Developing Strong "People Skills"
We probably all know people, either at work or
in our personal lives, who are really good listeners. No matter
what kind of situation we're in, they always seem to know just
what to say – and how to say it – so that we're not offended or
upset. They're caring and considerate, and even if we don't find a
solution to our problem, we usually leave feeling more hopeful and
We probably also know people who are masters
at managing their emotions. They don't get angry in stressful
situations. Instead, they have the ability to look at a problem
and calmly find a solution. They're excellent decision makers, and
they know when to trust their intuition. Regardless of their
strengths, however, they're usually willing to look at themselves
honestly. They take criticism well, and they know when to use it
to improve their performance.
People like this have a high degree of
emotional intelligence, or EI. They know themselves very well, and
they're also able to sense the emotional needs of others.
Would you like to be more like this?
As more and more people accept that emotional
intelligence is just as important to professional success as
technical ability, organizations are increasingly using EI when
they hire and promote.
For example, one large cosmetics company
recently revised their hiring process for salespeople to choose
candidates based on emotional intelligence. The result?
Salespeople hired with the new system have sold, on average,
$91,000 more than salespeople selected under the old system. There
has also been significantly lower staff turnover among the group
chosen for their emotional intelligence.
So, what exactly is emotional intelligence,
and what can you do to improve yours?
What is Emotional Intelligence?
We all have different personalities, different
wants and needs, and different ways of showing our emotions.
Navigating through this all takes tact and cleverness – especially
if we hope to succeed in life. This is where emotional
intelligence becomes important.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize your emotions,
understand what they're telling you, and realize how your emotions
affect people around you. Emotional intelligence also involves
your perception of others: when you understand how they feel, this
allows you to manage relationships more effectively.
People with high emotional intelligence are usually successful in
most things they do. Why? Because they're the ones that others
want on their team. When people with high EI send an email, it
gets answered. When they need help, they get it. Because they make
others feel good, they go through life much more easily than
people who are easily angered or upset.
Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence
Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist, developed a framework of
five elements that define emotional intelligence:
- Self-Awareness – People with high emotional intelligence are
usually very self-aware. They understand their emotions, and
because of this, they don't let their feelings rule them. They're
confident – because they trust their intuition and don't let their
emotions get out of control.
They're also willing to take an honest look at themselves. They
know their strengths and weaknesses, and they work on these areas
so they can perform better. Many people believe that this
self-awareness is the most important part of emotional
- Self-Regulation – This is the ability to control emotions and
impulses. People who self-regulate typically don't allow
themselves to become too angry or jealous, and they don't make
impulsive, careless decisions. They think before they act.
Characteristics of self-regulation are thoughtfulness, comfort
with change, integrity, and the ability to say no.
- Motivation – People with a high degree of emotional
intelligence are usually motivated. They're willing to defer
immediate results for long-term success. They're highly
productive, love a challenge, and are very effective in whatever
- Empathy – This is perhaps the second-most important element of
emotional intelligence. Empathy is the ability to identify with
and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around
you. People with empathy are good at recognizing the feelings of
others, even when those feelings may not be obvious. As a result,
empathetic people are usually excellent at managing relationships,
listening, and relating to others. They avoid stereotyping and
judging too quickly, and they live their lives in a very open,
- Social Skills – It's usually easy to talk to and like people
with good social skills, another sign of high emotional
intelligence. Those with strong social skills are typically team
players. Rather than focus on their own success first, they help
others develop and shine. They can manage disputes, are excellent
communicators, and are masters at building and maintaining
As you've probably determined, emotional intelligence can be a key
to success in your life – especially in your career. The ability
to manage people and relationships is very important in all
leaders, so developing and using your emotional intelligence can
be a good way to show others the leader inside of you.
How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence
The good news is that emotional intelligence CAN be taught and
developed. Many books and tests are available to help you
determine your current EI, and identify where you may need to do
some work. You can also use these tips:
- Observe how you react to people. Do you rush to judgment before
you know all of the facts? Do you stereotype? Look honestly at how
you think and interact with other people. Try to put yourself in
their place, and be more open and accepting of their perspectives
- Look at your work environment. Do you seek attention for your
accomplishments? Humility can be a wonderful quality, and it
doesn't mean that you're shy or lack self-confidence. When you
practice humility, you say that you know what you did, and you can
be quietly confident about it. Give others a chance to shine – put
the focus on them, and don't worry too much about getting praise
- Do a self-evaluation. What are your weaknesses? Are you willing
to accept that you're not perfect and that you could work on some
areas to make yourself a better person? Have the courage to look
at yourself honestly – it can change your life.
- Examine how you react to stressful situations. Do you become
upset every time there's a delay or something doesn't happen the
way you want? Do you blame others or become angry at them, even
when it's not their fault? The ability to stay calm and in control
in difficult situations is highly valued – in the business world
and outside it. Keep your emotions under control when things go
- Take responsibility for your actions. If you hurt someone's
feelings, apologize directly – don't ignore what you did or avoid
the person. People are usually more willing to forgive and forget
if you make an honest attempt to make things right.
- Examine how your actions will affect others – before you take
those actions. If your decision will impact others, put yourself
in their place. How will they feel if you do this? Would you want
that experience? If you must take the action, how can you help
others deal with the effects?
See our article on Emotional Intelligence in Leadership for specific tips related to that role.
Although "regular" intelligence is important to success in life, emotional intelligence is key to relating well to others and achieving your goals. Many people believe that emotional intelligence is at least as important as regular intelligence, and many companies now use EI testing to hire new staff.
Emotional intelligence is an awareness of your actions and feelings – and how they affect those around you. It also means that you value others, listen to their wants and needs, and are able to empathize or identify with them on many different levels.
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