What is Emotional Intelligence & How Can You Improve Yours?

4 minute read

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘emotional intelligence,’ an characteristic that continues to rise in importance for organisations in the charity sector. But what does it actually mean? Put simply, EI is a combination of unique traits that can determine the success of your leadership in the workplace.

In the not-for-profit sector, great EI will set you apart from other job candidates. Comprising a number of key elements, from self-awareness to social awareness, it will also help you to handle the emotionally demanding work of the industry.

As recruiters are looking for candidates who display strong emotional intelligence skills, it is crucial that you can demonstrate this as a strength and position yourself as the best fit for their organisation. So, what exactly determines EI? And more importantly – how do you get it?

  • Self-Awareness: A capacity to understand and be aware of your emotional state, strengths and weaknesses. It also entails knowing that this will change in a variety of situations so that you are prepared to act accordingly.
  • Self-Management: Maintain professionalism by managing, adapting and controlling your emotions. This will make you flexible to shifts in the sector and is an important step to set the best example for your team.
  • Social Awareness: If you understand yourself but not the people you work with, then you’re only halfway there. Be familiar with the moods, emotions and feelings of those around you in order to respond appropriately.
  • Relationship Management: Manage your interactions to encourage trust and respect, within your team and the wider business. Utilise empathy to take control of your communications and ensure a positive resolution.



Why Do These Matter?

Although it does seem like EI is just another buzzword, it is a concept that carries a lot of weight, especially in the charity sector. Studies show that the ability to intuitively adapt to different emotional situations can heighten job satisfaction, lead to a successful networking experience, and enhance engagement within the workplace.

Why is this valuable to an employer? It reduces turnover rates and increases your value as a member of their team. Luckily for you, it is possible to train your emotional intelligence, whether by practicing mindfulness or enrolling in a short course.

So, what are your options for sharpening your EI to land that job or promotion?

  • Educate Yourself: Education is the best way to develop your emotional intelligence and is encouraged by many organisations. You may want to consider taking a workshop or a short courses, as this will give you a chance to develop your ability to perceive and evaluate your emotions before applying these skills to the world of work.
  • Practice Patience: Stop interrupting the people around you. Stop thinking about the twenty things you need to do, all at once. Clear your mind and take a step back to analyse the situation independently. A builder in their apprenticeship training who acts with haste is of little value on a real construction site and the same goes for your dream not-for-profit career.
  • Rationalise Your Feelings: Are you angry at a coworker? Does this only happen with them or have you felt this way before? Connect your feelings to a specific instance to rationalise them. It could be a personal event that is affecting your professional relationship, which isn’t fair on those around you. Regulate your emotions by first understanding the cause, particularly when some of the day to day experiences in the charity sector can be challenging.
  • Speak to the People Around You: Take the time to observe and interact with the people around you. While some professionals prefer straight to the point communication, others may take your comments more personally if you aren’t emotionally sensitive.
  • Respond Instead of Reacting: There is a difference between reacting and responding. A reaction is unconscious and based on your personal emotional state. A response is a conscious process that acknowledges how you feel, how they feel and the best way forward. Understanding the difference is intrinsic to good leadership.
  • Be Accountable For Your Actions: Create a positive environment by taking responsibility for your actions. This is often the most challenging steps for young professionals and will take time, it doesn’t happen overnight. Acknowledge that your behaviour comes from you and not anyone else. If you feel hurt and lash out, this is your decision. Professionals who can maintain their emotional intelligence also highlight their maturity, which is a major tick for employers.

Ultimately, EI is a capability that comes with experience. Strengthening your working relationships will impact the prospects at your current job and any future employment. Learning to handle how you feel can also benefit your personal life, minimising the stress and anxiety you might otherwise bring home – an all too common experience for not-for-profit professionals.

While the above strategies are a great starting point, it is up to you to put them into practice to handle emotionally-charged situations like a pro.

Caroline Schmidt

Caroline Schmidt writes the blogs for Kangan Institute. She is passionate about education and giving advice to students of all ages. Over the last 15 years, Caroline has worked across both the education and professional development industries in a senior position, which has given her a firsthand insight into the career pathway options available to emerging professionals.

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