Emotional intelligence

Emotionale Intelligenz
Emotional intelligence is becoming increasingly important in times of ambiguity and constant change. But how do you define it?

Why EQ is so important in the business environment

Everyone has an emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ), but its expression varies from person to person. For example, a high intelligence quotient (IQ) does not automatically mean a high EQ. In practice, it has been shown that people whose emotional intelligence is more pronounced than their IQ are nevertheless more successful in the workplace. A well-developed emotional intelligence is therefore a decisive advantage in the working world and is an important component for professional success. For example, it strengthens one’s own leadership skills, has a positive effect on working with the team or stakeholders and thus improves everyday work.

Due to the increased social skills, everyday work can also be made more pleasant and goal-oriented. If a manager or project leader lacks emotional intelligence, this can have a negative impact on teamwork. Productivity can decrease or even lead to resignations. Therefore, it is particularly important not only to focus on pure workflows and processes, but also to include the social component. Often, incipient conflicts can already be avoided if at the same time the feelings and needs of the counterpart are also recognised and understood. People with a high EQ are better able to grasp their own and other people’s feelings and thus better assess the other person. The associated problem-solving competence on a social level also increases their potential to solve conflicts optimally or to prevent them from arising in the first place.

An excursion into our brain - where emotional intelligence is located

The brain is divided into an emotional (limbic system) and a rational area. In the so-called limbic system, emotions are located in this subdivision. Other factors, such as rational action and logical thinking, are located relatively far away from this area. Scientifically, the relatively large distance between the two areas explains why emotions such as anger, sadness or joy and rational action act differently from each other. Whether in private life or in everyday work, many people find it difficult to react objectively instead of emotionally. This sometimes leads to rash and emotionally driven actions or statements that may be regretted in retrospect. 

The four skills of emotional intelligence

Die vier Fähigkeiten der emotionalen Intelligenz sind als Selbstwahrnehmung, Selbstmanagement, Soziales Bewusstsein und Beziehungsmanagement definiert. Diese Fähigkeiten werden wiederum in persönliche und soziale Kompetenz unterteilt. Selbstwahrnehmung und Selbstmanagement sind dabei die zwei Fähigkeiten der persönlichen Kompetenz. Sie betreffen die eigene Persönlichkeit und helfen dabei, sich den eigenen Emotionen bewusst zu werden und das eigene Verhalten zu steuern.

Self-awareness means being able to perceive, understand and interpret one’s own emotions. This applies to one-time events as well as recurring situations. Dealing with negative feelings also plays a role. Since emotions are a reaction to our environment and thus always have a cause, it is particularly important to be able to classify them correctly and to understand one’s own emotional reactions. People with good self-awareness simply find it easier to see through the potential of a situation and to take advantage of it. In a sense, these people do not let their emotional world stand in the way. They also do not shy away from unpleasant situations, but use them to develop themselves further. The better one knows oneself and one’s own emotions, the easier this is.

Self-management is about the ability to consciously and positively control one’s own emotions. This is not easy for some people because emotions outweigh rational thinking. With good self-management, you are less likely to react rashly or too emotionally. The biggest hurdle is getting behaviours under control in the long run and applying the brain’s learned skills in different situations. People with good self-management can successfully put their own needs aside and keep their behaviour under control accordingly.

Social awareness and relationship management are the two skills of social competence and relate to dealing with other people. It describes the ability to recognise and understand other people’s emotional states, behaviour and emotions. Social awareness describes the basic human ability to accurately understand the feelings and thoughts of others, even if one’s own emotional state is different. Close observation and listening are among the most important factors. Ideally, you concentrate 100 per cent on your counterpart and focus only on their behaviour. Conscious listening creates an overall picture that enables the interpretation of the other person’s emotional world.

Relationship management is the knowledge of using one’s own and others’ emotions for successful and clear communication. People with highly developed relationship management find it easier to network with different people and to derive possible advantages from it. Sympathy plays a minor role. In general, social relationships must be cultivated and valued in order to build an adequate network. The better the connection, the more positive feedback you get. If the relationship is less developed, it is much more difficult to make your point of view heard. In stressful (work) times, the biggest challenge is to maintain these social relationships. Especially in the workplace, conflicts often arise because very different characters clash. Most people do not find it easy to still have constructive conversations in emotionally charged situations. Good relationship management helps to avoid such conflictual situations in the workplace and to turn them into positive relationships.

Exercise to improve emotional intelligence

Emotions are a reaction to our environment, which can create some emotional hurdles in the work environment. This is where emotional intelligence becomes important. To improve it, everyone can work on themselves. The most important points for a positive impact on conflict are active listening, open communication and respectful interaction. Likewise, time should be taken to reflect on the situation and the emotions that have arisen. In the best case, before acting impulsively. Journaling, for example, is a good exercise to improve self-awareness. All you need to prepare is a pen and paper. You can, for example, take 30 minutes in the evening after work and reflect on the day or certain situations. Like writing in a diary, you write down how you felt and how others and you reacted.

Positive affirmations can also help to positively influence future behaviour. It is also possible to take only 3 minutes to continue writing a sentence with an open end, or to respond to a question. This way you learn to reflect and classify your feelings. Example sentences are “How I feel now is…”, “What motivates me is…”, “How could you have made your day even better?”. The answers should be written down spontaneously and from the gut, you should not think about it for a long time, do not allow pauses for writing. Whether you take 30 minutes or 3 minutes is irrelevant. It is only about writing to yourself and thus getting more clarity about your own emotions.

If you use these or other exercises regularly, you will soon see a learning effect. Everyone can actively work on and improve their emotional intelligence. In this way, you can not only master your everyday working life more successfully, but also deal better with conflicts in your private life.

Emotional intelligence at think tank

Methods such as design thinking as a people-oriented approach work specifically with the skills of emotional intelligence. The first phase of the design thinking process is about understanding people and developing the ability to empathise with them, which in turn is in line with a well-developed emotional intelligence. The aim is to find out what people’s needs, views, fears and emotions are, e.g. through active listening in the context of qualitative interviews. In this way, latent human (user) needs are to be identified, which serve as inspiration for new innovative approaches, products and services.

Sources: Bradberry, Travis; Greaves, Jean (2018): Emotionale Intelligenz 2.0 – Erhöhen Sie Ihre Sozialkompetenz und verbessern Sie Ihre Kommunikation Tan, Chade-Meng (2014): Search Inside Yourself – The unexpected path to achieving success, happiness (and world peace)