Emotional Intelligence: Why Bother?

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Recently, a client called and asked me to do a speaking engagement for a major insurance company on the topic of emotional intelligence (EQ). I explained that it takes a great deal of pain to convince people to accept input on the matter of emotional intelligence, and that they generally only do so if changing would create more of what they wanted from their careers.

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For example, if a vice president suddenly falls out of their $175,000 base-pay job and finds themselves on the job hunt again, then they'd have impetus to listen to my advice about emotional intelligence. The same goes for someone who is continually turned down for leadership roles and tired of the constant rejection.

Ultimately, all motivation comes from within, and it often arises from pain and suffering.

Emotional intelligence is seen by many as one of HR's "fluffy" subjects. Usually, when people talk about it, their advice falls on deaf ears.

But maybe – just maybe – if you had some hard data about the importance of EQ, you wouldn't be so quick to dismiss it like everybody else.

Consider These Statistics About Emotional Intelligence

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- The United States Air Force increased retention by 92 percent by screening candidates according to their EQ.

- In 2003, L'Oreal salespeople who were selected on account of their EQ sold an average of $91,370 dollars' worth of product more than those who were not hired based on emotional intelligence. Furthermore, these same salespeople had 63 percent less turnover in their first year.

- Managers at American Express who underwent emotional intelligence training grew business by an average of 18.1 percent in the course of a year, compared to 16.2 percent for those who did not receive the training.

So it's clear that emotional intelligence has real business results – and the best part is it can be developed over time.

How Does EQ Work, Anyway?

According to Travis Bradberry, president of EQ assessment provider TalentSmart,

"The communication between your emotional and rational 'brains' is the physical source of emotional intelligence. The pathway for emotional intelligence starts in the brain, at the spinal cord. Your primary senses enter here and must travel to the front of your brain before you can think rationally about your experience. However, first they travel through the limbic system, the place where emotions are generated. So, we have an emotional reaction to events before our rational mind is able to engage. Emotional intelligence requires effective communication between the rational and emotional centers of the brain."

Signals with high emotional stimulus that are sent to the brain cause us to react to events and people. Overtime, our emotional reactions become habitual ways of thinking and reacting.

But that doesn't mean we are stuck with these habits of thinking and reacting. Developing and improving emotional intelligence is possible. And when you have a higher EQ, you gain the ability to "hit the pause button," in a way. Rather than indulging in every emotion you feel, you'll be able to stop and consider whether or not the emotion is worth it.

On the flip side, if you don't develop your EQ, you'll find yourself constantly in reaction mode. That can be a real career-killer.

Do I Need to Develop My EQ More?

Not sure if your emotional intelligence needs a little fine-tuning? Consider how much these statements apply to you:

You find yourself often interrupting others during conversations.

Failure isn't an option for you.

You don't care if you aren't liked.

You hold everyone around you to the same high expectations you have for yourself.

You are hyper-focused on processes and objectives, but not very focused on people or relationships.

If these statements describe you, then you might need to work on developing your EQ.

The payoff for EQ development is huge, especially for people who constantly find themselves frustrated and irritated at work. Not only will they find more success in their careers, but they may also find more peace in their lives.

A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Elizabeth Lions is an executive career coach. You can learn more at ElizabethLions.com.