We often hear people referred to as being high in emotional intelligence, but what does it actually mean? Being emotionally intelligent, or having a ‘high EQ’, is not just about feeling and being in tune with other’s emotions, it’s also about translating that emotion into the correct response, and sustaining the emotion to feed your motivation and positive action. Emotional intelligence also helps to manage stress and recognise when things are becoming out of control.
Why is emotional intelligence so important in the legal profession?
An American Express study in 2013, found EQ to be biggest predictor of work performance. It is the difference between someone who is well educated and highly trained and someone who leads, innovates and provide real lasting solutions to problems.
It is not uncommon for us to instinctively supress our emotional and empathetic response in our work. There is the idea, particularly in high stakes and high pressure situations, that important decisions must always be led by the logical, mathematical side of our thinking. In fact, in order to respond in the most beneficial manner, we need our emotional responses to guide our analysis to help us make the right decisions at the right times. This applies in all aspects of our lives – emotional intelligence is essential to navigate the many challenges that we face in our complex modern societies.
Emotional intelligence is one of the most important assets to have as a lawyer and it will be the foundation for your success and satisfaction in your work. Lawyers often deal with very sensitive situations – in any area of law you can find yourself dealing with range of emotions as individuals are going through fractious and fraught times personally, professionally and financially. The nature of the job means working closely with people in a variety of emotional states, trying to establish as much crucial and accurate detail as possible to build a solid case. Often you are working on what is not being said as much as what you have managed to glean from the words of a conversation.
At the same time modern day work is global, and remote/contract work means communicating regularly across different channels with people on varying frequency levels. We need to be able to judge emotions accurately in order to follow and give instruction, understand situations, provide solutions and solve problems.
In your role as an Obelisk legal consultant, one of the advantages of our way of working is that you get to work with clients in more industries and gain broader experience across the sector. Having a high EQ is vital to manage the different backgrounds, structures and types of clients you will be working with.
How to increase your EQ
Much like creativity, emotional intelligence is something that can be developed and must be nurtured. Indeed, there are even emotional intelligence training courses available to lawyers and corporate professionals. There are some simple things you can focus on yourself to develop your emotional intelligence:
Start by focusing in on your emotional responses to different situations – be they personal experience, current affairs or fiction/dramatisations that evoke feeling, they can all be used to examine how you process emotion and what triggers the strongest responses. Examine the root of the emotional response – e.g. is it injustice, fear, self-doubt – to understand what drives and shapes your personality.
Spend more time in deep conversation with others. It doesn’t have to be conversations relating to the issues you are facing at work (though that can help understand your own and other’s emotional response to those) but it helps to practice the dynamics of an in-depth heartfelt talk with another person and learn aspects of their and your own character and depth of feeling that you might not have previously understood fully.
Allow your emotions to guide you to more knowledge. Channel your mood or emotional response to deepen your understanding of an issue; an angry or frustrated response often comes from feelings of helplessness. See where you can gain control of that feeling and work towards making a difference, and this can change the emotional response from a negative to a positive one.