What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence (also known as EI or EQ – emotional quotient) was a phrase originally coined in 1990, and has since gained in popularity as a concept, particularly within business and recruitment.
It is commonly understood to be the ability to not only understand your own emotions, but to understand the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence therefore becomes a byword for flowing communication and smooth interpersonal relations.
It could also be best described as a construct that deals with emotional regulation, and emotional recognition. This means that individuals with a high degree of emotional intelligence will have an integral understanding of how negative and positive emotions can impact others in different ways.
They will also have a heightened sense of emotional management, handling emotional situations with a degree of empathy and care.
As well as emotional management and self-awareness, emotional intelligence relates to an individual's social skills. The term 'social skills' is often used broadly, but within the context of emotional intelligence, it is quite specific. In terms of emotional intelligence, this phrase relates to an individual's ability to handle and influence others' emotions effectively.
Another understood signal of high emotional intelligence is a degree of confidence and a realistic sense of self-awareness. This is brought on by the emotionally intelligent individual's ability to identify what they are feeling, and furthermore their ability to manage that particular emotion.
It is a positive sign of the times that we live in that our view of intelligence is being widened to include emotions. Self-awareness, impulse control, persistence, motivation, empathy and resilience are all qualities that mark those individuals who excel.
Furthermore, emotional intelligence, and the qualities within it, can be strengthened and maintained.
However, emotional intelligence is a broad-brush concept, with many different skills facets that may not be naturally forthcoming to everyone. For example, a highly sensitive person who may successfully detect emotions in others and effectively express their emotions to others, may also have a predilection for anxiety within stressful situations.
In the same way, it's important to understand that there will be cultural differences of emotional expression. Allowances should also be made for individuals who have experienced trauma, or who are within the autistic spectrum.
Should you value emotional intelligence in recruitment?
As part of our evolution as a species, emotions have been essential to our survival. Humans' ability to detect complex emotion sets us apart from other species, and also has profound implications for our endurance and evolution. In the same way as our ancestors, the wheels of survival and success within the workplace can be hugely improved upon if oiled with the ease of emotional intelligence.
For a long time, companies have placed energy on recruiting candidates in ways that specifically test their IQ levels, via traditional IQ tests and other psychometric testing means.
While these assessments are regarded as a sound way to test logical reasoning, mathematical skills, verbal understanding etc, individuals with a high IQ do not necessarily find interpersonal skills straightforward.
A lot of time can be saved in a difficult workplace scenario where a problem is handled by a team that has a high degree of shared emotional intelligence. This is because emotionally intelligent employees will naturally get along well, meaning higher worker satisfaction and an overall unified feeling across the company amongst employees.
Naturally, if employees feel understood by both their managers and colleagues, they are more likely to be happy at work, and this will naturally help to produce better work results. It will also lead to employees being great firm ambassadors.
Handling stress and pressure
Emotions can run naturally high in business, where problems and difficulties can arise at any time. Employees with a good level of emotional intelligence will be able to manage trying situations calmly and effectively, without becoming overwhelmed or governed by strong emotions.
They may also be able to balance this understanding with the necessary social skills and charisma to understand what to say to effectively diffuse conflict between different personalities. This would be a character skill that would be especially useful for a senior level employee to hold.
The quality of resilience is valuable within a workplace scenario, as challenges and problems will naturally arise, meaning that to maintain motivation and therefore workflow, resilience is paramount.
Some individuals will have naturally higher levels of emotional resilience, depending on their natural character predilections. Emotional resilience is also a skill that can be learnt as self-awareness develops.
It is important to remember that resilience is not just a reactive skill; it is part of a proactive approach to daily life, and with it comes an air of positivity and energy which are both factors that are invaluable to a progressive company culture.
Self-motivation is another key part of emotional intelligence. Self-motivation involves an individual's ability to keep their tasks in-hand focused towards the long and short-term goals, even when other emotions arise.
This means that setting an emotionally intelligent person unsupervised tasks should result in successful completion, as this person would be more predisposed to be able to delay gratification and avoid acting on impulse.
Working with customers or stakeholders
In terms of customer satisfaction, loyalty can be a fickle thing; every interaction with a company via one of its employees has the potential to either lose or strengthen loyalty within a customer at the receiving end.
In terms of stakeholder communication, the way something is communicated could be the difference in say, winning a contract, or losing it forever.
How do you test emotional intelligence?
There is unfortunately no recognised validation of EQ, either on a test or a scale as there is for IQ. There is also some dispute between distinguishing emotional intelligence as a recognised construct, as it directly relates to interpersonal and social skills.
However, emotional intelligence is gaining traction within recruitment, and testing a candidate will provide a huge amount of useful information regarding whether or not a possible employee will fit into a business long-term. For a recruiter using some form of EQ testing, they will be able to understand an individual's strengths and limitations, and their ability to work along and as part of a team.
Psychometric testing is currently the best way to measure EQ. Instead of 'testing' a candidate, candidates would instead follow a questionnaire, answering questions regarding fictitious scenarios.