How to Convince Someone that Emotional Intelligence is Important

By now, most professionals acknowledge the importance of EQ for workplace success. Research suggests that emotional intelligence is linked to more effective leadership, better relationships, enhanced ability to manage stress, and greater overall life satisfaction and self-esteem.

Still, despite the benefits of emotional intelligence, I frequently come across individuals who undervalue its importance. It could be the CEO who believes that business should be all about metrics, and none of that, “touchy-feely” stuff. It could be the frustrated professional who wants to move into management, but believes his work should speak for itself, regardless of how he gets along with others. Or, it could be the manager who needs help dealing with a direct report who is highly talented, but abrasive.  In all of these cases, the challenge is how to convince someone that emotional intelligence is important. 

I’ve been in that situation of needing to build an argument many times – either as a coach working with a client, who needs to strengthen his or her people skills, or as a consultant, providing guidance to a leader on how to encourage someone to be receptive to developing his or her EQ. If you’re in a situation in which you need to convince someone that emotional intelligence is important, here are a few tactics you can try:

1. Present Research

If you’re dealing with people who are analytical, I’ve found that the most effective approach is to present them with research that shows how critical emotional intelligence is for success. Although making the case that they should care about how others feel might sound compelling to you, it simply may not persuade someone who doesn’t place a high value on emotions or relationships. 

Therefore, to build the case, present them with research that addresses how emotional intelligence is linked to greater leadership effectiveness. Further, you could point out that employees of bosses with higher EQ tend to be happier, creative, and more intrinsically motivated at work.  You could make the case that this leads to better performance in productivity (and more success for the leader and the business as a whole). When you can back it up with data, these sorts of arguments are difficult to refute. As a result, it can make people more prone to entertain the idea of working on boosting their EQ.

2. Collect and Present Data

Often, when people lack emotional intelligence, they may not have enough self-awareness to truly understand the impact that their style has on others. Therefore, it can also be helpful to have them undergo a 360 survey, so that they can uncover potential blind spots and gain greater insight on how others view them. 

A 360 survey (a means of gathering anonymous feedback from others), allows leaders to discover how they are perceived by others. The data, which is typically presented in a quantitative format along with written comments, can be a very eye-opening experience. 

For example, I have worked with many professionals who would openly admit that they were more results-oriented than people-oriented. Still, once they saw the results of their surveys, it was impossible to deny that their actions were holding them back from fulfilling their full potential as leaders.

As an alternative to a 360, you can also collect other data to demonstrate the impact of their style. For example, engagement scores and turnover metrics are often lower amongst leaders who struggle with emotional intelligence. Again, these data make the case that their style is working against their success. After all, if people are demotivated, or if you are continually having to hire and retrain staff, it is a huge efficiency drain.

3. Address their fears

I have found that a big fear for many people who undervalue emotional intelligence, is the belief that if they focus too much on people, the business will get sub-standard results. They believe that emotional intelligence is at odds with  holding people accountable, and that everything will just be about feeling good and singing “kum ba ya” (I have heard that song referred to way too many times in my career). 

To address these fears, it’s critical for people with these beliefs to learn that the research just doesn’t support that. Instead, you can focus on people while simultaneously holding them accountable. (In fact, if employees feel more connected to their leader and the work that they are doing, there will likely be less poor performance to address)!

Next steps

Once you have been able to convince someone that emotional intelligence is important, it can be helpful to start by having them develop a greater understanding of themselves, in terms of their strengths and opportunities for development. To increase their social awareness, you can coach them on different personality styles and how to inspire people.

For additional motivation, it can also be helpful to have leaders tap into their values. For most people, I have found that one of their core values is related to having a positive impact on others, being of service, being kind, or being seen as a good leader. To increase their focus on emotional intelligence, encourage them to tap into that value in the workplace, so that they’ll keep the interpersonal element in the forefront of their mind as they’re making decisions and relating to others.

Developing emotional intelligence also requires a lot of self-reflection, feedback, and experimenting with new behaviors. Therefore, it can also be beneficial to have the individual work with a coach, so that they can get expert guidance, along with a safe space to talk about their concerns. Another approach would be to have them take an online course, such as my 21 Day Crash Course in Emotional Intelligence, or to work through a leadership development book which emphasizes personal development. 

Want to learn more about emotional intelligence? Click below for a preview of my course. Then, if you want to enroll, click here!

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