May 29, 2019

The power of emotional intelligence in the digital age

As machines take over more routine tasks, uniquely human attributes become more valuable


Human emotions and the business landscape seem to be separate and different worlds. That may be, but when it comes to business, there are always people involved, and with people come emotions.


We all know the having a good level of intelligence (IQ) is important if we want to learn fast, apply that knowledge and use sound reasoning. But we cannot deny that human emotion is also a driving force in business today, especially now that technology is advancing the point where many routine jobs can be automated.


As humans, we all have different approaches and levels of emotion. Some are a lot more “in control”, while others are energized by their emotions to stay upbeat and make quick decisions. We all show different emotions depending on the people and situations around us, and to be able to control this, we must have a good level of emotional intelligence or EQ.


The Cambridge Dictionary defines emotional intelligence as “the ability to understand the way people feel and react and to use this skill to make good judgments and to avoid or solve problems”. Now you understand why we all need this attribute, and even more so in the business world.


To clearly understand emotional intelligence and its power, look around you at our world today. As technology is advancing, we see a shift with the automation of tasks such as data entry, customer service, email marketing, and so on. The machines performing these tasks are even more accurate than humans, but there are still many things they cannot do. This is where human emotion and emotional intelligence comes in.


Machines still cannot completely replicate human emotion or the ability to understand and react to it. Here are some ways emotional intelligence is becoming a powerful skill in this digital age.


First, emotional intelligence is required for critical analysis and decision-making. Machines can do many tasks as long as they are programmed to do those tasks. But machines cannot always solve complex problems or make decisions for us.


The reason that emotional intelligence is required when solving complex problems and making tough decisions is that human emotion is involved. If we’re trying to solve a highly customer-specific problem, you’ll need to have emotional intelligence.


Second, emotional intelligence is required for deeper understanding — something machines still do not have. Deeper understanding covers both one’s mindset and empathy toward others. We need openness to listen and empathy to put ourselves in other people’s shoes.


In a world where everything can be automated, everything loses the human touch. Human emotion and deeper understanding are still required to create a great experience for our customers or to truly work in harmony with one another.


Third, emotional intelligence is required across your work or business life as well as your personal life. A machine — that is, your phone — can help you communicate with other people, but the ability to speak in a certain manner requires a sound level of emotional intelligence.


In a sense, the second point relates to social skills. Emotional intelligence is linked to our abilities to interact in our social settings. No matter how much technology advances, there is no running away from things such as negotiation, conflict management, teamwork, and networking, all requiring emotional intelligence.


Finally and possibly most importantly, in a world where everything is accessible at our fingertips, where short attention spans, low patience, and reduced temper control prevail, emotional intelligence becomes crucial. We’re all used to getting our way and getting information with a few clicks or taps. But a lot of the challenges we face cannot be clicked away instantly. They still require time to understand and solve.


Emotional intelligence is what will help us persevere over time. It allows us to regulate our own emotions and control them in a better and healthy way. As we become aware of our own emotions as well as those of others, we are able to react in an appropriate manner.


Emotional intelligence could just be one of the key ingredients to keeping you relevant. After all, these days you not only need to have the technical skills to get the job done, you also need the emotional intelligence to get it done faster and more effectively.


The good news is that emotional intelligence can be learned and developed. Nobody is born with an innate ability to understand their own emotions alongside those of others and react appropriately, but by becoming self-aware, we can start to develop this vital resource in ourselves.


Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at or Experience our lifelong learning ecosystem today at