I recently read an article about 12 ways millennials can increase their emotional intelligence (EQ) at work. Sure, millennials are younger and have more room to grow, but everyone can benefit from tuning up their EQ, so I found myself considering what employees in any generation can do to increase their EQ.

More than 20 years ago, an anomoly was discovered: 70% of the time, people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs. This finding counteracted what people had always assumed was the sole source of success (i.e., high IQ). Years of research suggests emotional intelligence is the critical factor that differentiates top performers from the rest.

We also know that highly emotionally intelligent people are more likely to succeed in their jobs, regardless of age. So, what exactly is it? EQ is a person’s ability to detect and recognize their own feelings and the feelings of others and respond to them in a rational way. It is commonly said to have four core components:

  1. Self-Awareness: The ability to accurately perceive your emotions and stay aware of them as they happen.
  2. Self-Management: The ability to use awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and positively direct your behavior.
  3. Social-Awareness: The ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people.
  4. Relationship Management: The ability to use awareness of your emotions and others’ emotions to manage interactions successfully.

Emotionally intelligent people successfully connect with others in productive ways. They can read others and usually have good relationships. EQ is one of the best predictors of performance in the workplace and is said to be one of the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence. Select International conducted various validation and the results reveal strong relationships between job performance and those with high EQ.

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

The most important thing to know is that no matter how little or how much EQ you possess, it can be developed, even if you’re an “old dog”! Here are a few tips from Forbes and additional suggestions for how to increase your emotional intelligence.

  1. Self-Awareness: Self-reflect every day for a month to look for trends and reflect on what you can do better. This way, you can start to accurately identify and understand your strengths and weaknesses. By understanding your own mood and emotions, you can see the impact on the environment around you.
  2. Self-Management: One key takeaway is to not take things personally, which is easy to do in the workplace. Instead, you should focus on viewing your work as objectively as possible. It’s easy to react negatively to a piece of feedback (especially if it’s critical), but taking a step back to have an objective view will increase your EQ.
  3. Social-Awareness: The best way to boost your social awareness is to never assume. Ask questions. Actively consider what people want. Awareness of social situations means you carefully consider what people want.
  4. Relationship Management: Feedback, feedback, feedback. Take and provide positive and constructive feedback. In order to give feedback to others, you must be willing to take feedback as well. Building relationships is also one of the most important leadership qualities, and it can be developed!

There is a wide range of manageable activities you can do to work on your own EQ. Even if you have high EQ, it doesn’t hurt to hone some of those skills. It can only lead to positive outcomes.

Not sure where you stack up? A fun benchmark is Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory. He is famously known to have a high IQ... but he's not so great with people.

About the author

Jessica Petor is a Research Analyst located at Select International’s Pittsburgh office. She holds a Master’s degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology from Northern Kentucky University.

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Select International is dedicated to developing effective employee assessments and workforce solutions for all of their clients. To learn more about Select International, visit www.selectinternational.com.

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