Friday 1 April 2016 3:55 am

Emotional intelligence: The bits you can learn and how they'll help you in the workplace

Many companies are becoming increasingly aware of the true impact that Emotional Quotient (EQ) can have within the business arena. Given that many professional or technical skills can be taught on the job, EQ is increasingly seen as a sought-after commodity. And research and anecdotal feedback shows that leaders and employees who have high levels of EQ are likely to be far more successful in the long-term.

So what impact is emotional intelligence having on your workplace, and can it be learnt?

Different mindsets

As a business psychologist, I often refer to the idea of the “fixed mind-set”. This is typified by a reluctance to embrace constructive feedback, a general culture of blame, and a resistance to considering setbacks or adversity as opportunities for development (the so-called “growth mindset”).

As a result, people and businesses are more prone to plateau and to become rigid in their behaviours and outlook. As Charles Darwin said: “it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives…but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

The benefits of emotional intelligence

Modern companies require leaders and workforces that are adaptable and versatile enough to accommodate changing circumstances. They not only need to understand their own strengths and weaknesses, but also the wider impact of their behaviour. A person with high emotional intelligence is likely to have strong self-awareness of their default reactions and impact on other people, and an ability to exercise restraint or to adopt alternative paths when circumstances dictate.

To put it another way, emotional intelligence equals interpersonal effectiveness.

Equally, an empathetic individual is far more likely to be attuned and receptive to the needs of colleagues and customers. This leads to the opportunity to establish more harmonious and sustainable relationships. By outwardly demonstrating a better understanding and acceptance of others, we are not only more likely to earn their trust and respect, but also enhance our own ability to influence their emotions and decision-making processes.

Maybe you're born with it?

There is often the mistaken belief that EQ is largely a fixed entity – you either have it or you don’t. However, there is no doubt that progressive companies are becoming very switched on to the almost infinite possibilities it presents.

There is no denying that EQ requires a lot more sustained effort to develop than IQ. That is because IQ is hardwired into the brain’s neocortex. This is the most advanced part of the brain which governs our analytical thinking, and is especially efficient at mastering new learning.

On the other hand, EQ resides in the brain’s limbic system. This area of the brain only develops by means of regular and consistent rehearsal. It is therefore no coincidence that we are seeing a significant upsurge in requests for a range of EQ-related coaching programs including mindfulness, unconscious bias, resilience and even charisma training.