Why emotional intelligence matters at work

Emotional intelligence (sometimes called emotional quotient, or EQ) is a hot topic these days, especially in the workplace. EQ refers to your ability to understand and manage emotions — “soft” skills that are skyrocketing in demand. In a recent survey, 75% of hiring managers said they value an employee's EQ more than their IQ!

But what does EQ look like in real life, and how can it improve your communication, problem solving, and relationships at work? Find out below and learn how you can strengthen your EQ skills to improve your job performance.

People with high EQ …

  • Make better decisions and solve problems
  • Stay cool under pressure
  • Navigate and resolve conflicts
  • Are more empathetic
  • Listen, reflect, and respond to constructive criticism

People with low EQ …

  • Tend to play the role of victim
  • Avoid taking responsibility for mistakes
  • Dismiss other people’s opinions
  • Have a passive or aggressive communication style
  • Are overly critical of others

What can EQ do for you?

Strong EQ skills can enhance every aspect of your life. Research shows improving your EQ helps you become more self-aware, motivated, and empathetic. It can also make you better at:

  • Communication. Recognizing your own emotions, and those of others, helps you express yourself clearly and respectfully. This creates positive interactions and reduces misunderstandings.
  • Conflict resolution. Conflicts are inevitable, but emotionally intelligent people can manage their emotions during a disagreement, actively listen to others’ perspectives, and find mutually beneficial solutions.
  • Teamwork. People with high EQ consider different viewpoints and are able to connect with teammates on an emotional level. This builds trust and makes teams more innovative and productive.
  • Decision making. EQ skills help you see the complete picture when analyzing a situation — you consider emotional factors as well as the facts. This balanced approach can help you make more informed decisions.

5 ways to improve your EQ

Your upbringing and personality play a large role in the development of emotional intelligence — but you can improve it with effort and practice! Try these tips to elevate your EQ skills.

  1. Work on self-awareness. This means being aware of different aspects of yourself, including your emotions. Practice paying attention to how you are feeling. Learning how to recognize your own emotions as they happen — and what triggers them — puts you in control, rather than letting your feelings overwhelm you.
  2. Learn how to manage emotions. Being aware of your emotions is an important first step, but you also need to be able to manage those feelings so they don’t drive your behavior. Try taking a pause between a feeling and an action so you can think things through first. Rather than bottling up emotions or reacting impulsively, wait for the right time to express yourself appropriately. You can also get better at keeping your cool, experts say, by routinely doing things that lower your overall stress, like exercising, spending time outside, or enjoying a hobby.
  3. Improve your social skills. Emotionally intelligent people have good social skills, which makes it easier to build rapport and communicate effectively. Being able to adjust your behavior to suit your surroundings is one of the most important skills. So is active listening — meaning you’re showing attention and asking questions rather than just passively listening to someone talk. Also, pay attention to non-verbal cues. A person’s body language can tell you a lot about what they really think.
  4. Become more empathetic. Are you good at stepping into someone else’s shoes to understand how they feel? Looking at things from their perspective isn’t always easy, especially if you feel like the other person is wrong, but it can help conflicts get resolved faster. Also, pay attention to how you respond to others — do you give them a chance to share their ideas? Do you acknowledge their input, even if you disagree? When you let people know their efforts matter, you may find everyone is more willing to compromise.
  5. Find your motivation. People with strong EQ tend to be self-motivated. They are driven to do things because they are personally rewarding, not for some type of reward or recognition. At work, stay focused on setting personal goals and moving toward them despite any obstacles. Focus on the things you love about your job, like that satisfaction you feel after finishing a big project, impressing your manager, or making your customer happy.
“Utilizing Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace,” verywellmind (verywellmind.com), December 11, 2022
“How to Develop and Practice Self-Regulation,” verywellmind (verywellmind.com), May 5, 2023
“How to Use Emotional Intelligence to Solve Your Biggest Problems,” Inc. (inc.com)