The term emotional intelligence (or EQ, Emotional Quotient) is thrown loosely around like confetti at a holiday parade. Yet, very few people understand why it's so critical. With emotional intelligence in big demand at the workplace, our expectations are even higher for business owners, managers, and leaders.
What many do not realize is that emotional intelligence develops in childhood (or not). The good news is that unlike IQ, that doesn't change, EQ can be learned, but it requires knowledge, skills, and lots of practice.
Some of the questions I hear in my emotional intelligence trainings are: "Why am I so emotional? I just want to do my job." or "Why do my co-workers have such emotional sensitivity?" Or someone can have the opposite challenge, "Why can't I express my feelings without getting angry?" or "Why can't my co-worker stop being so defensive?"
How Emotional Intelligence Is Learned
From very young, we are taught (or not) how to express emotions appropriately. Depending on how you were parented, you may have been taught to hide and suppress “negative” emotions. For instance, boys tend to be taught not to cry or to buck up because emotions appear weak; for girls, it’s okay to cry, yet, if they get angry, they should suppress anger or they won't be liked. Generalizations, yes, but nonetheless, still prevalent.
On the other hand, we readily embrace positive emotions. Happiness, peacefulness, and excitement are all types of emotions that everyone wants to experience. Given a choice, many might want to only feel positive emotions. Yet, there are times when we may even suppress good emotions, even though we really don't want to. For instance, you just found out you are getting a promotion with a huge pay increase. Lucky you! You want to express the emotions that go along with this great news. Unfortunately, your co-worker just got a phone call letting him or her know a close relative passed away.
Allowing yourself to express all those great feelings in front of someone who has just lost a family member isn't the right timing. Your co-worker would most likely view sharing it as a lack of caring and compassion. So, instead, you suppress your excited emotions. This is called social intelligence.
Emotional Intelligence at Work
Yes, it’s socially acceptable to not flaunt good news in the midst of someone who has just experienced a great loss. However, it is vital for you to celebrate your success. Granted, the timing isn’t right, but, once your co-worker is no longer around, there is no reason to not embrace your emotions. This is self-compassion. Don’t flee your happy feelings; hold that joy until later! Their hardship does not invalidate your positive experience.
The same is true when we experience negative emotions. Suppressing them and not dealing with them is unhealthy. Ignoring uncomfortable or unpleasant emotions can cause us to become numb and emotionally unresponsive. Using our example above, let’s assume your co-worker suppressed their emotions that accompanied losing a loved one.
They don’t allow themselves to grieve the loss or experience their sadness, hurt, and other feelings they may be experiencing. Instead, they push them down and bottle them up. Months go by, and then something good happens. Rather than allow themselves to feel joy and happiness, their responses are lackluster with few emotions tied to them. Whenever we repress negative emotions, we also repress the ability to experience the positive!
This is one reason why it’s important to allow ourselves to feel both positive and the slower, heavier emotions, such as disgust or sadness.
Related reading: "What Is Emotional Intelligence?"
Emotional intelligence is about feeling whatever we're feeling, regulating our emotions, and then expressing them in healthy ways.
At the workplace, we interact with co-workers and bosses who come from a wide assortment of backgrounds. Each of us has diverse mindsets and differing attitudes toward emotions. Some think there is no place for emotions at the workplace. Others know that is an impossibility and seek an emotional balance. In addition to navigating emotions, we're also confronted by generational differences, varying work styles, and a wide spectrum of personalities, some more difficult than others.
It is essential to keep in mind that negative emotions aren't bad. The flaw in viewing negative emotions as bad is only what we’ve been taught since we were children, along with socially acceptable norms, which causes us to tend toward ignoring or suppressing them. Instead look at emotions like positive and negative charges, much like electricity.
Being able to regulate our emotions and work through negative feelings helps you grow emotionally and create more room for the positive. Plus, it helps us develop a sense of inner peace within ourselves. When we are at peace, we tend to have less stress, lead happier lives, and achieve greater success.
In order to accomplish this emotional balance, we must be willing to identify and acknowledge all of our emotions and feelings and be open to exploring them. Each emotion has a purpose and is necessary to guide us to return to our True North.
Develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities to embrace all of your emotions. Check out Heartmanity’s programs for growth and transformation.
And feel free to contact us at (406) 577-2100 or email support@heartmanity for further details to learn greater emotional intelligence today!