March 19, 2020

Emotional intelligence for personal and career growth

Awareness of others, active listening and balancing logic and emotion all part of the equation of emotional intelligence

Intelligence comes in different forms. Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs are examples of people with strong logical abilities. These people have a high intelligence quotient (IQ). People such as Martin Luther King and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella are known for their strong ability to connect with human emotions. These people have high emotional intelligence (EI).

Our IQ is linked to our technical skills while EI reflects our human skills. Both are important to build the career and life we all desire. But EI is taking on more importance in our rapidly advancing world.

According to the World Economic Forum, one of the 10 essential skills required in 2020 and beyond is EI. In fact, soft skills dominate the list. Technology is one of the reasons for this as it is making many jobs redundant. Another reason is that new business models are causing disruption. Consequently, we have to find new ways of working to ensure we remain relevant.

We cannot avoid digital transformation or change. But we can prepare ourselves to face those changes.

Here are some ways to apply EI at work and in our personal lives.

Understand what EI really means

The biggest misconception about emotional intelligence is our assumption that it is all about the self — my feelings, my behaviour and my emotions. But “the self” is only a part of the equation. Emotional intelligence also emphasises understanding the emotions of others and responding accordingly.

Moreover, having a high emotional intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean you’re soft or kind — this is another misconception. We often associate emotional intelligence with kindness and compassion. Again, these are some traits but others include honesty and the ability to set boundaries.

Observing ourselves and the people around us

Sometimes, we don’t say what we mean. This is natural human behaviour. This is why we must observe and try to understand ourselves and others. We can do this through our internal feelings or body language.

Recognise other people’s emotions better to build healthier relationships

This is important not just so that we can understand their feelings at the moment, but also so that we know how to react. This way, we can build mutual understanding with one another and create a space of trust and respect.

Engage in active listening

As we do not have an off switch for our ears, we’re always “listening”. But “active listening” allows us to understand the other person better. Active listening means giving our full attention to the other person talking without getting distracted or trying to understand the deep meaning of what the person is saying.

Practise mindfulness

Mindfulness is about being aware of the things happening to us and around us on a moment-to-moment basis, and staying in tune with our emotions before reacting. In many ways, we associate mindfulness with meditation. It allows you to connect with your inner self, which will be reflected by your outer self too.

Practise assertiveness

This may surprise you as the other points seem to suggest a more “passive” approach. But having high emotional intelligence means knowing how to communicate your opinions and needs, not just understanding those of others.

Balance logic and emotion

For example, when you’re filled with rage, it doesn’t mean you must react with full rage. Take a step back and understand why you feel the way you feel, and understand by applying logic what made you angry in the first place.

A person with good emotional intelligence understands that emotions are not the reality of things. They simply represent something in that moment and could change later. But when you react in the moment, there’s no taking it back afterward.

In the long run, emotional intelligence is what sustains your career and your life. Whichever path we decide to take, we will always meet people in our lives. Practising good EI means maintaining these relationships in a positive and healthier way. In many ways, this contributes to building the career and life we desire.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at Explore and experience our lifelong learning ecosystem today at