Emotional intelligence and business success

The business world is no more immune to fads than any other aspect of society.  In one decade there may be a great deal of pre-occupation concerning employee empowerment, while in the next that approach is dropped in favour of comprehensive mission statements.  Some developments in the business world, however, offer a lasting set of benefits because they are well-grounded in the nature of human beings and how they interact with one another.  The ‘Emotional Intelligence’ movement is an example of the latter type.

Emotional intelligence has been an important concept in the social sciences since the 1930s, but it was not until 1995 that it became popular in the business community.  This happened largely because of the publication of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ – a work by Daniel Goleman, a New York Times science writer as well as a psychologist.  This book showed the business community how workers and executives could interact more efficiently if the individuals involved were skilled at reading body language and seeing issues from alternative points of view.

 Emotional Intelligence: Four Domains

Earlier work in the 1990s had identified four major domains of emotional intelligence.  All of these are still relevant to the business community today.  The first domain consists of the ability to accurately perceive emotions.  A supervisor with low levels of emotional intelligence might fail to notice non-verbal signals indicating employee discontent with his choice of phrasing.  A more intuitive manager, on the other hand, would sense these signals and adjust his wording on an on-going basis so that employees would become less annoyed by his communications.

The second domain involves being able to use emotions as part of a reasoning process.  Contrary to popular belief, emotions and rational thought are not polar opposites.  Instead, emotions help individuals to pay attention to key information, therefore guiding their reasoning processes.

Being able to interpret others’ emotions is a third major domain of emotional intelligence.  Without accurate interpretations, individuals simply react to the emotions they sense, sometimes making a bad situation worse.

Also key to business success is the fourth domain, that of emotional management.  Good executives can put emotional reactions to one side when needed so that they can focus on the job at hand.  Excellent managers, on the other hand, can gently assist others to improve in this regard, noticing when they are in difficulties and offering tactful and appropriate guidance.

Because human beings have not fundamentally changed since the 1930s, let alone since the 1990s, these concepts remain highly relevant to the business community today.

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