Exhibiting emotional intelligence is more important than ever in the workplace. People are increasingly less likely to stick with jobs where they do not feel seen, heard, or valued. Employees want to work with and for people who exhibit high degrees of emotional intelligence — teammates and managers who project leadership along with self-awareness, empathy, and humility.
The cornerstone of emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, evaluate, interpret, and manage emotions — both your own and those of others — and use those insights to drive positive action. This sensibility can improve everything from communication and personal relationships to effectiveness and job satisfaction. Here are some key phrases that are used by emotionally intelligent leaders.
Terms that indicate emotional intelligence
“I’m listening” / “I hear you”
Never underestimate the power of telling someone you’re listening. We’ve all been on the receiving end of barely-made eye contact or lukewarm nodding while we’re mid-sentence with another person. How much more validated and valued would we feel if they confirmed we have their undivided attention with some eye contact and a simple “I’m listening”?
It’s encouraging to know that not only are we being listened to, we are being heard and understood. Saying “I hear you” and “I understand” will let those around you know their perspective, ideas, and experiences are valid.
“Tell me more”
Similarly, effective communicators don’t pretend they know things when they don’t, or make another person feel stupid for not expressing themselves clearly. When that situation arises, emotionally intelligent communicators use inviting language like, “Tell me more” or “Can you say more about that?” to signal their commitment to the conversation and to gain clarity minus any judgment.
“I appreciate you”
Taking it a step (or several) beyond “good job” facilitates stronger relationships down the road. While there’s nothing wrong with praise like, “looks good” or “thank you,” saying you appreciate the human being behind the work adds an extra layer of gratitude and connection. (If this is too far out of your comfort zone, start with its sister phrase, “I appreciate your work on this.”)
“I trust you”
People generally perform better when they’re supported and believed in, rather than micromanaged or overly questioned. Saying “I trust you” indicates a fundamental confidence in the decisions and abilities of another person, allowing them to deliver results and build personal morale.
“What are your thoughts? Am I missing anything?”
High-EQ employees and leaders don’t censor ideas, steamroll feedback, or presume they know more than everyone else. In his book The Conscious Project Leader, author Colin Ellis notes, “Emotionally intelligent leaders are inclusive by nature and never stop looking for opportunities to bring the thoughts and views of others into a discussion.” Proactively inviting and allowing meaningful contribution from others is one way to do this.
“I have a different perspective”
Emotional intelligence means neither creating unnecessary drama nor shying away from differences of opinion in the workplace. If your thoughts don’t mesh with your co-workers, rather than remaining silent (and subsequently stewing that someone else’s work carried the day), flatly saying “I don’t agree” or leading with a cloying, “With all due respect,” say, “I have a different perspective.” It opens the door to respectful disagreement and dialogue.
“Is everything OK?”
Though your first reaction to a missed deadline or subpar performance from a teammate may be frustration or anger, exhibiting empathy and caring about others’ well-being is at the forefront of the emotionally intelligent workplace mind. If someone who is usually reliable isn’t performing up to expected standards, put disappointment aside and genuinely inquire about their well-being first.
Far from being a sign of weakness, the ability to apologise is a hallmark trait of emotional intelligence. Recognising mistakes, taking responsibility, and indicating remorse and a desire to do better are the foundational elements of productive personal relationship-building. (However, “I’m sorry” should be reserved for instances when you cause personal hurt, embarrassment, or a breach of trust; it should not be tossed around every time you’re late or have a question.) For that, see below.
“Thanks for (your) understanding”
Many of us have a tendency to over-apologise for everything from our appearance and feelings, to being confused or delayed by extenuating circumstances. Where “I’m sorry” centres on you and your feelings, thanking someone else for their understanding shifts the focus onto what they’re experiencing. Try substituting “Thank you for understanding” the next time you need to duck out early to pick up your child, or turn in something later than expected.
This article on emotional intelligence has been updated since its original publish date.
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