In today’s job market, everyone needs an edge. Workers are expected to do more with fewer resources and in some cases, for less pay. Self-motivated workers with strengths in teamwork, adaptability, empathy, and the ability to effectively manage their emotions are shown to tremendously outpace their peers. These qualities, among others, are key components of emotional intelligence. In brief, emotional intelligence is expressing your feelings in an appropriate manner to accomplish specific goals, a very important skill in a diverse demanding workforce.

The good news is that anyone can improve their emotional intelligence. It just takes awareness and commitment to being your best self. Your emotional intelligence is central to how you are perceived, an element of your “personal brand.” Are you known as rational, diplomatic, and open-minded, or are you seen as a bit of a dramatic over-reactor? In either case, improvements in your emotional intelligence will strengthen your work and home relations and improve your quality of life.

5 Steps to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

  1. Identify your emotional state. Become aware of how you are feeling when you are alone and when you are interacting with others. Are you happy, excited, nervous, stressed, or neutral? If you are stressed or upset, avoid situations that may heighten this emotion until you regain a more neutral state.
  2. Know your triggers. Everyone has “hot buttons” that can trigger an unintended response. Triggers cause you to momentarily lose control over your emotions and react either too quickly and/or with more intensity than intended. Passionate responses to emotionally-charged moments often exacerbate the situation and result in negative consequences. What types of behaviors/actions make you really upset? Why?
  3. Practice impulse control. When confronted with a stressful situation, take a few deep breaths to give your brain more time to select an appropriate response. Buy more time by asking questions to clarify the facts. Lower your voice and slow down your speech pattern to reduce the intensity and maintain calm. This will allow you to focus on the facts separately from the emotions. This can be difficult, but gets better with practice. A reasoned thoughtful reaction goes much farther than a passionate outburst. Remember that you may not have to respond at that moment – get back to the individual later after you have had time to consider all options.
  4. Be aware of your impact on others. Just one person can change the dynamic of a group for the better or worse. A negative response to a situation may perpetuate throughout a group, cause additional stress, and reduce productivity. A positive or neutral response to the same situation will maintain calm and focus and preserve or enhance productivity. Although we sometimes cannot control the situation, we can always control our responses to a situation.
  5. Respect yourself and how you would like to be perceived. Keep an image of your best self in your mind and check in with this image throughout the work day to help keep you on track. Positive imaging is a powerful tool to success.

By practicing these five steps, you will certainly become a more valued and regarded worker, have less stress, and be happier. Give it try and enjoy the results!