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Are you overlooking emotional intelligence in your career?

Shutterstock_542556157You’re in the office and see a colleague approaching. You likely say hi and ask how they’re doing. Your colleague will likely answer with some rendition of good, great or for those who prefer grammatical accuracy, ‘doing well.’ Are they actually great, or did your colleague just lie to you? Many people respond without giving much thought to the question. They may say they’re doing great as they struggle to hold in sadness, frustration or anger. What happens when you read between the lines using your emotional intelligence (EI)? Communication becomes more personal and meaningful when the parties exhibit EI. Being able to transcend normal interactions using EI is becoming increasingly important as technology advances to complete mundane tasks. Machines may be taking parts of our jobs but using our human attributes to be a team player, is more important than ever before.

In a nutshell, EI is the ability to express your emotions appropriately and manage or respond to relationships empathetically. Having EI doesn’t mean you have 100% control over your emotions. EI is recognizing your emotions and the emotions of others and reacting properly. EI puts you in a position to better understand the relationships around you, which is important at work to make the most of your everyday interactions with colleagues. Sympathizing with another is a task no machine can do in a warm way. 

Everyone has a certain level of EI, known as their Emotional Quotient (EQ), and everyone will test at their own level. We’ve all had life experiences that have shaped us, and it’s important to acknowledge those experiences.  I, for instance, grew up in a household with an autistic brother. I sincerely believe the experiences I had growing up shaped my EI. You may believe like I do that other people have been dealt more difficult cards, but that doesn’t make anyone’s journey less transformative to their EI development.

If you don’t feel your EI isn’t at its fullest potential, it’s possible to flex your EI muscles.. Here are three ideas to help you get started:

  • Be aware – Acknowledge your feelings and how you react to certain situations.
  • Practice empathy – Try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.
  • Acknowledge results of your actions – Pay attention to how people respond to you. Do they shy away or open up when you tell jokes?

A certain level of judgment when refined can be used in numerous situations throughout your career. Just a few include:

  • Confidence – Reading the room can give you insight into your audience during a big presentation. Adjust your method if your audience isn’t as engaged as you’d like.
  • Advancement – Want to ask your boss about an opportunity for a promotion? You might want to reconsider the timing on a day when their eyebrows are constantly furrowed in frustration.
  • Teamwork ­– Before you get too frustrated with your colleague, and say something insensitive that may lead to long term tension, acknowledge their emotions. Do they seem completely disinterested in work that day? Our work and personal lives are connected. Maybe something from home is weighing on their mind.

If I use the phrase, “random acts of kindness”, everyone knows what that means. We do something kind for another not knowing their emotional state. Emotional Intelligence gives us to the tools to act with intent. Going back to your interaction with your colleague, did you notice if their smile seems forced as they said they were great? Maybe they don’t want to talk about what’s really going on in their lives, but it gives you an opportunity to acknowledge them as a person with emotions and provides an opportunity for an emotionally intelligent intentional act of kindness.

During this time when more and more jobs are at risk of being automated, one thing separates people from the technology that can do each job more effectively – you. Your experiences, the things that have shaped you and made you able to connect with your colleagues are imperative to organizational success. Be a human - you were made for it. 

To learn more about emotional intelligence and how it impacts your success join Kari Hipsak, CPA, CGMA at AICPA ENGAGE for her session, Be More Than a Machine: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters.

Kari Hipsak, CPA, CGMA, Senior Manager – Firm Services, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

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