Over the past 25 years, most high-growth companies have realized that effective leadership is about more than just being smart or having a high IQ. You need to be emotionally savvy as well. Having emotional intelligence (or EQ as it’s generally referred to) means being able to understand and manage your emotions in a positive and effective way. Given that positive work environments hinge on having good working relationships, that’s critical. All the more so in times like these when there’s so much anxiety and uncertainty. 

Simply put, having a high EQ helps individuals and leaders communicate better, empathize with others, develop better social skills, and manage conflict more effectively. If you’re interested in developing your EQ, keep reading for some quick tips to help get you started.

How to develop your emotional intelligence 

There are several components to emotional intelligence, all of which require focus and practice. Developing your emotional intelligence relies heavily on self-awareness and being able to recognize and understand your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts, behaviors, and decisions. This includes being able to tune into negative feelings without avoiding those that might make you uncomfortable.

Effective leaders are not only able to register their emotions in real time, but also control them. That’s critical because if you’re in a position of power, you need to be able to react to an array of difficult situations in a cool, calm, and collected manner. Emotional regulation also helps us develop the ability to consider various solutions to a particular situation or problem, rather than just reacting impulsively. Not only that, when we empathize with others, we can build more constructive and meaningful relationships. Empathy is really about recognizing how and why people feel and behave the way they do.

If you work on building on all of these skills in your everyday life, it will help you develop your EQ in the workplace as well.

Practicing with your team

If you’re leading a team, you want to be able to create a positive work environment through effective communication. That starts with active listening. 

Active listening means not interrupting the person you’re talking with, but rather letting them finish what they have to say and even staying silent for a moment after they’re done to really take things in. Then you want to repeat back what you’ve just heard. By doing so, you’ll demonstrate that you’ve really listened to what they had to say. Make sure to also ask if there’s anything else that they want to talk about. This creates an opportunity for the person to bring up something they may not have otherwise felt comfortable mentioning.

Lastly, consider the situation after it’s over and think about what you think you did well and how you could improve the next time from a communication perspective. Be honest with yourself and always try to refine your technique.

Using emotional intelligence with customers

Anytime you’re dealing with a customer, make sure you’re aware of whatever emotions you’re feeling. You might be frustrated with a customer who’s complaining about your product or bored because you hear the same things from customers all the time. Or maybe you’re just having a bad day and just not all that excited about what you’re talking about.

We all experience these kinds of feelings. The key is to identify them and learn how to control or shift them when you’re dealing with customers. One way to approach this is by thinking about the range of emotions you might experience on a typical work day, and then focusing on more positive ways you can react.

If you’re frustrated with an angry customer, for example, think about being more empathetic. By showing them empathy, they will be more likely to lower their voice and explain why they’re upset. By re-orienting your feelings and reaction you can solve problems rather than escalating them.

Stop, think, and practice

The skills you need to develop your emotional intelligence may be simple, but mastering them takes practice. Being aware of your own emotions and reactions, those of others, and the changes you can make to improve your communication will give you the tools you need to develop your EQ and become a more effective leader.