When it comes to success in the workplace, it’s not just what you know that matters. Emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quotient (EQ), can be just as critical to collaborating with different people, fostering a pleasant company culture, and managing work-related stress.

Emotional intelligence is composed of a few different elements. The first is the ability to be aware of your own emotions and express them in a healthy, productive way. The second main component is understanding the emotions of others and approaching interpersonal relationships from a place of empathy.

But why is emotional intelligence so important for your career? And what are some tips for how to use your emotional intelligence? Scouted lays it all out for you.

Why is emotional intelligence important at work?

The average American work week takes up at least 40 hours. That’s a lot of time to spend around the same group of people. Learning to be in tune with your coworkers’ emotions as well as your own can strengthen these workplace relationships and help you manage conflict in a healthy manner. Emotional intelligence can also lay the foundation for other professional skills, such as flexibility, persuasiveness, and thoughtfulness. It can also diffuse some of the tensions that often arise due to office politics. These are some of the reasons why emotional intelligence is widely considered one of the most important leadership skills.

What are some emotional intelligence skills?

Emotional intelligence is a broad category that encompasses many different skill sets. According to Daniel Goleman, the leading American psychologist in this field, there are five key emotional intelligence skills to learn:

    1. Self-awareness – the ability to identify and understand your own emotions
    2. Self-regulation – the ability to manage and express your emotions in an appropriate manner
    3. Motivation – the ability to develop an inner passion for doing things well, without an external reward like money or recognition as the primary reason
    4. Empathy – the ability to understand and respond appropriately to how others are feeling
    5. Social skills putting all of the above skills into practice through interactions with others

Although it’s up for debate whether emotional intelligence skills can be learned or if they are intrinsic traits, different trainings and workshops have popped up in recent years to help workers develop their EQ. Google is one such company that hosts conferences and training sessions dedicated to emotional intelligence.

What are some emotional intelligence examples?

Ready to put what you’ve learned into practice? Here are a few emotional intelligence examples that can be applied to different workplace situations, along with suggestions for how to leverage your emotional intelligence.

Also read: AI Recruitment Tools: Helping or Replacing Humans?

Emotional intelligence in your resume

While you probably don’t need to list “emotional intelligence” in the Skills section of your resume, there are more subtle ways to weave EQ throughout your job history. In descriptions of previous jobs you’ve held, highlight qualities related to managing your emotions or those of others.

For example, you might emphasize customer service, consumer research, or employee satisfaction to show experience interacting with others. For managing your own emotions and stress, you might focus instead on language related to deadline-driven environments or high-volume work. You will have an even greater opportunity to showcase your emotional intelligence skills in an interview.

Emotional intelligence in your interview

It is common for a hiring manager to ask questions related to how you have handled conflict in the workplace or collaborated with coworkers. These questions are the perfect opportunity to highlight your emotional intelligence. Using the STAR method, you can tell a story about how you used emotional intelligence to develop strong relationships with coworkers and handle difficult situations. You may also wish to expand upon the qualities and experiences mentioned in your resume.

Emotional intelligence in the workplace

Emotional intelligence skills can help you get the job, but more importantly, it can help you be more productive and happier in your role. Whether you are an entry-level professional or the CEO, emotional intelligence spans the entire team. Here are a few suggestions for how to use your emotional intelligence at work:

  • Listening in meetings: Making sure everyone feels heard is essential to developing positive rapport within a team.
  • Managing stress: Sometimes workplace tensions can run high and it becomes a challenge to manage your own stress. Recognize the signs of stress in yourself and others, take a deep breath, and learn techniques for figuring out how to manage it in a healthy way. These might include meditation, taking a walk, or journaling.
  • Expressing negative emotions using I-Statements: This I-Statements method, which takes the form of, “I feel ________ when ___________” places the emphasis on a situation and how it affects you, rather than taking an adversarial approach or placing blame on an individual. I-Statements also open the door for you to suggest a solution to a problem. For example, if you’ve been working 60+ hours a week to finish a project, you might tell your manager, “I feel overwhelmed with the upcoming deadline for this project. I believe that I would work much more effectively if I could shift some lower-priority tasks to after the project is over.”
  • Actively listening to others: Others might come to you with negative emotions of their own. Maybe they just want to vent, or they are directing their negativity toward a specific person or situation. Using a phrase like, “It must not be easy to _________” can reinforce that you were listening to their challenges and acknowledging them. This can also be the first step to coming up with a solution together.
  • Understanding body language – Not all communication is spoken. Body language like posture, hand gestures, and more can also be an indication of how someone is feeling. This is especially true if a coworker says one thing (“Sure, we can have the meeting on Friday night”) but their body language (like crossed arms) suggests otherwise. Observe an individual’s full behavior and tailor your response appropriately.

Emotional intelligence is likely to be most important in roles that involve a lot of human interaction. Jobs that require teamwork or customer service like sales representatives, PR, marketing, or any leadership role would benefit highly from EQ. Hiring managers might not prioritize EQ as much in roles that are more technical and require less human interaction, such as computer programmers or accountants.

Want to learn more about how to leverage your interpersonal relationships in the workplace? Sign up for the Scouted newsletter for more career and professional development tips.

Janine Perri is a freelance writer and marketing professional based in New York. She has experience writing about topics in business, marketing, technology, education, travel, and language services. She has also taught English in South Korea as the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship.