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We’re emotional creatures. Whether we’re happy, sad, or somewhere in-between, everything we do–our actions, decisions, and reactions–stems from emotion.

It’s no wonder, then,  that emotional intelligence (or EQ) is so important. Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage your emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and resolve conflict. Because it helps with these crucial life and work skills, emotional intelligence plays a key role in personal development. In fact, out of 34 essential workplace core skills, emotional intelligence was found to be the strongest predictor of performance (explaining a 58% success rate in all types of jobs), while 57% of managers believe their highest performing employees have strong EQ. 

Emotional intelligence is made up of four key qualities: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. These impact various aspects of our personality, influencing how we perceive, interpret, and respond to emotions, other people, and the world around us. 

Here's how you can enhance your EQ to help build stronger interpersonal relationships and best pave a satisfying professional path.

1. Increase Self-Awareness

Self-awareness refers to the ability to see yourself and your perceptions objectively through reflection and introspection. It involves recognizing one’s own emotions and how they affect thoughts and behavior. 

As leaders, self-aware individuals understand different leadership styles and how they impact different individuals, and ultimately, team performance. They’re equipped to tackle challenges, influence outcomes, and drive better work, because they recognize when they need to change their approach or learn new skills in order to be and do better. 

So how can you increase your self-awareness?

  • Understand your strengths and overused strengths: We all have strengths that make up how we behave when we’re at our best, most productive selves. However, these strengths can also be counter-productive and potentially harmful if they are overused and interfere with others’ workplace needs. A leader whose boldness is a strength in closing deals might come across as aggressive when engaging with a more sensitive co-worker. Because we’re all different, it’s essential to understand our strengths, how they impact others, and when to pull back on them to meet the needs of those around us.


  • Leverage your behaviors with your colleagues and team: Model the behavior you’d like the rest of your team to follow. Actively enhance your self-awareness by objectively looking at yourself, taking a personality assessment such as Birkman, and listening to feedback. Then encourage those around you to do the same–teams can only improve when each individual is able to understand and manage themselves better.


  • Check your unproductive behaviors: We all have blind spots that are invisible to us but obvious to others. For this reason, they take hard work and consistent effort to get right. Keep checking, identifying, and intentionally working on improving your blind spots–you’ll better yourself and your workplace relationships.


2. Practice Self-Control

Self-control or self-management, is the ability to control impulsive feelings and behaviors and manage your emotions in healthy ways. It’s difficult to think clearly and make a rational decision when you’re stressed or out of your comfort zone. By practicing self-control, you’re able to better navigate tough times, modeling positive behaviors and attitudes for the rest of your team to follow. Self-management is key to building resilience and credibility, and setting a positive example. 

To improve your self-management, consider the following tips:

  • Learn to adapt to change. While constant change in our lives can be unsettling, it’s also essential for growth and progress. Yet in what McKinsey & Company calls the adaptability paradox, when we most need fresh thinking and flexibility we fall back on old ways, stifling learning and innovation. Embrace a mentality of change by actively developing your adaptability skills and learning to be more responsive and flexible.


  • Recognize your emotional responses to different situations. Everyone brings a different perspective, personality, and viewpoint to the table. Using objective insights to fully understand your own perceptions–your strengths, weaknesses, interests, and underlying needs–helps you identify how you’ll respond in certain situations before they happen. In this way, you can prepare yourself in advance for anything that lies ahead.


  • Reflect on past experiences and outcomes: Often, looking backwards is essential to moving forwards. So before recklessly responding to a stressful situation or frustrating colleague, take a more measured approach to pause and reflect before taking action.


3. Improve Social Awareness

EQ expert Daniel Goleman defines social awareness as our ability to accurately understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people. Individuals who are socially aware pick up on emotional cues easily, feel comfortable socially, and recognize the team dynamics in a group or organization. This typically makes them a great team player. 

Because our relationships and social interactions play a vital role in living a happy and rewarding life, the ability to empathize with others and understand why people do the things they do is incredibly important. This information is key to helping us navigate social situations more successfully and build stronger bonds in both our personal and professional lives.

Increase your social awareness by:

  • Practicing empathy: Empathy is the ability to recognize and relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experiences of others. People with high levels of empathy are skilled at understanding a situation from another person’s perspective and tailoring their response to react appropriately. 


  • Understanding and appreciating different perspectives: Imagine how boring life would be if we were all the same! Thankfully, we’re not–different views, personalities, and perspectives make each of us unique in our own special way, encouraging diversity of thought. And it is these differences in perception that hold the key to optimal team performance, propelling the creativity and innovation that results from multiple, varying viewpoints.


  • Understanding the “why” behind others’ behaviors: Different behaviors stem from a number of factors. Some are easier to figure out–social norms and cultural differences, for example. Others are more complicated, like individual strengths and weaknesses. Using a personality assessment tool such as Birkman gives you insight into the perceptions of others, lending greater understanding into why people behave the way they do. This understanding forms the foundation for healthy conflict, better communication, and more effective collaboration.


4. Cultivate Relationship Management

Relationship management, as the word suggests, refers to the ability to develop and maintain good and positive relationships with everyone in your life, whether it be your partner, family, work colleagues, or employees.

When we all get along, life is so much better. And yet, conflict and disagreements are inevitable. Cultivating and maintaining healthy relationships means you’re taking the time and effort to build trust and respect for one another–resulting in better communication and conflict resolution.

Use the following tips to improve your relationship management:

  • Practice active listening: Active listening includes not only hearing what someone is saying, but listening for what’s not spoken as well. It involves a number of skills, from knowing your recipient’s favored communicative style and learning how to read subtle clues to controlling your own emotional response. This in turn allows you to communicate back with intention, opening the door for constructive dialogue and better team collaboration.
  • Recognize the needs of others: From communication to assertiveness, and decision-making to time management, every person on the team has different workplace needs. Because these needs are unspoken, however, they often go unmet. To understand and recognize the workplace needs of everyone on the team, consider leveraging objective insights such as those highlighted by the Birkman Signature Report.
  • Use influence rather than authority: The best leaders don’t depend on hierarchy or a system of corporate law to get results from their team. Rather, they learn to understand the needs of others, so they’re equipped to lead by influence–not authority. Once you know what each of your team members needs to be their most productive selves in the workplace, it’s easier to get the best out of them for every task and project, simply by respecting and adapting to the way they see the world.

Each of the four characteristics of emotional intelligence are needed to lead and build relationships with your team members and colleagues. Together, self-awareness, self-control, social awareness, and relationship management will help you resolve conflicts, build trust, and be the leader your team needs.

Expand your emotional intelligence skills today. Be a better leader with Birkman by seeing the world differently through the lens of personality.

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