People skills are considered to be paramount in the workplace and in the Middle East, where entrepreneurship is increasingly emphasized and encouraged to create jobs for its growing ‘youth bulge,’ it’s a crucial skill to give young innovators an edge.
Coined by Daniel Goleman, “emotional intelligence” (EQ) is considered an essential skill to entrepreneurship, particularly when it comes to forming relationships, generate capital, inspire productivity and lead change.
Several studies have also shown that EQ is an important skill for success, even more so than IQ and experience.
We spoke to Lama Younis, founder of the Hissah Enrichment Center in Dubai, and Mawada Alwazir, a CTI Co-active Coach and Emotional Intelligence Coach about strengthening your own emotional intelligence and setting yourself apart in the workforce:
Elan: How would you define emotional intelligence?
Mawada Alwazir: Emotional intelligence “is the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.”
For me, it means knowing yourself and your feelings and by knowing yourself, you tend to be more understanding towards others which in turn helps you to be more empathetic towards them. As a result it will help you to solve your own problems and once you are able to create this change within yourself, you realize that everything else around you will also change.
Elan: Why is it so important in the Middle East? Do you think society shies away from it or is unaware of it?
Mawada Alwazir: I believe emotional intelligence in the Middle East is very much part of the culture especially in the olden days, but people were not aware of the term ‘emotional intelligence’ then to define it so.
When you visit old souks or the old areas in Dubai, Saudi, Cairo or Lebanon, you feel a difference in the way people interact with you as they tend to be more emotionally aware in the way they talk to you or treat you. They also understand your body language and you feel an invisible understanding or connection with them.
But nowadays I feel people are more materialistically driven and hence they do not take the time out to examine their inner self or stop to reflect on their emotions and feelings. They also do not find the time to reason out or explain their views to other people. I believe all these qualities are very important in our lives.
Lama Younis: I believe emotional intelligence is unnoticed by word, yet the action and is very visible around us today and in the old days. I see the new generation talking about it more, seeking more information, looking to know more about which I believe is great as they are expanding their horizons. I believe we should explore it and we should introduce it to education and work place, as it’s a very much beautiful subject to learn more about and above all a great element to have.
Elan: How do you develop, strengthen and improve your emotional intelligence?
MA: Based on the 6 seconds Emotional Intelligence module, you start by knowing yourself, choosing yourself and giving yourself through self-awareness, self –management, and self- direction.
1) First and foremost, you have to know how to identify your feelings and differentiate between them. For example, feeling angry is different from feeling upset or frustrated and feeling happy is different from feeling thrilled. Having a good understanding of your emotions can help you to change your attitude towards situations.
2) Recognize your patterns and make a conscious effort to change them. For example, when my conversations with my husband escalate, we both tend to scream and no matter how much I try my reaction is always the same. If I take a conscious effort to stop and assess my feelings, I realize that I can choose to react differently to the situation. This change itself results in a more fruitful conversation between my husband and me.
3) Assess & navigate your emotions and then transform them
4) Be optimistic and motivate your inner self to move forward
5) Have a noble goal that drives you and makes you want to wake up looking forward to your day and your life.
6) And most importantly, be empathetic with yourself as well as others. Always start with being empathetic towards yourself. In Steven Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he explains how it is important to take care of yourself before others by referring to the safety procedures adopted in planes.
During an emergency, when oxygen masks drops down, you are required to attend to yourself first before you attend to others. When you take care of yourself first you become more capable of taking care of others. In a similar manner it is important to be empathetic towards oneself in order to be empathetic towards others.
For me empathy should be an essential trait in every human being. When humans are empathetic with each other, it creates a holistic change in their lives. Also knowing that no two people are alike is very important. I can’t expect another person to see situations in the way that I see them because they are oriented to think differently as they come from a different culture and have a different lifestyle. Remember, each person has a story to tell and that story is not yours.
Elan: How does emotional intelligence improve one’s personal life and professional life?
MA: I think by knowing yourself well and evaluating your emotions you can change any situation in your life be it work, personal or even dealing with your children.
Knowing that you have a choice to react towards situations differently and choosing your words or even your body language wisely can improve your quality of life and will make you feel much happier.
LY: One becomes more self-aware of their emotions, therefore you know more about yourself, your abilities. your feelings, thoughts and body, which are all very important.
One can increase their emotional vocabulary which can help in expressing thoughts and feelings at work and in their personal life, to me this is something amazing. Also understanding your weakness and your strengths so you can work more on yourself, one must remember by simply knowing this you help make better choices in life.