9 ways you should use emotional intelligence at work

Having a high emotional intelligence score, or EQ, is great, but it won’t help you be successful if you don’t know how to use it at work. 

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A person’s emotional intelligence at work is only as strong as their last conversation, according to Jen Shirkani, an EQ expert and speaker. Shirkani breaks up emotional intelligence using the “Three R” method, which explains emotional intelligence as the ability to recognize your strengths and weaknesses, read others and your environment, and respond appropriately given the company and situation.


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Based on the behaviors of people with high EQs, here’s how to use emotional intelligence at work in order to be successful.

Using emotional intelligence at work as a leader

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Leaders, whether you’re the CEO or an individual team manager, must use emotional intelligence at work every single day. While you may not interact with every person in the office each day, the company attitude begins with you. “If I want an engaged employee then it’s important that I am therefore an emotionally engaging leader,” Shirkani said.

Leaders also need to be aware that they are following the chain of command in the office. Though you may feel that you have earned the right to ask any employee to complete a task, skipping the team manager by going straight to a specific employee could make that leader feel out of the loop, unimportant and frustrated. Basically, leaders need to be aware of the impact that their behavior is having on those around them every step of the way.

Using emotional intelligence while leading a meeting

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“If you’re leading the meeting, you have to have a very keen eye on reading the room,” Shirkani said. For example, the leader should be able to read the body language of attendees and identify if they need to take actions to gain back attention. In addition to keeping focus, the leader should also make sure that more outspoken employees aren’t dominating the meeting.

While it’s great to have a lively discussion, the leader should make sure that each attendee has the opportunity to speak, including those that that are more introverted.

Using emotional intelligence while attending a meeting

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The meeting coordinator isn’t the only person who has to worry about emotional intelligence in the conference room. In fact, it’s just as important for an attendee to use it as well.

Shirkani remembers a time when she was in a meeting with a small group of leaders and one woman, who was completely engaged, didn’t speak during the entire hour-long discussion. “I thought, she runs the risk of not being included in the future because she hasn’t contributed anything,” Shirkani said. “She didn’t add any value to the meeting.”

Even shy employees need to step out of their comfort zone and recognize situations that call for the need to speak up.

Using emotional intelligence during a performance review

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Emotionally intelligent people have a solid view of themselves, which includes having a deep understanding of what comes naturally to them and what doesn’t. An emotionally intelligent person welcomes suggestions and ignores unhelpful negative comments. Instead of harping on a piece of criticism from your superior, you should use it to better yourself.

To prepare for a formal review, Shirkani suggests thinking of the worst criticism that you could receive and imagine how you would react to it. If you picture yourself growing upset or angry, try having a friend give you the piece of feedback and think of a composed, thoughtful response. As always, remember to breathe and stay calm.

Using emotional intelligence after receiving feedback

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Unfortunately for the thick-skinned, using emotional intelligence with performance reviews doesn’t immediately stop when the meeting is over.

“You can’t just be good at getting feedback, you have to actually do something with it in order to get credit for it,” Shirkani said. Taking action is a crucial part of using emotional intelligence at work because it involves being self-aware and having the ability to adapt.

Using emotional intelligence while networking

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Networking events can be intimidating spaces for introverts, but they are important opportunities for professionals to advance their careers. Emotional intelligence is extremely important during these events because it will allow introverts to step out of their comfort zone and interact with others despite their discomfort.

Social interactions aren’t only difficult for introverts, according to Shirkani. Extroverts should use emotional intelligence in these instances to make sure that they are not completely controlling a conversation. At network events, extroverts may need to tone it down and allow introverts to come to them when they feel comfortable.

Using emotional intelligence at work as a hiring manager

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The most proactive time to use emotional intelligence at work is when you’re hiring a new employee. While one of the goals of developing EQ is coachability, hiring someone who is receptive to feedback is much smarter than starting with an emotional intelligence newbie. “We can teach it, we can coach it, but if I can hire it. .. I’m way ahead of the game,” Shirkani said.

Hiring emotional intelligence may be easy for an EQ guru, but not everyone knows how to test these skills. Shirkani recommends asking one question to test the three emotional intelligence pillars: self-awareness, social awareness, and self-control. The question is, “Have you ever unintentionally offended or upset somebody? And describe the details for me.”

If the candidate struggles to find an answer to this question, he or she most likely don’t have strong emotional intelligence skills. This question tests that the person has the self-awareness know when his or her behavior has a negative impact on another person. The answer will also help you see if the interviewee has the social skills to admit and work through mistakes.

Using emotional intelligence as a candidate during an interview

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Self-awareness is the key component of using emotional intelligence during an interview. By having a full understanding of your strengths, you’ll be able to easily articulate them to the hiring manager. Another use of self-awareness is that it allows you to flip the script and interview the hiring manager.

It’s a good idea to ask about the person’s managing style in order to see if it fits what you need as an employee.

Using emotional intelligence as a new hire

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New hires usually enter a job motivated to make a splash in the company, but Shirkani warns them not to be overzealous. “Before we start spouting off what we did at our old company, it’s important that we’re really observing for a while and figuring out what the rules are, what the norm is and what the culture is like,” Shirkani said.

A new employee should use emotional intelligence to ease into suggesting changes as not to overwhelm or upset anyone.


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