If you want to get ahead in your career, never let ‘em see you sweat. Or yell. Or argue. And whatever you do, don’t cry.
As it turns out, a level head and a pleasant disposition will get you further in your career than even book smarts will.
According to a new CareerBuilder survey, 71 percent of human resources managers say they place more emphasis on emotional intelligence — a person’s ability to control his or her emotions, sense the emotions of others and build relationships — than they do on IQ. Fifty-nine percent of employers even said they wouldn’t hire someone who had a high IQ but low EI.
Among other reasons, hiring managers said they value EI over IQ because employees with high emotional intelligence are more likely to stay calm under pressure, solve conflict effectively and show empathy to their team members.
“Technical competency and intelligence are important assets for every worker, but when it’s down to you and another candidate for a promotion or new job, dynamic interpersonal skills will set you apart,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “In a recovering economy, employers want people who can effectively make decisions in stressful situations and can empathize with the needs of their colleagues and clients to deliver the best results.”
Want to score high on your next emotional IQ test? The following are some of the most common behaviors and qualities that indicate emotional intelligence, plus expert tips for putting these behaviors into practice in your career or job search.
Demonstrate control over emotions
CareerBuilder survey respondents cited the abilty to “keep emotions in check and have thoughtful discussions on tough issues,” as one of the top indicators that a person has high emotional intelligence.
To help you minimize negative reactions to stress, whether in a boardroom or a job interview, “it is essential to identify your stress triggers and have specific action steps in place to maintain control when the pressure is on,” says Patricia Thompson, Ph.D., a corporate psychologist and management consultant at Sperduto & Associates, Inc., a corporate psychology firm in Atlanta. “Being aware of your triggers and the changes that occur in your body when you are under stress can really help you avoid putting your foot in your mouth or engaging in other behaviors that may sound like a good idea when you are mad, but which you later regret.”
Should you find yourself starting to react to stressful surroundings, Thompson suggests deep breathing, taking a short break or counting to ten in order to keep calm.
“To be emotionally intelligent you must be self-aware, with a good understanding of your strengths and weaknesses,” Thompson says. “To increase your level of self-understanding … I recommend making a list of your top five strengths and weaknesses, then reaching out to others for feedback to get their opinions. Asking others for feedback is a great way to learn more about how you are perceived, and can help to ensure you don’t have any ‘blind spots.’ Once you have a comprehensive list together, pick out two or three weaknesses and create development plans to address them.”
Becoming more self-aware will also help you more readily admit to and learn from your mistakes, another important quality that people with emotional intelligence demonstrate in the workplace.
According to the CareerBuilder survey, hiring managers consider good listening skills to be an indicator of high emotional intelligence.
Thompson suggests improving your listening skills by doing the following. “When you listen to others, try to listen on two levels: First, listen to understand the content of what they are saying. Try to refrain from interrupting or judging while the other person is talking, and instead, give him or her the opportunity to fully make their point. Second, listen to understand the emotions behind what they are saying. What are they feeling? What is important to them in this instance? Can you empathize with any aspect of what they are saying? When you listen to others and can reflect back to them that you really heard them, it can really help in building relationships and managing conflict, even when you don’t agree with all that they are saying,” she says.
Empathize with colleagues
For some people, empathy comes naturally. For others, it may not, but that doesn’t mean empathy can’t be developed.
“Some individuals are primarily logical and have a hard time getting in touch with feelings and empathizing with people,” Thompson says. “If you are one of these people, you might have trouble anticipating others’ reactions or recognizing what motivates them. Or, you may inadvertently offend others by not being sensitive enough when communicating with them. If this is you, I recommend trying to find a colleague who seems to have a higher degree of emotional intelligence, and run things by him or her. By getting someone else’s perspective, you can learn a new way of considering issues.”
For those who may need extra help developing their EI, Thompson also suggest executive coaching. “A good coach will help you to get more in touch with yourself and provide you with practical tools you can draw on to increase your emotional intelligence,” she says.