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Counselor Commentary: The Value Of Emotional Intelligence

What makes a person successful in business? Some would say smarts, others might argue timing and luck, but studies show what really matters most is emotional intelligence (EQ). Which begs the question: so what exactly is this EQ? There’s honestly no clear-cut definition, making it all the more intriguing.

The term EQ was made popular by psychologist Daniel Goleman all the way back in 1995. Since then, more and more research has been done that links high EQ to strong workplace achievement. In fact, high EQ tends to trump high IQ as a trait leaders need to have to be respected and successful. In a test of more than 30 workplace skills, consultancy TalentSmart even found that EQ was the best predictor of performance. This is one study among many producing similar results.

Goleman studies EQ by evaluating both self-awareness and social skills, while factoring in some tendencies like the willingness to empathize in decision making. In layman’s terms, people with high EQ are aware of their feelings, can control them and can self-motivate. These people are also socially aware, excel at managing relationships and are honest and considerate. It makes total sense, then, that high EQ is necessary for excellence in management, sales, marketing and training – all the areas that count in business.    

What’s neat about EQ is that psychologists believe it can be learned – it’s not innate and final like IQ. It counters the idea that someone “set in their ways” is incapable of change. A 2014 piece by Psychology Today laid out six ways people can increase their EQ. Two of the most basic are: working to avoid negative emotions and bouncing back from adversity. This all sounds easier said than done, but consider these applications.

If you go into a negotiation focused on one outcome, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to disappointment and maybe resentment. If you open yourself up to alternatives – almost a good, better, best scenario – you’re reducing the odds of a jolting negative moment. It’s a way of managing expectations that helps you to look at things more positively. In the second case, when dealing with a setback, putting your energy into what’s next instead of what happened can strengthen your EQ. Sulking and walking around ticked off might be a normal reaction, but it does you no good in a business situation. Pick yourself up and find the next opportunity.

To the grizzled, old-school type business veteran, EQ might seem like a bunch of hooey. But this view ignores not just the data, but good sense. A bump up in EQ might improve your professional capacity and your company’s bottom line. So what’s it going to be? It’s your move.