The importance of emotional intelligence in a digitally transformed world

The term Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is increasingly dominating conversations not just at companies or educational institutes, but also among researchers, leaders, and the media. Management theorists are now estimating that EQ is a critical way of differentiating star performers from the rest. What’s more, studies have revealed that it can contribute to up to 58 percent of workplace success.

With unprecedented levels of change and the constant disruption that we face in our world today, EQ becomes an important skill to build as it facilitates our capacity to self-manage, be resilient, handle stress, be empathetic, manage ourselves and our environments effectively, as well as handle difficult situations and cultivate meaningful social relationships. The benefit of developing our EQ then enables us to have happier, more meaningful, successful and fulfilled lives.

What is EQ and why is it important?

While the concept of EQ is not new, the term Emotional Intelligence (EQ) was first coined in 1990 by two professors at Yale University, John D. Mayer of UNH and Peter Salovey. John Mayer defined emotional intelligence as “the ability to accurately perceive your own and others emotions, to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships, and to manage your own and others’ emotions.” In effect, EQ is characterized by the intangible behavior that helps in managing emotions, taking different perspectives, being empathetic, focused on human centricity, being socially aware, being flexible and adaptable, and focused on building meaningful relationships.

In the Vedanta philosophy and teachings, they have defined an evolved person as someone where the intellect is greater than the mind. The philosophy differentiates between intelligence and intellect with the latter being our ability to think, analyze, question, and reason in a way that exhibits control of our emotions.

What constitutes EQ?

Self- Awareness: The ability to understand your triggers, challenges, values, being honest about your capabilities and shortcomings, identifying what holds you back and understanding the impact of your emotions on those around you. It is also vital to deepen our understanding of the environment around us and manage expectations in that regard.

Self-Regulation: If we go back to the Vedanta, expressing emotions like anger, anxiety, annoyance, etc. is only natural; however, managing those emotions effectively is where the ‘intellect’ governs the ‘mind.’ Self-regulation then includes self-control, trustworthiness, conscientiousness or taking responsibility, adaptability or resilience and innovation. It is also equally essential to accept and understand the environment around you to manage your expectations accordingly.

Self-Motivation: Motivation, optimism, and commitment contribute to long-term professional success. It is essential to be proactive, constantly upgrade, stay relevant, be commercially aware, and rely on ourselves to take our careers forward.

Empathy: Empathy is a key aspect of EQ building as it requires a human-centric approach, being non-judgmental, being open to different perspectives, increased sensitivity, and accepting situations and people for who they are. By being empathetic, you can develop more pronounced relationships, garner more support, and be perceived as more understanding.

Social Skills: The development of good interpersonal skills forms a key component of EQ building as we engage with a variety of people across our work and life. With live interactions being overshadowed by digital communication, it becomes essential for all of us to work on our interpersonal skills actively. Some of these skills include active listening, high-impact communication, influencing others, handling conflicts and navigating difficult situations, relationship building, team-work, and cooperation.

Why is EQ important in the digital world?

In a world of constant disruption and change driven by technology and innovation, it is EQ then that truly stands out to differentiate us from our human and mechanical counterparts. According to Six Seconds, a not-for-profit Emotional Intelligence network, that surveyed 100,000 people across 126 countries in their 2016 annual report, EQ scores are on the decline across the world. Many experts have attributed stress, increased anxiety, the role of social media, the habit of always being connected digitally, and the reliance on technology as some of the factors that have contributed to this decline.

The relevance of EQ for the processes of recruitment, promotion, and succession planning can be seen across organizations as they begin to alter their policies to evaluate employees from the lens of EQ. Organizations such as Johnson and Johnson have conducted surveys across their teams globally and found that mid-career executives with high potential had higher EQ competencies than their peers.

As machines keep getting smarter and we get increasingly technology-reliant, it is essential that we continue to invest in developing our EQ as individuals. Since these are all learned behaviors, we can actively work on them to enhance the quality of our relationships across realms, as well as improve the odds of our professional success.