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Emotional intelligence is not a prerequisite for success. Some very successful people aren’t particularly good at dealing with others. There is even a suspicion that to do well in business you need to lack emotional intelligence. Hard-nosed, self-obsessed narcissists are sometimes portrayed as the type who do best in the corporate world.

In reality, emotional intelligence is one of the most important attributes in the workplace, with studies suggesting it is more important than IQ as a predictor of achievement.

The higher up in an organisation you get, the more important emotional intelligence becomes as the impact of your actions is felt by more and more people.

It works at every level though. Nobel Prize winning Israeli-American psychologist Daniel Kahneman found that people would rather do business with a person they like and trust than someone they don’t, even if that person is offering a better product at a lower price.

Another study, carried out in the United States by Hay/McBer Research and Innovation Group, assessed the emotional intelligence of sales personnel within an insurance company and compared how much they were selling. Those whose scores indicated they had low emotional intelligence sold policies with an average premium of $54,000. Those who scored highly averaged sales of $114,000.

So what do emotionally intelligent people have that others do not?

Self-awareness

People with self-awareness understand their own emotions. They know their strengths and weaknesses and what drives them. They are confident despite their weaknesses because they know that no one is good at everything. They are honest with themselves and other people. They recognise how their feelings impact their own behaviour and how they can affect other people.

Self-aware people tend to be direct, honest and do not avoid talking about difficult issues.

Empathy

Just as emotionally intelligent people understand themselves, they understand others. They have awareness of the feelings of others and take those feelings into consideration. That doesn’t mean they will avoid impacting others, just that they will be aware that they are doing so and this will be part of what they weigh up in their decision making process.

Empathetic people are willing to share their own concerns and will acknowledge other people’s feelings openly.

Social skills

Good social skills are a central part of emotional intelligence. Connecting with people takes a degree of understanding about what makes them tick. Emotionally intelligent people are able to relate to others and find common ground with people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Social skills are a vitally important part of working successfully in a team.

Ability to self-regulate

Everyone experiences strong emotions but emotionally intelligent people are able to manage them and keep them in check. They are able to think before speaking and don’t express every thought that comes into their heads at difficult times. Emotionally intelligent people know when they are not in reasonable state of mind and wait until they are before having important conversations and making important decisions.

People who aren’t able to self-regulate tend to create chaos and leave bad feeling and resentment everywhere they go/

Looking at these keys skills it becomes clear why emotional intelligence is so useful in the work environment. It is about understanding the context of your behaviour and the behaviour of those around you and understanding how best to handle a wide variety of situations.

That’s why it is worth working on your emotional intelligence and ensuring that you are sufficiently aware of those around you. The good news is that it gets easier with practice.

Do you absolutely have to have emotional intelligence to be successful in your career? No. Will having emotional intelligence greatly enhance the chances that you will do well and strengthen your working relationships in the process? Definitely.