It is well-known that one must be intelligent to be successful in business. However, being smart doesn’t always equal success. Many factors also must be present, including the ability to motivate, to empathize, to lead and to inspire. This is where emotional intelligence comes in.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the term given to the ability to recognize, understand, manage, perceive and evaluate the emotions of yourself and others. This includes:

  • Reading others’ body language and verbal expressions to determine their emotions
  • Paying attention to the emotions of those around you and thinking about the reasons behind them
  • Understanding others’ reasons for feeling certain ways
  • Reacting and responding appropriately to emotions
  • Controlling your own emotions

Essentially, emotional intelligence boils down to being socially aware and managing others’ feelings. These skills greatly affect your relationships with others and how you engage with people.

Why is it important for business success?

People generally prefer doing business with those they both like and respect. Building a solid relationship with your employees, clients and customers requires more than performing your job properly; it also involves understanding the motivations of those around you.

Leadership

Emotional intelligence is an important foundation for leadership because it enables you to understand the desires behind your own career goals. If you are a business owner or manager, you should be openly passionate about what do you do; only then can you share that inspiration with those who will work under you.

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to recognize that all of your employees and subordinates have their own motivations. Great leaders help their workers connect their jobs to their personal goals. Some employees are motivated by a desire to improve themselves. Others are driven to do something meaningful. For some, the motivation to work comes from their sense of responsibility to their family and loved ones, and that is something you should acknowledge and respect.

Persuasion

By not only understanding but also empathizing with the emotions of those you work with, you can enhance your skills of influence and persuasion. Most people want to feel that their needs and wants are understood before working or partnering with someone—let alone giving away their time and money. No matter how intelligent you are, if you neglect to fully understand the desires of a client, customer or employee, you will have a harder time gaining their trust.

For this reason, emotional intelligence is especially critical for those who work in customer service and sales; the number one concern of customers and prospects in these circumstances is feeling their needs are understood and met.

Conflict Resolution

Having strong intuition and an understanding of others’ emotions also helps you resolve conflicts when they arise between others and/or yourself. Being a strong mediator can help you negotiate more deals, minimize workplace conflict and improve damage control with frustrated customers. This ability for conflict resolution can apply internally; if you have strong emotional intelligence, you’re likely to be able to regulate your own negative emotions, and this has been linked to better stress management and lower rates of depression.

Emotional intelligence has the power to affect almost any aspect of business, and it can smooth out or revitalize almost any initiative.

How can you evaluate and improve your emotional intelligence?

Evaluating

Emotional intelligence is usually developed throughout one’s life thanks to a support system of family, friends and mentors. However, this doesn’t mean that you ever stop learning or that you can’t take other steps to achieve a greater emotional intelligence.

Here are a few places to start your assessment:

Don’t have time to take a test? Here are a few indicators that you may have low emotional intelligence:

  • The way people react to you often confuses, disappoints or surprises you
  • You often blame others for your feelings
  • You sometimes think others’ personal motivations are stupid, narrow-minded or selfish
  • You have little to no interest in the personal lives of your employees or co-workers

Improving

Once you get a score, it is important to read and research further into improving your emotional intelligence. Check out this list of books on Amazon for more information about developing emotional intelligence within yourself and your organization. You should then use the information you gather to make a personal development plan for improving yourself.

Attempt to surround yourself with others that have a high emotional intelligence, and learn through conversations and interactions with them. Watch them and try to pick up their habits. What kinds of questions do they ask people? What is their body language when they are interacting with others? Develop your own skills through practicing interactions with them and imitating them in different scenarios.

Consider these other tips to increase your emotional intelligence:

  • Use people’s names, and know where their offices are located. This helps create genuine, authentic relationships with those you work with because you will start knowing people on a personal level.
  • Greet everyone every day, and on Mondays ask about their weekend. Use this to practice your listening skills and responses, as well as to develop relationships with those you work with often through regular interactions.
  • Build real relationships by asking questions and listening closely. Then respond thoughtfully, and start by reiterating what the person has told you so he or she knows you are listening. The easiest way to have a good conversation is to try to “put yourself in their shoes” and imagine what you would want to hear or what questions you’d want answered.
  • Look for examples of good behavior to mimic in TV shows and in movies. How do you see relationships develop? What are people’s body languages saying about themselves? You may start to notice some patterns, such as crossed arms representing a feeling of withdrawal or disconnect.

Emotional intelligence is vital to successful performance and leadership in the workplace. By creating trustworthy relationships with your team, colleagues, clients and customers, you leave everyone feeling more fulfilled and satisfied. Your business’ priority should be a stronger bottom line, and improving your emotional intelligence can do just that by improving your leadership skills, customer-relationship skills and employee morale.