We typically think of intelligence in terms of knowledge or cognitive reasoning ability, but there’s another kind of intelligence that’s just as important — if not more so — in a business environment.
Emotional intelligence refers to someone’s ability to read, feel and respond to emotions, within both himself (or herself) and others. And, yes, that may seem like a phenomenal quality to have when managing personal relationships, but you’d be surprised to learn how much emotional intelligence can affect your productivity, as well.
Tenets of emotional intelligence in the workplace
You’ve just read a basic definition of emotional intelligence, but let’s look at how it functions in the work environment. The way I see it, emotional intelligence manifests in three main dimensions:
Awareness and regulation. First, there’s the introspective side of emotional intelligence. This dimension is all about your ability to recognize, analyze and respond to your internal emotions. For example, if your idea is laughed at by a group of people, emotional intelligence will enable you to recognize the frustration or humiliation you feel, and give you some level of control over that emotion.
Empathy. Second, empathy allows you to internally feel what other people are feeling. This allows you to relate to others on a deeper and more reflective level, understanding their motivations and who they are as people.
Social skills. Third, emotional intelligence gives you better social skills, since you can use your emotional understanding to regulate your response, adjust your tone for different target audiences and figure out the “right” thing to say in almost any situation.
Related: 7 Signs That You’re an Emotionally Intelligent Person
Already, you can see how these traits are beneficial, but let’s focus on exactly how emotional intelligence allows you to get more done every day.
Understanding and controlling emotional responses
When you understand and have the ability to control your own emotional responses, you become less susceptible to mood swings or counterproductive reactions to frustrating situations. Allowing your anger or panic to get the better of you forces your mind to race, and prevents you from thinking rationally, or focusing on objectives one by one; this wastes time and instantly compromises your productivity.
Instead, it’s better to recognize where those “hot” emotions are coming from, bring them under control and proceed as calmly as possible.
Stress management and self-care
Entrepreneurship is also stressful. You’ll be facing tough decisionsalmost every day, and working long hours on a regular basis. Emotionally intelligent people know their own limits, and can recognize when the stress of the job is starting to get the better of them.
What’s more, they’ll proactively take breaks, whether that means an extra 10 minutes at lunch or a week-long vacation, and prevent themselves from ever becoming fully exhausted. As a result, they’ll get more done in a day and be far less likely to burn out.
Collaborating with others
As you might guess, emotionally intelligent leaders are much better at collaborating with other people — and collaboration is vital in a fast-paced startup environment. These people can read the emotions of others easily, recognizing their strengths, weaknesses and reactions for what they are.
They’re also adaptable, since they’re empathetic, and more willing to make sacrifices for the good of the team.
Accepting and incorporating feedback
The best entrepreneurs gather feedback, both internally and externally, to better understand how their companies are performing and how they can do better. Emotionally intelligent entrepreneurs are able to accept this feedback, even if it includes negative or harsh criticism, and understand it without taking it personally.
They’re also able to give feedback to their team members more productively, since they can deliver it with more sensitivity and greater focus on individual needs.
Striking valuable partnerships
Finally, emotional intelligence allows you to create better strategic partnerships and attract better people to your brand; it may even help you attract more social media followers. The idea here is that you’ll be able to understand exactly what your prospective partners need or want from you, and be able to communicate more effectively with them once the partnership agreement is drafted. These partners will be able to improve your company’s overall productivity and efficiency, provided you can maintain your relationship with them.
Clearly, then, emotional intelligence is worth honing as an entrepreneurial trait. If you don’t feel especially empathetic, or if you struggle to acknowledge and control your own emotions, don’t feel defeated. Emotional intelligence may have a genetic component, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of your reach.
Related: The Importance of Emotional Intelligence at Work
By getting in closer touch with your feelings, and working to listen to and understand others, you can gradually gain mastery over your own emotional intelligence. If you’re in a leadership position, or hope to be someday, I highly recommend you make the attempt.