By Kate Pierson
In life we are taught the virtues of maintaining holistic balance in day-to-day life. But at times, sustaining that balance can be a challenge. Social, emotional and professional tides of change can disrupt our preferential patterns and propel us forward into unfamiliar territory, requiring us to re-establish the equilibrium.
Being emotionally aware and content is part of achieving balance and requires emotional intelligence — something we acquire naturally through our existence and through life’s experiences.
Emotional intelligence (EI) is also known as emotional quotient (EQ) — different terminology which carries the same meaning. The words are ubiquitous, but what do they mean?
While there have been wider definitions offered by industrial psychologists, professional consultants and business analysts, these concepts have mutual meaning and are generally defined by the following five components:
- Knowing your emotions
- Managing your emotions
- Recognising emotion in those around you
- Choosing emotions
- Dealing with your emotions in relationships.
While we may instinctively associate the concept of emotion with our family, friends and relationships, the professional environments we are involved with are just as capable of provoking strong emotions within us. For the preservation and promotion of a socially and professionally harmonious workplace, rationalising, understanding and dealing with emotion is essential.
Within the work zone, people can feel emotionally affected by a myriad of positive and challenging experiences. A promotion, positive feedback or reaching a milestone can evoke feel-good emotion, while social and professional obstacles within the workplace can bring on the blues.
In an interactive, integrated environment like an office, personalities may not always be complimentary to each other. Individuals may be intimidated by new ideas or projects, conflicting ideologies, or quite simply, verbal exchanges between well intended parties can get lost in translation resulting in misinterpretation and frustration. It is often these experiences which test our emotional character the most and require the application of emotional intelligence to find a resolve or resolution.
Discussing the legitimacy of the term emotional intelligence in context of the workplace is registered industrial and organisational psychologist, Crispin Garden-Webster. “It is of the utmost relevance. But essentially these concepts are a repackaging of what we have always known.
“I don’t want to upset the EQ illuminati but we are not explaining arcane or esoteric theories, as it’s not a radically new topic. Situational awareness and emotional maturity is not new.”
Garden-Webster says the anecdotal experiences we are all familiar with are evidence that EQ is a common tool utilised in workplaces, whether people consciously recognise they are demonstrating emotional intelligence or not.
“Sally’s not a morning person or don’t ask Cyril for help before he has his first coffee of the day,” are two of many examples of EQ in practise, Garden-Webster says.
But although we acknowledge the validity of this concept, the pertinent question is — do we understand it?
To understand EQ, it is important to identify behavioural examples of someone who possesses high EQ.
“People with high EQ are generally tuned into others and can identify their particular preferences,” Garden-Webster says.
“EQ helps you distinguish between introverted and extroverted personalities and therefore accommodate these differences. People who are extroverted in the workplace like to experience the world to understand it while introverted individuals like to understand the world before they experience it.
“These same principles apply in the workplace. Extroverts will want to discuss things in a profoundly social way, whereas introverts will want to understand it and work through it internally before talking.”
Garden-Webster says many introverted professionals require logical concrete facts when engaging with projects or assignments and don’t like ambiguity.
Extroverted professionals however, are not numbers people and want to feel or experience things to make decisions. Therefore, making the distinction between contrasting professional styles is fundamental and having high EQ can enable people to not only make the distinction but also understand and accommodate both personality types.
The value of EQ
High EQ is valuable when it comes to asking the right questions. “People with high EQ will tend to ask the logical questions and engage in the right conversations,” Garden-Webster says.
“For example, a person with high EQ will present questions like, ‘when you say this to me, it sounds like you feel like this — is that right?’ or, ‘I can’t do this for you, but I can do that — will that work for you?’
“These people will not make statements like ‘it’s my way or the highway’ or, ‘get hard or go home’,” he explains.
While EQ enables understanding, Garden-Webster says that having high EQ is not about pandering to peoples sensitivities. Instead, having EQ imbues people with the skills to manage difficult situations and helps them to lower the temperature when conflict arises.
But even difficult situations which involve personality clashes are great, he says, because individuals can air their problems right away, then pigeonhole them and not be stuck in middle-ground where there is no resolve. “If conflicting personalities are immediately engaged in dialogue, it will help them move forward with a better base understanding of each other,” Garden-Webster explains. With this understanding, people will increase their EQ.
To guide employee acquisition of EQ, Garden-Webster says businesses can utilise various methodologies that can be conducted in house or through assessment centres.
One methodology involves developing simulations of situations that demand EQ. This exercise will help employers identify which employees have higher EQ than others and how people will interact with one another.
To measure an employee’s EQ, psychometric testing or robust interviewing during recruitment can reveal behavioural traits and tendencies. “Ask questions like ‘can you tell me about a conversation or experience that was difficult for you? What did you do? What worked and what didn’t?’
“You need to be looking for an indication of how well they can read mood and whether they even thought this difficult conversation or experience was an issue in the first place,” Garden-Webster explains.
For more information on EQ courses and ways to improve and further understand EQ, contact your regional Chamber of Commerce or contact an industrial psychologist through the New Zealand Psychological Society,www.psychology.org.nz