People have been talking about emotional intelligence (EQ) for a while now. Organizations have steadily been realizing that a team member’s ability to deal with their emotions and recognize the feelings of others is an important part of a healthy work environment, and they’ve been actively hiring for it.

But just how important is EQ at work? Is it more or less important than pure intelligence? Which one wins in a battle of IQ versus EQ?

Maybe that’s an unfair question, because the truth is they’re both important. But in the past, people have generally sought to improve work performance by increasing their intelligence. In recent years, average IQ scores have increased by 25 points, while average EQ among adults has dropped. But studies have shown that emotional intelligence may play an even larger role than IQ in our ability to succeed both in the workplace and in our personal lives.

In the workplace, benefits of a high-EQ team can be:

  • Improved profitability
  • Fewer lost-time accidents
  • Decreased turnover

On an individual level, there are benefits too, including:

  • Increased self-awareness and self-knowledge
  • A more successful social life
  • Better pay and increased tenure

So, with all these benefits there for the taking, how can we go about increasing emotional intelligence? Thankfully, EQ isn’t just innate—it’s a skillset we can all learn. InitiativeOne, a leadership transformation company based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, suggests seven ways you can improve your own emotional intelligence or the EQ of a whole team.

1. Establish team norms

List 8–12 agreed-upon behaviors that will help everyone communicate and work together more with less drama.

2. Practice deep listening

Truly pay attention to others. Listen for understanding, rather than simply waiting for your turn to speak.

3. Communicate impeccably

Say what needs to be said, out loud, when you have the opportunity. Don’t hold your tongue just to have a meeting after the meeting. And always take concerns directly to the person involved, rather than slipping into gossip.

4. Boost self-awareness

Pay more attention to your feelings. Maybe even write them down in a journal. Reflect on why you’re feeling a certain way, what causes it, and how to manage your feelings appropriately.

5. Show empathy

See things from the perspectives of others. Respect that others are emotional beings too, with their own unique points of view. Seek to understand and never invalidate how others are feeling.

6. Be sensitive to others’ circumstances

Everybody has things other than work on their minds. Understand that there’s often a deeper “why” behind how someone acts or interacts. If personal issues are coloring their behavior, be caring. Ask how they’re doing. Maybe even gently offer some help.

7. Ask for the perspective of others

It’s hard to know if you need to change if you never seek feedback on your own behavior. Respectfully ask those around you for their honest assessment, then make a real effort to improve where you need to.

In today’s workforce, emotional intelligence can be the currency of career and corporate success. Make a concerted effort to improve at it and you may find yourself advancing more quickly, earning higher wages, and gaining the respect of those around you.

For even more information on emotional intelligence and its influence in the workplace, check out this blog post and infographic from InitiativeOne.

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