Want to know the Real Basis for Emotional Intelligence?

Want to know the Real Basis for Emotional Intelligence?

Want more engagement with your team?

Been told you could be more empathetic?

Wondering what Emotional Intelligence even is?

If you know what emotional intelligence is skip the first sections and jump to the tool and tips.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

EI (or EQ) is the overarching term to describe four concepts: the ability to know one’s emotions, manage one’s emotions, understand the emotions of other people, and manage relationships with others. As the English Oxford Living Dictionary defines it: “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically”. The concept was popularized in the 1996 book Emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman, still a great reference to this day.

What is Emotional Intelligence in Leadership?

EQ in Leadership is about knowing and managing one’s self enough to influence, motivate, connect and inspire others. It’s the soft skills or people skills needed to interact with others.
Some clients have asked “isn’t this manipulation?” The Oxford English Dictionary says manipulate is: “handle or control (a tool, mechanism, information, etc.) in a skilful manner. Control or influence (a person or situation) cleverly.” So, yes, it is manipulation. And, so what? If you get what you want while being yourself AND the other person is treated well, with full permission to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and has their needs met, what does it matter? The issue is the intention behind the interaction; if it’s to influence for good reasons, then OK; if it’s to influence for unscrupulous, evil, bad reasons, then it’s not OK.

The Foundation for EQ is….

Emotions. The clue was in the title – EMOTIONal intelligence.

Humans are emotional beings. The part of our brain that deals with emotions (limbic) is the first port of call for all nerve endings entering our brain through our spinal cord. Nerve impulses hit the “emotion” part before getting to the prefrontal cortex where reason and executive function happens.

Feelings in the Workplace

People say that business isn’t personal, that it’s rational and fact-based. And emotions are present at work every day.

Organizations want and even foster emotions at work – emotions such as: calm, optimistic, positive, engaged, energetic, confident, trusting, passionate, enthusiastic to name just a few.

Yes, that list is a list of emotions that companies have in mind when hiring, when considering promotions, wanting in and for their people.

So Why Are Emotions Denied by Many in the Workplace?

I believe it’s because of FEAR (which is a feeling). Many of us aren’t taught about emotions or feelings either from our upbringing or our schooling. When we aren’t comfortable with something, it’s hard to be with it. We don’t know what to do when someone expresses an emotion.
A coaching client of mine was beside himself when a direct report cried in their 1:1. He wanted the crying to stop. He was so uncomfortable with it he lost the idea that a direct report was feeling so bad that she was in tears. Once we reviewed the feelings wheel and the content in this article he felt better able to handle it the next time. He revisited the situation with the direct report and helped her learn what was behind the emotion. Interestingly, he found out the tears where frustration and anger at a colleague stonewalling a key project. He never imagined this was the issue.

How to Use Emotions at Work

Emotions are data. Just as sales, staff turnover, and market research are all data. The data needs to be analysed to become information that you can then action. Say your company is below the sales target this month. You analyse the data to determine what’s causing the low sales number until you identify the root cause, so you can find the appropriate solution and act on it.

And emotions are the same. They tell you something. The emotions we think of as “positive” are emotions we feel when our needs are being met. The emotions we think of as “negative” are emotions we feel when our needs are not being met.

Same for other people. When someone is engaged and attentive, a need of theirs is being met (they are intellectually stimulated, hopeful about an idea, or being valued for example). When someone is frustrated, a need of there is not being met (they are not getting the answer they want, or fast enough for example).

Practical Tips for Emotions at Work

  • Get yourself a ‘feelings wheel’ like the one in this article to use to accurately name or label the feelings/internal emotions you are feeling. Of note, feeling dismissed, feeling undervalued, feeling attacked, feeling excluded are not feelings. They are thoughts. They are judgments or evaluations or opinions. Focus on the feeling itself, that’s where the data is. The judgement is not necessarily accurate and it’s most probably not helpful. This is the work of Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg if you want to learn more.
  • Reflect on what your emotions are at various times while working. What is the information in that emotion? If it’s ‘positive’ your needs or wants are being met – what are those needs? If it’s ‘negative’ your needs or wants are not being met – what are those needs? The more comfortable you are with your emotions the more comfortable you can be with others’ emotions.
  • If you have unmet needs, what are all the possible ways of getting those needs met? How do you want to proceed to get those needs met? Or recognize that need doesn’t have to be met?Ask others what they are feeling. Help them identify the real feeling they have rather than their judgement. Help them see their needs – whether met or unmet for their self-awareness. Other people always have emotions, they are there whether you ask about them or not. Better to ask and have them out (good or bad) so they can be enjoyed or released.


What are you feeling after reading this article?

What might your people be feeling in their lives? In their interaction with you?

What might be helpful for you and your team to have greater success, agility, resilience and satisfaction?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to help you motivate, influence and inspire your people.