The concept of emotional intelligence has been popular in corporate circles since the late 1990s, after the release of the best-selling book Working with Emotional Intelligence (Bantam; $28) by psychologist Daniel Goleman. The author makes the following case: Above IQ or expertise, a person’s ability to identify and manage his or her feelings, as well as recognize and adjust to the feelings of others, can lead to success on a job, thus positively impacting his or her company.
“By now most people know about emotional intelligence,” says Jarik E. Conrad, Ed.D., author of The Fragile Mind (AuthorHouse; $29.95) and president of the Conrad Consulting Group L.L.C. in Jacksonville, Florida. “But ask them to define it and the room goes silent.”
Because emotions influence actions and decisions, knowing your level of emotional intelligence (and, if necessary, improving it) can make the difference between those interactions and situations you effectively build upon and those with which you struggle.
Chuck Bush, a film finance adviser based in Los Angeles, believes that his ability to manage diverse personalities, out-of-control egos, his own feelings, and all the components of film deals requires tremendous emotional intelligence.
“Hollywood is filled with people with difficult personalities and big egos,” says Bush, president of Great Road Capital Inc. Studying people and how they interact with others, and managing stress with yoga, meditation, and running, have all helped get him where he is today, the 38-year-old says. “Over time I’ve had to develop my skills, especially my ability to be patient and empathize with other people.”
Some have an innate capacity to identify, assess, and manage their emotions and those of others, while others find it challenging. “Regardless of one’s starting point, your level of emotional intelligence can be increased with assessment, training, and a lot of practice,” says Conrad.
Here are a few practical steps you can take to begin developing your emotional intelligence:
Find your level. A licensed professional can administer a formal assessment test to determine your emotional intelligence level. The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations is a member organization that offers a number of measures for determining one’s social and emotional competency. Another service is Multi-Health Systems which provides psychological assessments.
Recognize the trigger points. Identify the people or situations that make you feel angry, sad, or depressed. Next, figure out why this happens and, if you can, avoid these scenarios. If they are unavoidable, attempt to work through them. This, too, can be done on behalf of others; knowing the triggers of those with whom you work closely can prevent you from agitating them. Rely on friends, mentors, and trusted colleagues to provide observations as well.
Listen well. There’s more than one way to listen to others. Hear and understand much more by using your observation skills. Body language such as facial expressions, hand gestures, and body positioning can provide more information than words. Also, make a conscious effort to understand the opposite side, even if you don’t agree. This strategy will help you develop empathy and avoid letting negative feelings cloud your ability to process your thoughts.
Stay active. Your physical well-being significantly affects your emotional well-being. Participate in activities that stimulate your body and mind. From yoga to reading to running to knitting, a number of activities and hobbies can help alleviate stress. Such outlets come in handy when feelings go awry.
This article originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.