MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Be more emotionally intelligent

How to smooth your path to the top, by becoming an all-round understanding mellow fellow...

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2013

Stop smashing your keyboard with that dictionary for a second. How we respond to tricky situations often has a greater impact than the knowledge and skills we have. Research carried out by the Carnegie Institute suggests that 85% of our success is due to emotional intelligence. MT asked Liz Wilson, director at behavioural change specialist TWP and co-author of Emotional Intelligence Coaching, for her top tips. 
1. Know yourself better 
We know how frustrated we get with ‘difficult' people in the workplace - and knowing how we're perceived by others can help us notice when we're being the ‘difficult' person for someone else. Take time to pick up other's body language: if it's positive, then keep on with that behaviour; if not, then take a look at yourself and see if you're communicating as effectively as you could be.

2. Believe in potential 
Belief in the potential of ourselves and others has a massive impact on our behaviour. If we're used to someone being successful, assertive and positive, we have that in mind as they interact with us, and the outcome is usually successful, assertive and positive. A negative perception is more likely to generate negative interactions - we see what we expect to see, and we experience what we expect to experience. So you could say believing is seeing... 

3. Avoid emotional hijacks 
Daniel Goleman, the daddy of EI, talks about emotional hijacks - when we make a knee-jerk reaction to something. In workplace situations, incidents and confrontation can happen in a heartbeat. The key to an emotionally intelligent response is to be able to engage your thinking brain to rationalise how you're feeling. Try pressing an imaginary pause button when something ticks you off. Take a deep breath and think. 
4. Communicate clearly 
How often do we really listen to what is said? Often we anticipate what's coming, and our brain is already thinking of the answer. We miss what's really being said, and colleagues may end up perceiving us as inattentive and rude. Consider your good relationships - how do you communicate with those people? Then consider your communication in those that are less effective. Truly listening opens the door for solid relationships.

5. Cultivate bounce-back-ability 
Emotional resilience is about how well we bounce back when things go awry. Pressure points for one person can be motivators for another. Notice what puts you under pressure and consider how you could reframe that in your mind, to build emotional resilience. How often do you take things personally and focus on the negatives? What do you bounce back effectively from, and how do you get it in perspective?  
6. Give feedback and praise 
Feedback is part of any successful organisation, perhaps formally, or when it's simply embedded in the culture that it's good to acknowledge others' attributes. Feedback is so often seen as only the negative, developmental, constructive sort. What about genuine praise for individuals - for contribution or achievement, or the qualities that make them great? Research shows that success is founded on the ratio of five pieces of praise to each piece of developmental, constructive feedback.

7. Build trust 
The emotionally intelligent leader builds a team based on trust. Trusting colleagues to contribute and deliver builds an environment where teams are prepared to take effective risks - where they will feel free to air ideas and thoughts without fearing humiliation or dismissal. Trust builds commitment and loyalty from colleagues and encourages creativity. 
8. Build strong relationships 
Being able to be interdependent - where you are confident both working alone, but also see the benefit of involving others - offers opportunities to foster strong working relationships. How often do you accept input and help from others willingly and positively? How often do you turn others away? Try building interdependence - where everyone is equal and their contribution is welcomed.

9. Resolve conflict effectively 
Conflict can arise in any organisation - the key to resolving it effectively lies in the ability to achieve a balanced approach, valuing everyone in the situation and focusing on the behaviours that are causing the conflict. Emotionally intelligent individuals can separate the person from the behaviour - holding the individual in high esteem, but challenging any unhelpful behaviour. 
10. Be the change 
Gandhi talked about being the change we want to see - building a culture based in emotional intelligence is more likely to bring success, growth and innovation. Individuals thrive in an environment of support, trust, belief and encouragement. It moves us away from a blame culture and away from fear, and empowers those who embrace it. 
Liz Wilson is director for behavioural change specialist TWP. As always, if you have any more to add, please do so below...

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