2 Simple Questions to Strengthen EQ at Work!

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Have you ever described a coworker as insensitive, emotionally clued out, void of emotion, or oblivious to other people’s feelings?  If so, chances are that coworker could do with improving his or her EQ. And it is quite possible that same coworker might struggle in his or her interpersonal relationships at work—because low EQ can damage relationships, impair trust, and reduce likeability.

EQ or “emotional quotient,” is the emotional counterpart to the term IQ which stands for “intelligence quotient.” EQ is all about being intelligent about feelings—yours and those around you.

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Tuning in to feelings and acknowledging what someone needs emotionally is the incredibly powerful stuff that shapes our interactions and can resolve, and also prevent, interpersonal conflict–at work and beyond. In fact, helping people to identify & articulate feelings, and understand & acknowledge needs is a big part of what I do when I help my clients work through their workplace conflicts in mediation. I have had the pleasure of witnessing it many times, that magical moment of pure relief that arrives when feelings are understood and needs acknowledged. Ahhhh! And when that incredible moment happens, the repair work is almost done!

EQ at work is about:

  • Having positive emotional intention with your colleagues
  • Being “clued in” to how people feel
  • Being emotionally aware and self-aware
  • Looking for the emotion behind the words
  • Anticipating how our words or actions could emotionally impact our coworkers
  • Reflecting back upon how our behaviours have impacted coworkers
  • Doing the emotional repair work required

Demonstrating EQ at work can help to repair and maintain healthy workplace relationships.  And, great news…  emotional intelligence competencies are learned and can be practiced, enhanced, and strengthened at any point in life. In addition to building strong relationships at work, EQ can increase trust—because people trust you when they see that you care about how they feel.  And it can increase your likeability—people like people that have social skills, empathy, and care enough to be tuned in to their emotions.

Here are 2 great questions to ask yourself to further develop and strengthen your EQ at work:

What is the emotion behind what my coworker is saying to me right now?

When your coworker is speaking to you, listen to the words and also listen for what is not explicitly stated. Listen for what is not actually spoken out loud, but it’s there—emotionally. Go beyond the facts or the words that your colleague is speaking to really tune in to how she is feeling as she is speaking.  Is she fearful of something? Concerned? Angry? Disappointed?

Once you’ve identified the speaker’s feelings, consider what it is that she needs from you emotionally.  Is she looking for reassurance? Does she need an apology?  An explanation? Some sort of acknowledgement?  A commitment from you?

How could what I am about to do or say make my colleague feel?

In communication, when you are the speaker, anticipate the emotional impact of your words and actions on your colleague. If, as an example, you were to criticize your coworker in a public area, you could anticipate that your words and actions could embarrass, humiliate, hurt, or anger your coworker; it could tarnish his reputation (yours too btw!), damage trust between you, close down the current communications between you, break down future communications, and lead to conflict.

Recognizing the possibility of your colleague having a negative emotional reaction to your words/actions, consider if there is a way to say what you want to say in a way that will be better received. Is there a way to say it so it will hurt less? That can keep the door of communication open? Align with your positive intention? Is there and place and time to say it so it’s not causing embarrassment?

So, what’s your thoughts on EQ at work? I’m listening and I’d love to hear from you. Please submit your comments below. Thank you!

  • Harvard Business: Can You Really Improve Your Emotional Intelligence? (blogs.hbr.org)
  • Daniel Goleman is a psychologist and author of Emotional Intelligence and in this excellent 13-minute TED Talk he discusses EQ as well as his research into the psychology of compassion.
  • Boyatzis, Richard E. (2004). Assessing emotional intelligence competencies. Hauppauge, NY… emotional intelligence is a learned characteristic amongst employees.
  • Jordan, P., Troth. A., (2002) Emotional Intelligence and Conflict Resolution: Implications for Human Resource Development. Advances in Developing Human Resources 4, 62-79. … emotional intelligence helps in the resolution of conflict within organizations.
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