“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”
– Daniel Goleman, Author

Gone are the days when IQ ruled the charts as the only criterion to judge employee performance and decide if they are eligible to move up the ladder or not. In the current scenario, emotional intelligence is a major deciding factor not just in personal relationships, but also at the workplace. A leader is expected to empathize and connect with their team in order to be able to work with them effectively.

Kartik, a communications consultant, is popularly known to people, at work, and in his personal life, as a fabulous listener. No matter what situation he’s in, he’s immaculate in his responses - clearly knows when he should respond and how to say things so that the other person isn’t offended. He’s caring and considerate, and even you might not have a solution to a problem, he will leave you feeling high on energy and optimism.

Reena is yet another person who’s a master at controlling her emotions. She doesn’t get angry in stressful situations, and always has this uncanny ability to look at a problem and calmly find a solution. She doesn’t let criticism affect her and manages the frequent bouts of failure and accomplishment with sheer level-headedness.

People like Kartik and Reena possess a high degree of emotional intelligence. They know themselves well and are also able to sense the emotional needs of others. They make better relationships, know perfectly what to do when conflict arises and are visibly better leaders.

UCLA research indicates that only 7 per cent of leadership success is attributable to intellect; 93 per cent of the success comes from trust, integrity, authenticity, honesty, creativity, presence, and resilience.

The good news is that emotional intelligence can be learned and developed. So, what can you do to improve it? Here are some tips from the experts at the British Council.

  1. Be self-aware - The first step towards gaining better emotional intelligence is being aware of ourselves fully – our strengths and weaknesses. Emotionally intelligent people know their shortcomings and strengths, and they work on these areas so that they can perform better. Many people believe that this self-awareness is the most important part of emotional intelligence
  2. Understand your inner self - One cannot understand or form better relationships with others until we know ourselves fully. There are multiple scientific ways to do this. One such methodology is using the Johari Window which helps us understand how we perceive ourselves and also how others perceive us. This helps in bridging the gap between these different perceptions and making us better people overall.
  3. Empathy or sympathy? - A lot of us confuse sympathy with empathy though there’s a fine line between the two. Employers worldwide today, look for personnel who possess the capability to connect with their colleagues and forge strong working relationships leading to better productivity. This requires empathy, and not sympathy and the key lies in understanding the difference between the two.
  4. Keep the stress at bay - The world is fast paced and everyone’s racing against time. Our lives today are far more stressful than it was a few years ago. So how does one keep stress at bay. The first step towards managing stress is to get to the root cause of it. Often times we try and make stop-gap efforts to manage stress but they don’t work in the long run because we don’t uproot it from the root. It is essential to identify the major stress triggers in life – personal relationships, workload, peer pressure etc. in order to be able to identify the right strategies to eliminate them effectively.
  5. Practice mindfulness - Mindfulness is nothing but trying to find peace not from the outside but from deep within ourselves. It is a great stress reliever and something that is beneficial not just in daily life but also in the long run. Mindfulness techniques can range from something as simple as finding a hobby to deeply rooted yoga practices. The key here is to be persistent in practicing the mindfulness techniques that work best for us and to ensure that we stick to them.