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How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Emotional intelligence in the workplace is an extremely valuable skill to learn. We’ll provide steps for you to improve your workplace empathy.


We love our jobs. Coaching is such a rewarding career that allows us to help others and apply our knowledge to improve ourselves. But workplaces can be tense, stressful environments, especially for those with lots of responsibilities and countless deadlines to meet. 

How we deal with our co-workers and workplace stress impacts our job satisfaction, performance, and professional development. By strengthening our professional communication and emotional intelligence, we’ll improve our professional relationships and overall work experience. 

But what is emotional intelligence, and how will it help us? We’ll discuss emotional intelligence skills and how practicing empathy benefits our professional lives and work environment.

What is emotional intelligence?

“Emotional intelligence” was first coined in the 1990s by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer, later popularized by Daniel Goleman. It refers to the ability to identify and manage our emotions and better understand others’.

Although there isn’t an emotional intelligence IQ test, people with a high emotional quotient (EQ) read social cues well, easily establish rapport with their peers, and make other people around them feel comfortable. These social skills are instrumental to improving company culture and interpersonal relationships in the workplace and in our day-to-day lives. 

Luckily, emotional intelligence isn’t something we do or don’t have. Anyone can learn more and develop greater emotional intelligence at any age and stage of life.

Components of emotional intelligence

Most psychologists studying emotional intelligence agree it has four distinct components:

1. Self-awareness

This refers to the ability to understand how and why we’re feeling what we’re feeling. Self-aware people understand the impact their emotions have on others and their surroundings.

In the workplace, self-awareness translates to humility and communicating our emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. People with this ability are honest with their capabilities and know when to say no.

2. Self-regulation

People who practice self-regulation are conscious of their reactions and can regulate their emotions instead of reacting reflexively. Imagine controlling emotions like turning a tap on and off: Those strong self-regulation skills can easily open and close their emotional faucet according to the situation.

In a work environment, people who practice self-regulation often manage conflicts, ease tension, and adapt well to challenges and changes. These individuals handle stressful situations with ease and help others overcome obstacles.

3. Empathy

Empathetic people understand why others respond to certain situations in specific ways. When we empathize with another person’s experience, we can easily imagine how they might feel and show them compassion. 

When our co-workers open up to us, we should actively listen to what’s bothering them and offer support. Workplace empathy involves not judging others and giving them the benefit of the doubt in frustrating or stressful situations.

4. Motivation

When we’re self-motivated (or intrinsically motivated), we want to do well for ourselves rather than seeking an external source or reward (which is an extrinsic motivator). Motivated people are often go-getters aiming to make the world a better place through their efforts and innovation.

In the office, motivation may translate to being driven and eager to succeed. These individuals strive for personal and professional development and continuous improvement.

Those with emotional intelligence have well-developed social skills, and we often turn to these people in times of need. They’re great conversationalists, use active listening, and maintain eye contact to show they’re engaged in conversations. Often, these individuals have great nonverbal communication skills and use open, friendly body language. Plus, they easily communicate with different people and are comfortable displaying leadership and conflict resolution skills. 


What is emotional intelligence in the workplace?

Why is emotional intelligence important in the workplace? Work environments require consistent cooperation, collaboration, and clear communication between different people working to accomplish the same goal, all while dealing with many stressors. In these situations, emotionally intelligent employees leverage their skills to:

  • Take and give feedback professionally and recognize that constructive criticism isn’t personal.
  • Work and engage with different teams, making good use of their social skills and abilities to quickly build rapport and encourage teamwork.
  • Problem-solve, stay calm when facing obstacles, and develop creative solutions rather than giving up.
  • Communicate effectively by actively listening and responding accordingly.
  • Take ownership over their mistakes instead of blaming others, and correct their mistakes moving forward.

Displaying emotional intelligence in groups encourages our team members, raises office morale, improves our collective mental health, and increases emotional well-being. The best kind of work environment is one where job satisfaction is high because intrinsically-motivated team members can support, connect with, and uplift each other.

Developing emotional intelligence

Now that we’ve covered the benefits of having emotional intelligence and self-awareness in the workplace, let’s put these concepts to work with some concrete examples we implement in our offices. Here are six ways to develop our emotional intelligence:

1. Build personal relationships with co-workers

We can build these connections in and out of the office by going for lunch and drinks after work with our teammates or by attending industry-relevant networking events together. Even water-cooler chats or Zoom coffee breaks during the week help you understand others on a personal level.

2. Identify and name emotions

By identifying our emotions, we can better process them and reflect before acting reflexively. This will help us be less impulsive and more intentional in decision-making.

3. Practice empathy

Our co-workers are all deeply complex human beings with their own thoughts, worries, joys, and problems both in and out of work. By exercising our empathy, we can better connect with others and understand their circumstances.

4. Stop and think in stressful situations

Taking some time to think about our decisions allows us to remove ourselves from the heat of the moment and consider other options and perspectives instead of acting on instinct. Remember, emotions will pass, but any actions or big decisions we make in the moment have consequences.

5. Listen carefully to others

This includes nonverbal communication and active listening. To show we’re paying attention, we should ask good questions, provide feedback, and reflect our engagement through nonverbal cues, facial expressions, and body language.

6. Provide and ask for feedback frequently

Providing and asking for feedback shows initiative and inspires those around us to strive toward improving their performance and professional development. Encouraging frequent feedback can also open up a cycle of regular and open communication. 

Implementing these tips will likely be an ongoing process and take practice. We need to be kind to ourselves as it’s difficult to adjust to these habits. And we should continue to work on our self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and motivation — even when we fail. 

It takes Practice to improve emotional intelligence

Improving emotional intelligence in the workplace may be more difficult for introverted individuals, but we can use many methods to work through difficult situations and consider the emotions of others. Part of emotional intelligence is evaluating our own competencies and playing to them. High emotional intelligence is self-reflective and revolves around social awareness.

Regardless of our seniority, we can inspire emotional intelligence in our workplace by practicing self-awareness, self-regulation, and responding empathetically to people’s emotions. 

As coaches, improving emotional intelligence strengthens our client relationships and coaching techniques. Start improving client relationships and try Practice’s all-in-one relationship management app today.

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