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Avoiding the E word?

How your emotions can work for you

“Emotions have no place at work. Leave them at the door.” Too often, we are warned to not let our emotions interfere with our work. But what if emotions can be used to our advantage?

Research suggests that we can achieve success by integrating our emotions and our thoughts through emotional intelligence*. Emotional intelligence can be defined as the ability to perceive, use, understand and manage emotions in order to enhance thought and promote emotional and intellectual growth**. Each of these four abilities can be leveraged so that your emotions are a help, rather than a hindrance, in the workplace.

The ability to perceive and identify emotions can be a useful source of information. If you are attuned to the emotions behind people’s body language and facial expressions, you can use these signals as additional forms of feedback**. For example, noticing a look of boredom during your presentation suggests that you may want to change your delivery style to engage more with your team.

You can also use or generate different emotions to facilitate your thinking. For example, positive emotions tend to expand our thinking and are associated with creativity whilst negative emotions are useful when you need to search for errors or examine details**. The ability to generate emotions also plays a role in empathy and allows you to build strong relationships with your colleagues**.

Understanding the causes of emotions and how they can change is also extremely valuable. This understanding allows you to generate emotional ‘what-if’ analyses and predict how other people will respond to your plans or proposals**. By taking people’s emotional reactions into account, you will be better prepared for any problems that may arise.

Finally, the ability to manage emotions is important in achieving your desired outcomes. This involves using emotional information in your decision-making and implementing strategies to regulate any unhelpful emotions in yourself and others**. For example, matching your colleague’s hostility may escalate a situation further. To avoid this, you could adopt a less aggressive tone and posture, engage in active listening to establish the underlying cause of their hostility or postpone the meeting until you have both calmed down.

Next time you are tempted to avoid your emotions or to push them down as far as they can go, take a moment to consider how you can use your emotions instead. They may hold the key to your success.

Learn more about the ability-based model of emotional intelligence here.

*Rosete, D., & Ciarrochi, J. (2005). Emotional intelligence and its relationship to workplace performance outcomes of leadership effectiveness. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 26(5), 388-399.

**Caruso, D. R., & Salovey, P. (2004). The emotionally intelligent manager: How to develop and use the four key emotional skills of leadership. John Wiley & Sons.

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