Use your ‘emotional’ skills to compete in a digital world

Working Life
Use your ‘emotional’ skills to compete in a digital world Use your ‘emotional’ skills to compete in a digital world Use your ‘emotional’ skills to compete in a digital world Use your ‘emotional’ skills to compete in a digital world

Emotional intelligence may not be a term you’re familiar with, but it’s easy enough to figure out what it is - how well we understand and manage our own emotions, and the degree to which we appreciate and react to those of others.

It’s often referred to as EQ (short for emotional quotient) - in contrast to the more widely known intellectual intelligence quotient (IQ) - and has been nicknamed ‘the other kind of smart’. While high EQ is typically associated with effective leaders and team players, a top IQ score suggests a uniquely gifted individual.

So far there’s been no clear connection made between the two, and you can readily rate highly for one but not the other.

What is emotional intelligence?

The phrase ‘emotional intelligence’ first appeared in a scientific paper in 1964. It then took decades before its popularity grew thanks to a 1995 best-seller on the subject by science writer Daniel Goleman. However, controversy over the book’s suggestion that EQ may be more important than IQ for your success has led to today’s lack of consensus about how to define what it is – or even how to properly measure it.

Amid the debate, getting to grips with the basics of EQ could help you in all manner of situations in today’s workplace.

While there’s no single all-encompassing list to spell out what it’s made up of, here are five elements regularly used to describe EQ in more detail:

  • Self-awareness – knowing what you’re good (and not so good) at; understanding your emotions and their effect on yourself (and others); confidence
  • Self-regulation – dealing with inappropriate feelings in a healthy and positive way (such as not making rash decisions, and thinking carefully before you act or speak), and adapting quickly to a change in circumstances
  • Motivation – how driven you are to achieving your goals (personal and work related); taking the initiative and meeting your commitments.
  • Empathy – recognising and understanding the emotions, concerns and needs of others, even when they may not be obvious; reading body language.
  • Social skills – being able to communicate clearly; building and maintaining successful relationships; feeling comfortable in a group and recognising how authority can pass between people who are in it.

Find out how you score for EQ

There are plenty of online tests you can try which will give you an estimate of your EQ. They’ll also offer more insight into the five aspects listed above and show you how they apply to you. Try The Skills You Need’s ‘Interpersonal Skills Self-Assessment’ for a good short test to take, while Psychology Todays test takes 45 minutes.

Why a high EQ can help you

A high EQ is associated with being able to build robust relationships, make more informed decisions, communicate more skilfully and cope more capably with stress. And while many people naturally have a high EQ, its core skills and competencies can also be learned – and improved – at any age.

If you’re thinking ‘Great, but so what?’ then also consider that employers place great emphasis on EQ. In 2017, a Department of Education report found many companies saw this as a valuable skill lacking in the workplace.

Still not convinced? Then the finding that high EQ correlates with career success – and higher salaries – might just do it.

How EQ can help you at work

Employees with a high EQ tend to have a positive attitude, be better at motivating themselves, have greater self-confidence, can collaborate and resolve conflict more effectively, and are more focused on achieving their long-term goals. No wonder employers are happy to choose them over those who are merely ‘smart’ - and pay them more!

But while a high EQ is obviously a plus in traditional workplaces (where working face to face is the norm), it’s also highly relevant for today’s digital employees.

Thanks to technology, the rise of remote working and teams spread across several continents mean many people now only go to work in a virtual sense. It can mean much – if not the majority - of your time spent chatting, liaising and working with colleagues is done online.

In turn, this makes it even more important for you to be able communicate and collaborate with colleagues with empathy, understanding and flexibility.

Why EQ skills can help you in the digital world

In a nutshell, a set of well-rounded EQ skills can help you communicate better by email, social media or video.

Communication styles that work well in person or over the phone don’t necessarily translate to digital correspondence. Humour and sarcasm can easily fall flat or be misinterpreted when all the reader has to go on is words on a screen - and great care is needed to avoid making an unintended gaffe or worse.

With strong self-awareness comes the realisation that different communication methods require different styles, while well-developed self-regulation helps make communication more considered. For example, a bit of gentle encouragement in person to finish a task can come across as abrupt and impersonal in an email. Similarly, a clear and concise manner can be especially important when working with colleagues who have English as their second language.

Empathy also has a vital role to play – it’s not always so easy to gauge how someone in an email chain is genuinely feeling when you can’t see their face. An ability to get a feel for an email’s style, phrasing and tone of voice can go a long way.

It’s a similar story across all the new digital communication channels. You don’t need to spend much time on social media to find a seemingly tone-deaf tweet from a major brand or company that upsets one party or another. With a solid set of EQ skills, mastering these nuances can be much easier.

Ways you can improve your EQ

If you know you’re weak in any of the five emotional intelligence factors, or you take an online test which suggests your EQ is low, don’t worry - you can develop through practice. Do something often enough and it soon becomes a habit (after around 66 days, research suggests). This can also apply to taking time to be aware of and understand your feelings.

You’ve many simple strategies to consider. These include:

  • Mindfulness
  • Learn to express yourself in ways you’d normally find uncomfortable
  • Make an active effort to socialise with other people, rather than rely on others to take the lead
  • Postpone big decisions to see if you change your mind
  • Regular breaks during the working day and booking holidays well in advance

While you can find more about the techniques for each of these online, here are a couple of useful resources to get you started.

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