Emotional capacity at work hinges on the ability to understand and manage your emotions in a positive way.
To have emotional capacity at work you must first work on understanding emotional intelligence.
Demonstrating emotional intelligence at work is a skill. Developing this skill can be essential for personal and professional growth. In the workplace. Emotional intelligence can help you relieve stress, communicate better, overcome challenges and have the headspace to help those around you.
This article will focus on how to develop more emotional capacity at work for people in positions of leadership.
What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage your emotions and understand the emotions of those around you. It is often described as the ability to perceive, evaluate and control emotions to communicate and relate to people effectively and constructively.
Learning how to develop emotional capacity at work is a key leadership skill in our modern world.
What does it mean to develop emotional intelligence?
To develop emotional intelligence means developing the ability to manage your emotions. It is a skill that takes time and can be mastered with ongoing self-awareness and practice. As a leader, it’s important to be aware of your emotional state to remain approachable and inspire those around you. A clear head is needed to make difficult decisions, resolve conflict and adapt to changing circumstances.
There are five key components to emotional intelligence. Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.
These five areas were identified by psychologist Daniel Goleman.
Let’s break each one down:
Self-awareness: To understand our emotional intelligence and that of others, we must first learn to perceive them accurately. This might mean being aware of our body language and other non-verbal signs of communication such as facial expressions and eye contact.
Self-regulation: Managing your emotions is a vital part of emotional intelligence. This means regulating emotions and how you respond when a colleague confides in you.
Motivation: This is our drive to improve. Emotionally intelligent people commit to goals, use their initiative and act on opportunities with optimism and resilience. Demonstrating this skill in the workplace can inspire and motivate those around you to perform too.
Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. In the context of emotional intelligence in the workplace, using empathy to promote thinking and help the person know you’re there for them, whatever they might need, is a healthy position to assume.
Social Skills: Emotions we perceive in those around us can mean a variety of things. For example, if someone appears sad or angry, having emotional intelligence means trying to interpret the cause of the sadness or anger and what it could mean. If someone is angry it’s not always related to work.
How we enter conversations with team members is also important. If you approach an employee to give some constructive feedback, start by asking how their day is going and enter a light conversation with them first to check they have the emotional capacity to receive the feedback. Giving feedback is on your agenda, be mindful that they may not be able to hear it there and then.
Why emotional intelligence is important in the workplace
We’re complex beings with a range of emotions and hormones that can be hard to read and understand. As we develop emotional intelligence we can learn to read beyond the emotions of others and seek to understand why they arise rather than focus on the emotion itself. Developing emotional intelligence skills for the workplace will help improve working relationships.
Read our latest thought piece for Workplace Wellbeing on why understanding personality types is important to develop good working relationships.
Emotional intelligence is important in the workplace. It can ensure we do not act on impulse, in a way we might later regret. Applying emotional intelligence skills to tasks, looking objectively at them and controlling how we respond, will guide rational thinking.
It can also help us manage stress.
With a huge 76% of working adults in the UK reporting moderate to high levels of stress in the workplace, the ability to develop emotional intelligence could help.
Emotionally intelligent people have worked hard to improve their ability to engage with their emotions. Recognising when they, or a member of their team, might be feeling under pressure. This ability to identify and rationalise creates a more contained and comfortable reaction to stressful situations.
The end result?
A motivated, calm, inspired and driven individual.
4 examples of emotional intelligence
Here are some examples of ways to improve emotional intelligence:
- Being able to accept criticism and not take it personally. Mastering self-confidence and self-acceptance can be difficult for many. Once you start to accept that not all feedback is a personal attack you can start to grow personally and professionally.
- Being able to say no and set boundaries. This can be in a time-related sense and also in a skillset sense. If you’re asked to do a task that you feel is beyond (or well below) your capabilities, push back or agree to take on the work but ask for support, setting expectations in the process. For example, if you feel out of your depth when asked to take on a project, instead of reacting emotionally by doubting your abilities, try replying with, “I’d really like to take on this project, to help me develop the skills to make sure it’s a success, would XX be able to support me?”.
Remember, it’s likely the powers that be wouldn’t have asked you to do the job if they didn’t think you weren’t capable.
- Feeling comfortable sharing your feelings with others and showing sensitivity to the feelings of others is a huge aspect of emotional intelligence.
- Having the capacity to accept responsibility for mistakes and leaning into them with curiosity and a yearning to improve.
Developing emotional capacity
If you’ve got this far, you want to improve your emotional intelligence, here’s how you can start to develop emotional capacity:
- Practice reflection. Keeping a reflective journal will help you rationally reflect on knowledge conversations, meetings, presentations and projects. Could you have responded differently in certain scenarios and when placed in that position again – what would you do next time?
- Practice active listening. And by this, we mean really listen. Don’t be thinking about what you want to say before the person opposite you has finished speaking. Let them finish, take a breath and then reply.
- Pay attention to your emotions in varying situations. Do you have certain triggers?
- Practice CPD. If we’re learning, we’re growing. Taking your CPD seriously, whether you have to do it for a governing body or not, will help equip you with the skills to develop emotional intelligence in the workplace.
- Curiously interrogate yourself. By this we mean instead of getting angry at yourself when a situation doesn’t go to plan, try instead to speak kindly to yourself. Replace “I’m a failure, everything I do is rubbish” with “Hmm, I wonder why that didn’t work out for me this time?”.
- Be aware of your emotions but don’t let them rule your life. Acknowledging emotions is a powerful skill as is knowing when to check in with them and when to leave them dormant. They’re not always helpful, for example experiencing self-doubt is a fairly normal human emotion. Having emotional intelligence means acknowledging it but not letting it creep in on a day of important meetings. Instead try saying, “I’ve done the work and prepared well for these meetings – I know I can do this!”.
We hope this article has been helpful and you feel equipped to start working on your emotional intelligence to enable more emotional capacity at work. Let us know how you get on and how working on your emotional intelligence has benefited your workplace.