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6 Emotional Intelligence Skills That Can Reduce Stress and Increase Productivity in the Workplace

It is not a new concept for hiring managers to consider a candidate’s emotional intelligence during the hiring process. While speaking with an individual, it can be easy to identify if they have high emotional intelligence by the way they interact in formal settings, such as an interview. Alternatively it may not always be easy to identify how that can impact their ability to manage stress and ultimately their productivity at an organization. The idea that these increasingly important issues are related may be a new concept that HR individuals may want to consider.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to manage, express, and understand one’s own emotions as well as others. There are five primary categories that can be used to assess one’s EI:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Social skills
  4. Empathy
  5. Motivation

Self-awareness, self-regulation, and social skills are skills that can be easily identified when meeting someone during the initial stages by the way they interact with others, how in-tuned they are with their emotions and how that impacts others. Empathy and Motivation on the other hand may be skills that are more noticeable over time. Unlike IQ, emotional intelligence skills can be taught and improved upon.

Higher emotional intelligence can aid in an employee’s ability to control their own stress levels. Stress management has a direct impact on productivity both in personal and professional arenas. A person who has both high emotional intelligence and strong stress management skills has the ability to effortlessly lower the stress levels of those around them through influence. Alternatively, a person who lacks these characteristics could influence the environment around them in negative ways, spreading stress and reducing productivity. Being able to stay calm in high pressure situations and influencing the energy in the room for the better are both leadership qualities that aid in career advancement.

We’ve identified six key skills to practice to develop and improve both your professional and personal EI skills.

1. Take control of your reaction to stressful situations

Whether it’s a business meeting, deadline, or something went wrong, it’s important to observe your surroundings in order to identify if your reaction is appropriate and adjust accordingly. Reading the room and communicating in a thoughtful manner could benefit or influence others to remain calm and think more clearly. It’s a great way to build natural leadership and rapport with those around you.

As you’re learning this skill and applying it to stressful situations you find yourself in, consider cognitive reframing. If you’re finding it difficult to control your emotions when in tough situations, take a few deep breaths and consider the situation outside of emotional attachment or from the perspective of another individual involved. This will help you see more clearly and adjust your emotions so you can apply the best solution to the situation. 

2. Apply impulse control to focus on the task at hand

Impulse control refers both to the ability to control emotions and the ability to reduce them from getting in the way of your work. It also allows you to reduce distraction in short-term and long-term situations. Short-term impulse control helps in work-related instances allowing the ability to focus and cut out distraction in order to complete an assignment or task.  Whereas, long-term impulse control will help you stay focused to meet goals, such as that next big promotion.

When working to improve impulse control, try focusing for a block of time on your daily work. Turn over your phone, mute your chat and emails if you’re able, and commit to the task at hand. You’ll likely see an increase in efficiency and a better quality of work.

3. Take and apply direction effectively from leadership

Taking direction effectively is often a skill that goes unaddressed or under-groomed. We tend to believe that everyone may have the same ability to grasp everything that is communicated efficiently, which isn’t always the case. People with high emotional intelligence will ask the appropriate clarification questions so they can complete the task effectively the first time or get feedback needed to complete the task.

When developing this skill, listen closely when direction is given. If anything is unclear, learn how and when the leader best responds to questions to get clarification.

4. Accept criticism

The ability to accept criticism allows you to better grow and improve as individuals. When given criticism listen and give yourself time to process the feedback, respond back calmly, and don’t take it personal. Try to look at the criticism as a way to better yourself. Understanding the perspective of the individual giving you feedback will allow you to use it to better your performance but there are times that you need to defend yourself. Overall keep a “learning mindset” and ask for details on how to better next time.

When working to improve this skill, start by addressing and acknowledging your weaknesses. The key to growth is acknowledging what we are good at and what we can improve on. Take the feedback and implement that in your daily routine.

5. Understand the time and place for conflict resolution

Conflicts are not necessarily good or back. People come from different walks of life and have different perspectives or they are not clear on expectations which can be a result of poor communication. Conflict will naturally trigger a “fight” or “flight” mechanism in our brain. Remaining calm, stating facts, asking questions, and listening to what the other person has to say without judgement is the best method on coming to a resolution.

When resolving conflict with the appropriate individuals, try to explain the outcome you are wanting and ask for thoughts or their feedback on the best solution. To improve this skill, listen more and hear all sides of the situation. Enter the discussion with a clear mind, and accept responsibility where it’s due.

6. Consider the big picture in decision making

Taking the big-picture approach is a skill that is not easy to groom. Individuals that have a “big-picture” approach are usually strategic thinkers that make connections among people or things that don’t always seem obvious, build great relationships, and avoid or reduce conflict.

To increase your ability or skill set of the “big picture” approach, try to stay one step ahead. Genuinely care about others and be curious about what they are doing or are interested in. Ask the questions “why is this important” or “who this will affect” in the organization or team.

Understanding these skills allows for increased emotional intelligence, resulting in decreased stress levels and overall success. The common thread among all of these skills is simply to be aware of yourself as well as the people around you. 

As an up and coming development opportunity, consider your team members existing emotional intelligence levels and see if there are ways to help them improve. This, in turn, will help increase satisfaction in the workplace, grow as employees, and better contribute to their teams at your organization.

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