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An Introduction To Emotional Intelligence

By: Peter S. Taylor

For successful leaders, emotional intelligence is nearly five times as important as their technical competencies. Peter S. Taylor, of C. J. Brown & Associates Inc., looks at the concept.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of working in human resources is avoiding getting caught up in the emotions of the people you are dealing with. Emotionally charged situations can arise when the employee needs to be encouraged to take advantage of the company’s employee assistance program or when a plan member has had a drug claim rejected.

One key to becoming better able to handle these situations, and become more effective interpersonally, is emotional intelligence. Research at Harvard University has shown that as predictors of success, IQ and the skills acquired through formal education and on-the-job training each count for eight to nine per cent.

However, the most significant predictor of success is emotional intelligence. It accounts for at least twice the combined total of the other two or nearly 40 per cent. For successful leaders, the research suggests that emotional intelligence is nearly five times as important as their technical competencies.

Hard Evidence
When I first investigated emotional intelligence, my reaction was that these discoveries made sense.

Unanswered was whether emotional intelligence could be developed in someone who was not emotionally intelligent. The answer became obvious when I explored the components of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence begins with the awareness of one’s own emotions. It means that when someone notes that you are looking upset or excited, their comment is not a surprise! You already are aware of your emotions. With effort, people can learn to become more aware of their feelings. They can be aided by a formalized self-analysis and can then begin to address their shortcomings while leveraging their strengths.

The second component of emotional intelligence is emotional management. You are able to manage your emotions in a nonthreatening manner. For example, you are prepared to respectfully tell someone you are annoyed (angry, frustrated, delighted) in a way that allows them to understand your feelings, but not be intimidated by a raised voice or potentially threatening desk thumping.

Impulse Control
A significant component of emotional management is impulse control. This is the ability to effectively manage strong feelings that, if not channeled constructively, could cause significant difficulties in relationships. People can develop this skill by following the advice that many probably received in their childhood. ‘Stop and take a deep breath’ is a very practical first step to take before responding or reacting to unexpected events. Without this brief pause, one might say something or behave in a way that could create a secondary problem.

The third component of emotional intelligence involves the ability to successfully manage one’s reactions to the emotions of others. This means that you do not get embroiled in the emotions of someone who is upset. You are able to empathize with them without getting overwhelmed by their emotions. It also involves refining one’s ability to communicate effectively under a variety of conditions.

For too long people have talked disparagingly of those who react in an ‘emotional’ manner. They are often viewed as weak. Studies of the brain indicate that due to the way it developed, it is hardwired so that emotional reactions naturally occur before people start to think. People who do not understand this sequence frequently experience emotional hijacks that cause them to say or do things that result in new interpersonal problems distinct from the original issue.

The development of emotional intelligence in business has huge potential benefits. It can be incorporated in the selection process to reduce the cost of turnover of people who are hired based on their IQ and education and then hastily released because ‘they did not fit in’ with the existing culture.

Another significant benefit of an emotionally intelligent workplace is that there are fewer unresolved interpersonal disputes. Emotionally intelligent people are better equipped to deal with day-to-day challenges and are, therefore, less likely to need to access organizational support systems such as the human resources department or the employee assistance program.

Peter S. Taylor is an associate at C.J. Brown & Associates Inc.

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