Leadership, Management

What does it take to succeed in the Professional World? A Note on Emotional Intelligence

What does it to take to get through a job interview? How much skill does one need to become successful in his/her professional field? What makes a leader in today’s organizations? There is no one-dimensional answer to any of these questions. In today’s world, it is quite difficult to get a job, let alone sustaining it and becoming successful. Needless to say, it is just not academic and technical skills that can guarantee success in any professional field. Rather, a more significant role is played by a set of psychological attributes that can equip an individual with more sophisticated ways of dealing in a professional setup, better interpersonal skills, better coping strategies in the face of a crisis and even superior leadership qualities. Emotional Intelligence is just one such quality. 

What is Emotional Intelligence?

The concept of Emotional Intelligence has been in existence for almost a century, although not understood in the same way we conceptualize it today. In 1990s, this concept emerged as a separate attribute with the highly acclaimed works of Peter Salovey and John Mayer (Click here). They defined Emotional Intelligence as “the ability to monitor one’s own and other’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” (Salovey and Meyer,1990). According to them, the concept of Emotional Intelligence includes four different components:  (i) Emotional perception, (ii) Ability to reason using emotions, (iii) Ability to understand emotion, and (iv) Ability to manage emotions (Fig 1).

Fig 1. Components of Emotional Intelligence

Perceiving emotion includes observing, understanding and acquiring information from non-verbal gestures including body language and facial expressions. Imagine talking to your supervisor. Non-verbal gestures like eye-blinking, gaze, mouth expressions, common gestures like fidgeting or clenched fist and movements of arms and legs give out a lot of information about the emotion of the other person. For example, maintaining eye contact means that the person is paying attention while prolonged eye-contact can be expressing a threat and not maintaining eye contact can be imply that the other person is distressed or somehow uncomfortable. Again, constant fidgeting implies distress, nervousness or even boredom. The second step, that is, Reasoning with emotions can help us decide and prioritize what to attend and react to at a certain moment. This is a crucial step for regulating our own emotions. For instance, imagine facing an interview. Individuals paying more attention to their own anxious feelings will fail to attend to the interviewer’s questions altogether. It is therefore, essential to decide which particular emotion we should focus on at a specific point of time. The third step involves the ability to understand emotions. Our emotional expressions often carry differential meanings. For example, an angry behavior of the supervisor can be due to dissatisfaction with other’s work, or it can also be because of some other personal conflict. Reaction to such emotional expressions of others takes you to the fourth step, which is, ability to manage emotions. This includes regulating one’s own emotions and responding optimally to others’ emotions. For instance, in the face of a crisis, a person high on emotional intelligence will be able to react appropriately to others so as to deal with the situation effectively.

Emotional Intelligence and Professional Success

How does Emotional Intelligence guarantee professional success? There is no dearth of studies suggesting that employees with higher emotional competence are far more successful than others with only cognitive competence. In explaining the specific role of emotional intelligence in prediction professional success, personal competence (managing oneself) and social competence (managing others) needs to be acquired (Cherniss & Goleman, 2001; Click here for more information). This process involves developing four important skills (Fig 2):

  • Being self-aware: This involves being aware of one’s own strengths and weaknesses. This ensures taking control of one’s own actions and decision making process.

Fig 2. Process of enhancing Emotional Intelligence

  • Self-regulation: Individuals who are high on self-regulation have higher emotional maturity, manifest higher emotional control, are generally proactive, highly flexible in any situation and are focused on achieving success.
  • Social self-awareness: This requires an individual to be aware of other’s needs in order to manage those adequately. Individuals having higher social self-awareness tend to be more empathetic and understanding towards others.
  • Relationship Management: To be able to manage relationships in a professional field involves having good communication skills, ability to convince others, inspiring others and providing good guidance to others.

Can Emotional Intelligence be developed through training?

Indeed one can increase his/her Emotional Intelligence through training. There exists a whole range of research dedicated to the development of such training modules for enhancing one’s emotional intelligence. These training modules include differential tasks designed to help individuals become self-aware, learn to regulate their emotions, respond appropriately to other’s emotions and manage relationships successfully. Some of these techniques involve making individuals recognize their strengths and weaknesses through one-to-one coaching and providing feedback, arranging discussions and motivating them to share their experiences, short lectures, group discussions as well as role playing.

What are the benefits of enhancing Emotional Intelligence?

Having higher level of Emotional Intelligence have been linked to the following benefits in a professional world:

  • Higher social competence and great communication skills
  • Greater likelihood to get through an interview
  • More successful leadership skills
  • Better stress management in a crisis
  • Great interpersonal skills and relationship with co-workers and supervisors
  • More likely to get promoted in comparison to others with low emotional competence
  • More successful decision making in any situation 

Concluding Remarks:

The concept of Emotional Intelligence, although is a relatively new construct in the domain of Psychology, has a very wide implication in different areas of research and applications. The reason being that, emotion constitutes a very significant portion of human psychology and defines all our thoughts, processes and behavior. The professional world places lot many demands on an individual, both in terms of cognitive competence and social competence. Being emotionally intelligent defines our unique identity and therefore, sets us apart from robots and humanoids.

References:

Cherniss, C., & Goleman, D. (2001). The emotionally intelligence workplace. How to select for measure and improve emotional intelligence in individuals, groups and organizations san Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality9(3), 185–211. https://doi.org/10.2190/DUGG-P24E-52WK-6CDG

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