As an ATD member for more than three years, the opportunity to connect with peers and discuss current topics in training and development has been extremely valuable. No matter what type of event I’m attending, the conversation almost always focuses on management and their role in influencing others. I like to ask people just what makes these individuals influential and what specific skills should they have (because that has been a big focus in my law firm this year).
I hear a few characteristics repeatedly: hard work, patience, understanding, and adaptability. Recently, a new skill has been added to this short list: emotional intelligence.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
The concept of emotional intelligence (EI) is not a new one and dates back to the early 1990s. Popularized by Daniel Goleman, Mayer and Salovey (1990) explain that emotional intelligence is “the ability to monitor one’s own and other’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.” You can think of it as the “mindfulness of the heart.” Here are three areas where EI training programs can be helpful.
Adapting to Change
Humans are naturally emotional and implementing a change effort can be an ideal time to consider an EI program. Communicating with employees who are resistant to the change can help them to examine their feelings, decide if they are being reasonable, and adjust appropriately. Also, this presents an opportunity to connect with peers and management on a personal level, which can help to build strong, trusting relationships.
When problems arise (and they always will), emotional intelligent staff are able to decide when and how to express emotions—and not lend their feelings to the issue. They judge how they are feeling and look for clues that they may become overly emotional and affect their approach to the problem. Some of these clues could be increased heart rate, flushed skin, or raising one’s voice, to name a few. Employees can be trained to respond to issues quickly and with controlled emotions.
Handling Difficult Conversations
Difficult conversations are inevitable in the workplace, but emotionally intelligent people understand how to use their feelings as a tool to communicate effectively. They are able to avoid emotional language when engaged in difficult conversations, and they show empathy to others. Empathy is the act of recognizing someone else’s feelings by “putting yourself in another persons’ shoes.” This shows respect for others ‘needs, which often helps to diffuse an emotionally charged conversation.
No matter the specific situation, emotional intelligence is a skill, like many others, than can be taught. Individuals must be willing to build on the foundation that an EI training program provides by continuously practicing self-awareness. Bottom line: an emotionally intelligent workforce can achieve greater success, be more connected, and enjoy positive working relationships with others by investing time to have open, honest dialogue.