as well as energise your team.”

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