Emotionally intelligent people can adapt to a wide variety of situations and personality types. And the resulting benefits – from stopping conflicts to being a more effective leader – make emotional intelligence (EQ) even more important than IQ in the workplace, according to body language expert Janine Driver.
Driver, author of the New York Times bestseller “You Say More Than You Think,” recently spoke with Know Your Value founder and “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski about what EQ really is – and why it’s paramount both at home and at work. Here are the takeaways:
Emotional intelligence means being aware of yourself and others, and adapting appropriately.
First, a quick EQ primer: Driver told Brzezinski that she is an example of emotional intelligence in action.
“You are able to, on air, watch your guests, watch your co-hosts, and tell when it’s going rogue,” Driver said. “And then adapt your facial expressions and what you say ... you have to rope it in.”
The lesson also applies to those who don’t work in live television. The ability to defuse tense meetings or convince a client to move forward with your company can reap great rewards in the workplace, marking you as a natural leader.
Recognize that EQ decreases stress and anxiety — and that you might need to “take a pause” to employ it.
Driver shared a story from her own personal life: She was renovating a camper and had decided to install a plastic floor that looked like wood to keep out mold and stand up to damage from her three sons playing. Her father saw the flooring and became extremely angry, telling her both in person and later via phone messages that it was awful and looked cheap.
She explained that the camper wasn’t her father’s, and he wasn’t paying for it. Driver was upset, but she told her father: “Dad, I can’t deal with this right now,” and she left.
“If you meet their anger with anger, you don’t have good emotional intelligence,” explained Driver.
Get “the story behind the story.”
Driver ignored a pile of angry voicemails from her father and finally called back a few days later, telling him she loved him and valued his input. She waited until she could trust herself to respond calmly.
“He burst out crying and he said, ‘I’m sorry, I just miss your mother,’” Driver said.
The sixth anniversary of her mother’s death was coming up, and as she had suspected, his grief was the true driver of his anger — not the flooring in a camper that he didn’t own.
“Anger is often a secondary emotion to fear, anxiety and sadness,” Driver explained, later adding that emotional intelligence “stops conflicts from happening, dead in their tracks.”
“[EQ] actually has everything not to do with emotion,” Brzezinski said. “Because when you’re in emotion mind, you’re not being intelligent; actually you can’t think at all ... so [it’s about] taking a step back, and diffusing the emotion from it.”
Smart leaders read body language to assess how their team members are feeling.
When people feel stressed or anxious, that feeling often manifests in a physical tic: picking at cuticles, or rubbing legs, arms or the forehead. The higher up on the body, the more stress the person is feeling, Driver said.
Leaders who understand this can make smarter, more educated decisions and change the environment of the team, she added.
That’s the kind of leadership that engenders trust, leads to raises or promotions and generally sets a person apart even from the smartest in the room, Driver explained.
“Emotional intelligence is way more important [to] how much money you make than your IQ, your intelligence quotient,” Driver concluded. “It’s the emotional quotient that makes the difference.”