Why we all need to be more ‘emotionally intelligent’ at work

    Emotional intelligence

    Want to become a stronger leader or better at handling difficult situations? Author and happiness researcher Andy Cope has the answer

    It turns out that ‘emotional intelligence’ is the key to better relationships and happiness. After 12 years of research into positive psychology, Andy Cope, co-author of The Little Book Of Emotional Intelligence: How To Flourish In A Crazy World, thinks he has the answer. Andy believes that by daring to be a little different – more optimistic, vivacious and energetic than the norm – and maximising our emotional intelligence (the ability to tune into others and ourselves) we can stand out for all the right reasons. This, in turn, can lead to more friends, success at work and happiness at home. Here, he explains the importance of emotional intelligence and how to use it to bloom at work – and in life.

    What is emotional intelligence?

    Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to tune into people and get on their wavelength. It’s always worth bearing in mind that the most important person you ever need to tune into is yourself – so emotional intelligence starts with you.

    Why is it helpful to have emotional intelligence at work?

    Emotional intelligence accepts the pressure, stress and constant change of the average workplace (i.e. that’s just the way the modern world is) but seeks to find solutions by asking a much better question. Instead of focusing on your never-ending ‘to-do’ list, EI challenges your ‘to-be’ list: who are you being while you’re doing those things? For me, EI is about creating a better version of you and that gives you a better chance of creating positivity in your colleagues.

    What is your top tip for maximising your emotional intelligence at work?

    Focusing on weaknesses leads to competence, whereas focusing on yours and other people’s strengths leads to extraordinary performance. When people use their strengths, they become engaged, energised and authentic. All too often, we get hung up on our weaknesses and focus on what we’re not very good at. Bestselling author Tom Rath reports that an employee whose boss focuses on their strengths over their weaknesses is more than two-and-a-half times likely to be engaged.

    How can emotional intelligence help you be a better leader?

    If you manage a team, it becomes even more important. An emotionally intelligent leader understands that they’re setting the tone. Get it right, and you can create a ripple of positivity across the organisation. This gives you a competitive advantage.

    How can it help with getting a promotion?

    If you apply some of the emotionally intelligent principles to yourself, you’ll feel more energetic and happy. You’ll create great relationships and positive emotional spirals in your work colleagues, so you’ll stand out a mile.

    What’s your advice for dealing with a heated situation at work?

    Often, a heated situation becomes worse because we’re good at magnifying negatives in our heads. Human brains are designed to facilitate ‘negativity bias’, which means we’re experts at noticing bad things and very bad at savouring good ones. So one angry customer ruins your day, one bad driver ruins your commute and one negative comment destroys your meeting. The question in your head should always be “How would the best version of me handle this situation?”. The answer is usually calmly, with a smile. I’m not suggesting you let the other person win. More, by being calm and level-headed, you will avoid the red mist and be able to come up with a win-win solution.

    How can we get better at knowing and managing our emotions?

    Whether it’s crying at work when we’re overwhelmed or snapping at our loved ones when we’re frustrated, the real starting point is to understand that emotions aren’t real – they’re not ‘things’. They’re a mental construct, which means they only ever come from your thinking. So, for example, you can’t get road rage without having an angry thought and you can’t feel joy without a happy thought. All emotions have positive intent, even negative ones. You’re feeling them for a reason. Rather than trying to control them, the trick is to understand that what you’re feeling is that initial thought. If you’re working to upgrade to more balanced and ‘emotionally intelligent’ thinking, you’ll find they don’t run away from you as much.

    Want to get better at achieving a healthier work-life balance? Read the 10 easy habits you need to start now.