How to tune in

‘Cherish your own emotions and never undervalue them’ – Robert Henri, artist. Gwen Cheeseman gets in touch with your feelings

What is Emotional Intelligence? – Emotional Intelligence, or EI as it’s also known, is the ability, or learned skill, to perceive, assess and manage your own and others’ emotions. Essentially, to be emotionally intelligent means that you can recognise different emotions in both yourself and others, and change your behaviour accordingly.

Why is it so important? – Working life dictates that we spend a large amount of time in a space with other people. This can naturally lead to all kinds of negative (as well as positive) situations, such as conflict, stress, upset, and uncomfortable silences. If you are emotionally intelligent, you’re more able to deal with, and even to avoid, these unpleasant circumstances. This is why employers now recognise the importance of having staff with these skills.

It’s not natural – Some people are naturally highly emotionally intelligent, and have an innate ability to deal sensitively with others. But don’t worry if this isn’t you. If you panic and always seem to say the wrong thing, or inevitably make conflicts worse, you’re not alone. But there are many things you can do to improve your EI rating. To start with, why not try a free emotional intelligence quiz on the Internet? Visit http://ei.haygroup. com/resources/default_ieitest.htm for a good example, as the test, as well as giving you an EI rating, lets you compare your answers with the most emotionally intelligent responses.

What to work on – Once you’ve completed the test you may find there’s a particular area you need to improve. For example, you may be in touch with and understand your own emotions, yet be unable to deal with those of other people. This is quite common – there aren’t many of us who naturally know how to deal with a really angry person, for example. So now you can focus on these areas. Again a good place to look for advice is the Internet, or invest in a book on how to improve your EI.

Hands-on learning – If your employer is willing, another good way to learn is by going on a course. If your job involves dealing with difficult people, ask to go on a course which helps you manage conflict. Or if you are concerned that you need to improve the way you interact with colleagues, try and find a course on communication skills. But don’t despair if there are no courses available. You can always try and get a group of like-minded colleagues or friends together and try role-playing. Even with only three people you can work on and improve your EI. For example, one of you takes on the role of a difficult or angry client or colleague, another acts as they would normally and deals with that person as best they can, and the third (and others if there are more of you) observes. After five minutes of role-playing, stop, and discuss what has happened. The observer may pick up on things the ‘normal’ person hasn’t noticed, and may suggest a better way to manage the situation.   


"Some people are naturally highly emotionally intelligent, and have an innate ability to deal sensitively with others. But don’t worry if this isn’t you"