How Emotional Intelligence Can Improve Your Work Life

How Emotional Intelligence Can Improve Your Work Life

If you grew up believing that there was only one type of intelligence—and you either had it or didn’t—it may surprise you to learn that there are several different types, encompassing everything from spatial awareness to music. One of the most critical to develop in the workplace is emotional intelligence, which is the ability to perceive, manage and regulate your emotions. Emotional intelligence can offer perspective in stressful situations and can help us discern optimism from toxic positivity when things look rough. 

Listen to this week’s episode of the rich & REGULAR podcast about financial wisdom, and continue reading below for ways to strengthen and grow your emotional intelligence. 

Emotional intelligence

Research tells us that intelligence is not fixed, and working to improve your emotional intelligence can help you understand yourself and grow your capacity for empathy. 

EI is a sought-after trait in job candidates, especially for leading teams or working in customer service. Being a team member or leader who can put yourself in another person’s shoes can be invaluable when problem-solving or avoiding conflict. 

Emotional intelligence is made up of various factors, including:

Self-awareness: Knowing your own emotions, thoughts, and actions and how they align (or don’t) with your morals and inner world. Being able to name your feelings and emotional triggers and also understand how someone else might perceive your reactions can help you understand the perceptions of your coworkers and manager.

Self-regulation: Emotional regulation allows you to see and acknowledge your own emotions in a socially acceptable way, which means that even when you’re having a bad day, you don’t lose control. You can keep your emotions in perspective and understand that what you are feeling in the moment isn’t necessarily reality for everyone, nor is it a reason to blame or harm others. 

Social awareness: Social awareness allows you to see and recognize the emotions in other people, understand their perspective and how it differs from your own, and offer empathy when appropriate. This is especially important as it relates to people of different backgrounds or cultures and is essential to developing inclusive organizations

Identifying and empathizing with the people on your team, recognizing non-verbal cues like body language or eye contact, and controlling your emotional reactions when problems arise may help people see you as a strong leader and someone to turn towards in times of trouble. 

Get ahead at work

Offices can be stressful places, and having the ability to recognize when things are getting heated and to help others de-escalate is an invaluable skill, no matter where you are in the company hierarchy. Because emotional intelligence can improve with practice, consider incorporating the following to help you in the workplace. 

Use empathy

Empathy, or the ability to understand how others are feeling, is often touted as a vital component of the soft skills employers look for. Being able to empathize with another person, even if you disagree with their views, can not only help you create a strong work team but is also a vital skill for your personal relationships as well. 

If you are unsure how to develop empathy, try reading literature or watching TV shows with complex characters and discussing these personalities with a friend or mentor. Gaining perspective of a fictional characters’ thoughts may help you identify similar situations and people you can empathize with in real life. 

Communicate directly

Emotional Intelligence is often the difference between being interpreted as a compassionately direct person who tells the difficult truth, and being seen as an unfeeling jerk. Use clear and plain language to help you make your point, and when it’s your turn to listen, make sure you use active listening skills to hear what the other person is saying, not just pausing until it’s your turn to speak again. 

If you’re going into a salary negotiation or other stressful situation, practice asking for what you need before the day arrives. Utilize various techniques, such as writing out what you want to say, practicing in a mirror, and having mock negotiations with a friend to make sure you’re as prepared as can be and comfortable with the language you want to use.

Stay realistically optimistic

Toxic positivity, or maintaining a cheerful mindset no matter how dark or dire a situation, is a problem that can damage your mental health and connections to others, and can often be interpreted in the workplace as being out of touch. Intelligent optimism, on the other hand, allows you to see the problems ahead of you and develop a strategy to work through them. Staying positive (but realistic) in stressful situations can also help others maintain their equilibrium and is often used to describe great leaders. 

Make sure you create a routine to help set yourself up for success and to encourage daily optimism. Although everyone’s personality is different, developing an exercise and healthy eating habit, staying hydrated, and prioritizing your mental health can help you continue to see the bright side of things. 

Keep looking forward

Keep your emotional intelligence at the forefront in stressful situations and use it to help you and those around you succeed. By identifying what you’re feeling in the moment, how it pertains to your current situation, and empathizing with others, you create a positive outlook that can help you maintain perspective and balance.


Julien and Kiersten Saunders, Money Editors for SUCCESS magazine, are the couple behind the award-winning blog and forthcoming book, rich & REGULAR. They are producers and hosts of the original series, Money on the Table, which blends their passion for food with thoughtful conversations about money


Julien and Kiersten Saunders, Money Editors for SUCCESS magazine, are the couple behind the award-winning blog and forthcoming book, rich & REGULAR. They are producers and hosts of the original series, Money on the Table, which blends their passion for food with thoughtful conversations about money

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