Keystone of Emotional Intelligence: Social Skills
Recently, I covered the five pillars of emotional intelligence here on our blog - you can read the piece here - where we covered all the aspects that tie the overall concept. It is difficult, however, to give enough detail in a digestible article, so over the next series of articles, we’re going to really unpack the theories that make up emotional intelligence so you can hopefully take a few changes into your personal and professional life and see how leveraging some more of your emotional intelligence can make a profound impact on your work and lift the spirits and motivation of those around you.
Well, to put it simply, there’s a body of research out there with peer-reviewed studies drawing the link between individuals with high emotional intelligence have greater mental health, job performance and leadership skills. This, more than often translates to high-functioning professionals that can turn an organisation’s numbers around and have a profound impact on the people they work with. Just one person exhibiting the best and most effective emotionally intelligent behaviours can have a massive impact on an organisation- that’s why it’s such an important concept to capitalise on.
In short, while IQ might be an indicator of intellectual intelligence, emotional intelligence (EI) is an indicator of a person’s ability to both identify and manage emotions in themselves and the people around them, and leverage this for success. Intelligence is one thing, but when I’m hiring you have to take emotional intelligence into account.
Emotional intelligence is a quality that, while difficult to put into practice properly, enables us to confront problems with insight, empathy and patience both for ourselves, and while working with other people. It came about in the 1960’s largely because of the fact that intelligence was a general, one-dimensional quality at that point in history, and didn’t properly attribute the variety of different traits that contribute to someone’s overall demeanor. Social skills are one of the key pillars that support the theory of emotional intelligence, so let’s unpack the most important aspects that make up someone’s social skills.
Persuasion & Influencing Skills
Individuals with a high-level of emotional intelligence often have equally as high persuasion skills, while it might sound a tad cynical, they are better positioned to leverage each transaction and interaction due to a few simple reasons. Empathy is a key trait, as an individual will be able to read body language and the emotions sitting behind a stream of dialogue, and once you’re more receptive to the concerns and sensibilities of the person you’re talking to, you can interact with them on a much more personable and effective level; think of the difference between small-talk with someone in the office, and a deep conversation with a colleague. From here, you can plan your course of action - be it in a disciplined or aggressive manner - to get what you want out of that conversation.
On a similar note, communication skills are, of course, an important aspect to take note of here. It’s vital that in a conversation, you not only convey your concerns, thoughts and how you’re feeling about a certain topic, but you’re also listening effectively to the other person. Good listeners clarify, reflect and even question the person that they’re communicating with to ensure there’s no ambiguities or confusion- it also helps ensure that the person you’re talking with feels they’re being listened to, and not simply entertained or ignored. There is also something to be said about how people with a high-level of emotional intelligence are equally as prepared to hear about the problems and negatives of a certain topic, and are also quick to address problems that need to be served, rather than making them tomorrow’s problem.
If there’s anything that decades of experience in the business world has taught me, it’s that there’s a fine art to effective conflict resolution in the workplace. Adding onto that, I’ve also learnt that while it might not be the most comfortable way to address a problem, it’s important to tackle these head on as they present themselves so you save yourself - and your staff members - days, weeks and months of toxic animosity that just doesn’t fit into the content of a highly-functioning organisation. Effective conflict managers do exactly this, and choose to tackle problems before they deteriorate because they recognise just how counter-productive they are to achieve a project goal. A key here is to open up an open dialogue, and encourage healthy debate to help one side of the discourse see the other side of the equation; always aiming for a win-win solution.
It’s essential to have a leader that exhibits a high-level of emotional intelligence, otherwise employees are at risk of being under-inspired and bored in their role. Retention is becoming a wide scale problem for businesses all around the world, and I think it’s reasonable to draw the parallel between low staff retention and having a leader exhibiting a low level of emotional intelligence. Key characteristic traits of a leader in this context are the ability to inspire and positively influence the people around you, as well as consistently pushing to empower them. The inspiration should come from a leader’s ability to articulate their vision, and the vision of the organisation that everyone’s efforts are contributing toward, an ability to lead by example, and as I mentioned, the ability to inspire and empower staff members by consistently offering them opportunities to learn. This requires some flexibility on the part of the leader, which is why I’ve seen it come undone so many times before in organisations that remain rigid.
Change Management Skills
Change can be scary for some, quite understandably, because as humans we’re programmed to fear the unknown. However, in the context of business, it’s an essential part of keeping an organisation innovative, competitive and appealing to customers. That’s why it’s more important than ever before to have employees that are good change managers, and even change catalysts, that come up with new innovative ways to improve the organisation. Rather than fear the unknown, those with a high-level of emotional intelligence get excited at the prospect of change and the benefits it can usher in. They lead from the front, and by example when it comes to exhibiting the potential benefits of changes that can be brought into an organisation. This is one of the key qualities that I’m looking for when I’m onboarding staff, because I love innovation, and can’t stand the thought of complacency in business.
Of course, in the context of business, this is a no-brainer. Individuals that are truly leveraging the concept of emotional intelligence are able to connect, transact and build relationships with key figures in and outside the industry. Some don’t necessarily join the dots when it comes to someone they meet today and the potential need to connect with them in the future, which is why building bonds and rapport is vital to being an effective individual in business.
One of the clearest traits of someone great at building relationships is their ability to value the contributions of others, rather than dismiss them. Too often I’ve seen some relegate others due to a lack of skills, or the possession of a different, niche set of skills. Then, fast-forward six-months down the track when that particular skill set is exactly what is needed to innovate on a new project, they’ve essentially burnt an extremely valuable bridge.
Collaboration and Cooperation
Now, tying it all together is the concept of collaborative efforts and the ability to cooperate with others. While this is something that is imparted as early as preschool, in adult life, I’ve seen it lacking time and time again. The ability to work with others is absolutely essential, particularly in our tech-centric world with tight deadlines and high pressure environments. Individuals that gravitate toward collaborative projects, share plans and ideas and help shape other people’s ideas are in a much more attractive position as we move into the future. Teamwork is more essential than ever, and that’s why this particular fragment of emotional intelligence is so important.
In wrapping all this up, it’s important to note that we all have our foibles. You might be stronger in a few aspects of emotional intelligence, and notice that you’re lacking in one or two areas, but that’s all part of the process. Recognition is the first step toward improvement, and by taking cues from this guide, you’re more likely to focus on certain aspects of the way in which you operate to be a better team player, or become more empathetic to the people around you. It’s also worth taking note of the fact that this concept works in harmony with the other four pillars of emotional intelligence, which we’ll cover more in-depth in coming articles.
For now, thanks for your time, and I’ll see you in the next piece.