Recap – What is Emotional Intelligence?

Being successful in the corporate world depends on many things, but one of the most important factors, is engaging effectively with people around you. Whether you are at the top of the corporate ladder, or whether you are still making your way up to the big corner office, along your career journey many people will cross your path. How you deal with them, will inevitably affect your journey.

My mom used to tell me “Do not step on people on your way to the top, because you don’t know who you will need on your way down…” Her words has stuck with me, and made me think twice about burning bridges that I might need in the future. For you to be a successful communicator, you need to focus on growing your Emotional Intelligence (EQ), to not lose that important opportunity because you overreacted to a statement in a moment of anger.

The dilemma we face at the moment is that the advances in digital communication has changed the way we interact with our colleagues and potential business partners.

Why the hype about Emotional Intelligence?

EQ is your ability to identify your own emotions, as well as the emotions of other people. This skill helps you to label your feelings correctly and to use your EQ to interpret the emotional info you collect and to then act in an emotionally appropriate way.

There are four key elements that make up emotional intelligence:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness (empathy)
  • Relationship management

The term dates back to 1964, it was first used in a research paper by Michael Beldoch. Daniel Goleman introduced it into mainstream society in 1996 after writing a book on the topic.

It is speculated that your EQ is not set in stone, unlike the notion that you are born with a certain IQ and you’re stuck with it your whole life. Through the right training and enhancing your self-awareness, you can build up your EQ and become more socially aware.

Can emotional cues be transferred into the Digital World?

One of the main focus points of your emotional intelligence, is to gather information from your surroundings – the context of a conversation, your own emotional reaction as well as the reaction of other people you are dealing with.

While typing an email, how do you convey that you are smiling or frowning so that the other person knows your reaction to their words? Daniel Goleman makes the statement “there is no channel for emotions with email.”

The famous positive and negative smiley faces, 🙂 and 🙁 were created in 1982 by Scott Fahlman, a computer scientist. In 1999 the first emoji was created in Japan by Shigetaka Kurita. Emoticons are very handy while typing a WhatsApp to a friend, but it is not a very professional form of communication. Even inserting a smiley face into your business correspondence, can be seen as unprofessional and offensive to some people.

While typing a business email you are stuck with the possibility of the other person misinterpreting your tone of voice. Needless to say, trying to be sarcastic while typing an email, is not advisable. A neutral statement sent via email, could be interpreted as cold or even as cruel. The negativity bias comes into play, which means that basically someone will first assume the worst before they give you the benefit of the doubt that your words weren’t meant to be hurtful.

Goleman has noted an interesting thing that occurs with digital communication, he calls it “flaming” …

… that moment when someone immediately lashes out at the other person who sent the email or text message, without first taking a moment to cool down and think things through.

Technology offers you the ability to instantly interact with someone, even if they are sitting on the other side of the world. Goleman sees flaming as a form of “emotional hijack”, the moment when your reasoning flies out the window and you react impulsively, out of anger, which you will most likely regret later.

Flaming or cyber-disinhibition

When flaming occurs your brain circuits that should block the impulse to instantly respond, fails to stop you. The reason why this is so much more prevalent with digital communication, is that in a face-to-face interaction you are more likely to not respond so harshly because of the direct feedback from the other person in front of you.  The lack of direct feedback creates a lack of inhibition.

Goleman calls it “cyber-disinhibition”, you can’t channel your emotions online, you’re just staring at flat words on a screen and you are only hearing them in your own head, meaning that you choose to interpret the tone in a subjective manner.

SEL or Social and Emotional Learning becomes much more important in the online world. You need to be in touch with your self-awareness to notice when you are becoming angry or defensive. If you continue to indulge in over-reacting to emails before thinking things through, you will be strengthening your negative neural circuitry. You need to remember that you can resist the impulses, even while you’re staring at your computer screen and not a human face.

Can excessive access to technology make you less emotionally intelligent?

When was the last time you had a conversation with someone, without grabbing your phone when you heard some or other notification sound? When was the last time you went a whole twenty-four hours without checking your phone? WhatsApp, emails, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – digital technology has become an integral part of our daily lives.

It’s almost as if we have forgotten that we are still in charge of our own lives, not the little device that seemingly controls everything. In a digital world you now have three people in a conversation: you, a computer or phone screen and the other person. One would hope that the screen enhances the conversation by expanding your social reach, but often it makes a conversation much more strained.

Emotional Intelligence Image

Even when talking on a telephone, you can gauge a lot of emotional feedback from the other person’s voice. You can also make a statement and immediately get a reaction, correcting the person if they misinterpret what you’ve said. When you are sending an email or even posting on Twitter, interpretation is open for discussion and you can’t control how people react to your words.

In the digital age, people are spending progressively more time in isolation with technology. Face-to-face interactions are becoming less and less. You can be an online freelance worker in South Africa with clients in America, England and Australia. Nowadays you can be working for a boss you’ve never even met in person, your only correspondence being emails.

Goleman believes that the human brain is designed to learn emotional interaction lessons in daily life, while interacting with other people. Being stuck behind your computer all day without any human interaction is not ideal, your EQ skill levels could start deteriorating if you don’t keep yourself emotionally in tune.

Words are very powerful! And, once you send something into cyber space, it is forever out there.

How does Emotional Intelligence fit into the Digital World?

A core concept of Emotional Intelligence is that you have to take responsibility for your own emotional reactions. Together with this, you need to think about how your words will affect others. To incorporate this into digital communication, you need to think twice before responding to an email or Facebook post.

If you receive an infuriating email, if possible, type your response but wait for a few hours before you send it.

Before sending the email, read it over again and decide if you’ve responded in the most emotionally appropriate way.  It is sometimes helpful to ask a friend or colleague to cast an eye on what you have responded.  The beauty of digital communication is that you can put the proverbial guard in front of your mouth and think twice before responding.

What does the future hold?

The digital revolution will keep growing and expanding into different business spheres. Emails, messaging, social media and web-based communication are only laying the foundation for a future we can hardly even imagine. Messaging apps are the fastest growing industry in the world right now!

Have you noticed how nowadays people are invariably working on their laptops during meetings? Have you seen how many couples sit in a restaurant or coffee shop, each staring at their phone instead of staring into each other’s eyes?  My worst is when two people, sitting together, send each other Facebook messages or share WhatsApp jokes!

As alluded to earlier, companies are no longer confined to a concrete building. We live in a world where physical proximity is no longer important or necessary, we can work in virtual teams. Everything we used to know about the corporate world, is changing.

Are you ready for the changes? Are you equipped to deal with a world where the usual social cues are missing, where you can’t rely on traditional feedback? Can you afford to be left behind?

This is the first in a series of posts about how to face the digital age armed with an EQ that can carry you through. Feel free to subscribe here, and we will notify you when the next post is published.

(See interview with Daniel Goleman on, which was an inspiration to this blog.)

Do you think the the increased usage of digital and social channels is affecting our emotional intelligence and relationships, we would love to know what you think?

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At Metatrans, we are passionate about helping businesses and people thrive through digital disruption, transformation and innovation.

We help businesses assess, plan and implement digital strategies, that enable companies to be lean, agile and focus on excellent customer service.

We also work with the people across all levels of the organisation and provide the necessary interventions and training to have the right culture, customer oriented and digital savvy staff.

By |2017-11-06T14:10:12+00:00October 28th, 2016|
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