In today’s business environment, soft skills like self-awareness, communication, and empathy are increasingly valuable. It is said that emotional intelligence is more important than IQ.

As personal assets go, emotional intelligence–or EQ–is just as marketable as education, experience, and drive.

But is emotional intelligence something that can be acquired or is it simply inherent? And how can staff members use it to create a better work environment and culture with researchers and students?

Who Are the Emotionally Intelligent?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, manage, and express your feelings while engaging successfully with others. You can recognize a person with high EQ by looking for the following traits:

They Have a Filter

Understanding what causes our own emotional responses, and how we react to them, is the key to managing them.

Leaders who are highly in control of their emotions respond to tense situations more effectively. Instead of being reactionary, they more quickly engage in critical thinking to come up with better solutions.

Conversely, those who react emotionally —without a filter, can severely damage work relationships, increase anxiety and create mistrust throughout their team of researchers and students.

They Have Empathy

Empathy is the awareness of the emotions of others and the ability to not only understand those emotions but share them as well. Being aware of emotions, where they come from, and how they affect others is key.

In leadership, it allows the leader to connect and problem-solve without jumping to conclusions, acting out of judgment, and taking things personally.

They Listen and Reflect

Have you ever found yourself problem-solving in the midst of hearing a complaint?

Emotionally intelligent leaders avoid this trap because they realize the need to fully understand not just the content and context, but also the feelings and emotions that are driving the words being spoken.

They are simultaneously aware of body language and tone of voice as emotional cues. Psychologists teach that only when a person’s emotions are acknowledged do they feel they are being heard.

Another trait common in those who are emotionally intelligent is pausing before they respond. This delay is often due to the more thorough processing necessary to deliver a measured response.

They Have Emotional Situational Awareness

Leaders with higher than average EQ are not only aware of what is going on with their people as individuals; they also pick up on the moods, feelings, and cultural shifts of the work environment.

Tuned in emotionally, they can influence many factors that impact performance before they become systemic. This can have a dramatic effect on the team since problems are diffused early on.

EQ in Leadership Roles

According to research, there is a correlation between EQ in leadership and employee satisfaction, performance, and retention. In fact, because organizations are more aware of this, they are increasingly looking to recruit candidates for leadership roles who exhibit high emotional intelligence.

Other research shows:

  • 90 percent of the highest achievers at the workplace exhibit high EQ
  • 80 percent of the lowest performers gauge a lower EQ

Can You Cultivate Emotional Intelligence?

Unlike IQ, which doesn’t change significantly once we reach adulthood, our EQ can and does evolve. Therefore, it is possible to increase our EQ through a desire to learn and grow.

6 Tips for Boosting Your EQ

  1. Reduce negative emotions. Work on controlling your emotions so that you don’t become overwhelmed by them in stressful situations.
  2. Practice an empowered response. There are many situations you face daily that you have no control over. However, you always have control over the way you respond to them.
  3. Slay your fears. The best way to approach fear is through planning. If you have not only a Plan B, but C, and D as well, you have less to fear.
  4. Get plenty of exercise. This is one of the best ways to boost your EQ and reduce your stress. Exercise causes the release of powerful endorphins that we can channel into positive energy.
  5. Avoid caffeine. Stimulants help in many ways, but they rob us of our EQ. Studies show caffeine intake is correlative with emotional responses.
  6. Model calm. Just like energy, calmness is contagious. So, even if you’re feeling heightened emotions, take a deep breath and fake it. Your calm demeanor will be recognized and emulated.

Using these tips to hone your emotional intelligence will help you create a positive environment for researchers, faculty, and students while improving your own leadership skills.