Top 10 Future Skills: Emotional Intelligence

With the rise of automation comes the rise of soft skills. The landscape of work is shifting; and in order to keep up with the change, workers need to develop competencies that machines won’t tackle. In this series we talk about the top 10 soft skills that will help you to thrive in 2020. And today’s skill is emotional intelligence, EI or EQ.


What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions. This soft skill allows you to access, generate, and understand emotions in order to promote emotional and intellectual growth.

This term was created by two researchers, Peter Salavoy and John Mayer, and then popularized by the science journalist and author Dan Goleman in his 1996 book Emotional Intelligence. The term is also known as emotional quotient or EQ, and its importance is often compared to the importance of the well-known IQ. Emotional intelligence is a transferrable skill that helps you to form stronger relationships, build resilience, and achieve goals.


Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?

PsychTests’ researchers have analyzed the results of 34,809 people who took their Emotional Intelligence Test and have found that strong emotional intelligence alone can result in successful and fulfilling lives. Their study reveals that 72% of those with high IQ & high EQ receive a “Good” or “Excellent” work performance rating compared to 38% of those with high IQ but low EQ. Additionally, high levels of EQ correlate with lower frequency of conflict and higher relationship and life satisfaction. The terms “book smarts” and “people smarts” can also refer to IQ and EQ. People may receive a good education and get hired for a decent job based on their book smarts. However, it’s the people smarts that ensure a high standard of interpersonal relationships, which can compensate for a less stellar IQ.

In his HBR article, Goleman defines four domains of emotional intelligence, which are self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, and relationship management. These domains are comprised of a total of 12 elements, which can be improved based on the individual’s strengths.

Anyone can learn soft skills at any time. Knowing where you personally stand with each skill is half the battle. The other half is starting to implement small changes to build habits and practice those skills that you need to build.

In this article we will cover three of the four domains of emotional intelligence. You will also learn about the tools required to improve these skills.


Domain 1: Self-Management

Self-management is the ability to take responsibility for your own behavior and well-being. This skill is comprised of emotional self-control, adaptability, achievement orientation, and positive outlook.

Emotional self-control. The ability not to give in to temptations greatly affects our overall productivity and efficiency. When we practice self-discipline, we may consider removing temptations. Be it a phone buzzing with social media notifications or a thought that needs to be written down. When it comes to emotional self-control, we need to be aware of triggers that result in unwanted behaviour. For example, us snapping at someone or being impatient. To ensure that negative emotions don’t transfer from one situation to another, let’s say, from a bad day at work to a family dinner, consider having a transition period between tasks.

Angry man breaking his table
Take control over your anger

Adaptability. Adapting your behavior to a new situation is a determining factor for success in an ever-changing world. In his article in Forbes, Jeff Boss identifies 14 signs of an adaptable person. Such people experiment, think ahead, don’t blame others, and see opportunity in failures. In order to feel comfortable in a new environment, start working on your fears and explore new approaches to new tasks. Build your comfort level by taking small risks – here is an article with 27 small risk ideas.

Achievement Orientation and Positive Outlook

Achievement orientation. Although one could argue that it’s the journey that counts, you can’t disregard the results as they often determine your effectiveness as a professional. To create a step-by-step outline that will help you complete a project, create an actionable plan to follow. Define the big picture and reverse-engineer steps, calculate the risks, and set small SMART goals along the way. Identify resources you might need, i.e. people, hard skills, soft skills.

Positive outlook. Have you noticed that we cling on to negative things too long? Noticing something positive may require a conscious effort. To practice a positive outlook, you may start a gratitude journal, implement short meditations or positive affirmations. Additionally, you could turn failures into growth points. It is important to ensure that you are not surrounded by people who bring negative self-talk into your life. Find positive mentors and friends from whom you can draw inspiration.

Now let’s focus on the present moment, the emotions you feel and the thoughts that tend to be in the back of your head as the days go by. Let’s talk about self-awareness.

Domain 2: Self-awareness

Self-awareness is a conscious effort to understand your feelings, emotions, and motives. It is an act of accepting your character and learning to work with your strengths and weaknesses.

Feelings are just visitors
Feelings are just visitors – let them come and go

Emotional self-awareness allows you to recognize your feelings and understand their influence on your actions. This concept is similar to mindfulness as it requires you to pause and look inwards for the true motives and causes of your behavior. Emotional self-awareness can help you check in with the goal you are trying to achieve and not get into the trap of autopilot in the everyday routine. To become comfortable with both negative and positive feelings and to allow yourself to experience an array of emotions, you may practice guided meditations and implement a few mindfulness exercises.

Now that we’ve looked inwards, let’s consider interpersonal relations and skills which will help maintain high levels of life satisfaction.


Domain 3: Social Awareness

Social awareness is the ability to get into other people’s shoes and to understand the perspectives of people from different backgrounds. Social awareness helps us to understand behavioral norms in a certain environment, and it includes empathy and organizational awareness.

Empathy. Being compassionate to others makes people better family members and coworkers, allowing them to build deep connections and have meaningful interactions. Three main pieces of actionable advice to improve empathy are to be curious about others, to be vulnerable in conversations, and to try to understand opposing opinions that you may not agree with.

Man showing empathy towards woman
Improve your empathy towards other people

Organizational awareness is the ability to understand structure, culture, and processes within an organization. Being aware of who is the opinion leader, what are the traditional ways of interacting with external partners, and unwritten rules can help understand the internal landscape, especially for new employees. Observe conversations within meetings, and find the “go to” people to solve different problems. If you are considering starting a company, refer to this article to learn practical tools on building and maintaining organizational culture.


Domain 4: Relationship Management

Applying emotional intelligence principles in personal and professional settings improves your surroundings and allows for healthier relationships. To learn more about implementing EI in the professional setting, refer to this article on EI and career development.

Photos: Shutterstock / Edited by: Martina Advaney

Check out the other articles in the series of Top Future Skills:

  1. Complex Problem Solving
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People Management and Coordination



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