In my last blog, I referred to emotional intelligence as being that warm fuzzy stuff computers can't quite grasp. Well, it’s not just about warmth and fuzziness. Emotional intelligence is a multifaceted skill that sets us apart from the machines–and it’s not just an abstract concept. It's a powerhouse that fuels success in the world of business.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is often defined as the ability to perceive, use, understand, manage, and handle emotions. It encompasses not only being in touch with your own feelings but also empathizing and effectively communicating with others.  Yes, you heard it loud and clear—others. Sometimes, there is surprisingly little use of the word “social” and a considerable amount of the word “me” in social media.

Thanks to the wonders of social media, we've mastered the art of curating our lives to perfection, striving for likes and comments like squirrels hoarding nuts for winter. But our priorities might have gotten mixed up amidst this whirlwind of validation-seeking. While everyone's talking about empathy and desperately seeking it (for themselves, that is), we often forget to offer it to others–especially those who differ from us. 

The power of emotional intelligence

Okay, so emotional intelligence is about connecting with others. But then, why would it be crucial in business? Because it isn't just the key to fulfilling connections. it can also be your ticket to the profit party.

In the age of AI, certain skills will be in higher demand than ever. And no, it's not your top-notch selfie-taking abilities or the number of followers you can gather like a cult leader.

Research has consistently demonstrated the undeniable worth of emotional intelligence in personal and professional realms, positively associated with job performance, leadership effectiveness, and overall well-being. These findings clarify that emotional intelligence is a hard currency in today's interconnected and emotionally complex world.

But the funny thing is that many companies still hardly pay attention to it. The paradox often lies in workplaces that claim to prioritize facts and research–who dismiss emotions because of, well, emotions. 

The following emotionally influenced reasons often lead to the undervaluing or overlooking of emotional intelligence in the workplace:

  • Traditional focus on technical skills: Emphasizing technical skills and academic qualifications undervalues the significance of emotional intelligence.
  • Short-term mindset: The quest for immediate outcomes neglects the long-term benefits of a more emotionally intelligent workforce.
  • Leadership and culture: Leaders lacking awareness of emotional intelligence don't prioritize its value or encourage its development among employees.
  • Misconceptions and misunderstandings: Associating emotional intelligence solely with "soft skills" dismisses its role in enhancing decision-making, collaboration, and resilience.
  • Fear of vulnerability: Cultivating emotional intelligence requires confronting vulnerabilities and developing empathy for others. Averse to vulnerability, employees hesitate to engage in such growth.
  • Performance pressure and stress: High-pressure work environments leave little room for nurturing emotional intelligence, as employees face tight deadlines and heavy workloads.

It’s just like Terry Pratchett wrote: “The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they've found it.”

So, what company do you find yourself in?

AI, emotional intelligence, and investing in the right skills

In the age of AI, companies crave a competitive edge. Many will probably think that straightforwardly replacing humans with robots does the trick and saves them a lot of money. 

But here's the thing: When every company deploys AI to its full potential, can you trust that yours stands out? Instead of ditching humans, we should embrace our superpower—creativity! And what fosters creativity?

Emotional intelligence.

As it turns out, emotional intelligence plays a key role in nurturing a psychologically safe environment where creativity flourishes. New ideas, questions, concerns, and mistakes are welcomed without judgment, punishment, or humiliation. 

What's more, embracing emotional intelligence not only smoothens human interactions but also works wonders with AI – who knew that AI loves a good heart-to-heart chat, too? Just think about Marvin, the paranoid android from Douglas Adams’s famous Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: a brain the size of a planet but always doomed to be misunderstood. No wonder he’s so depressed!

When emotional intelligence helps you actively listen and ask better questions in human conversations, those same skills also translate into asking better questions from AI. As artificial intelligence becomes more like us and emulates human intelligence, we must, in turn, adapt to interact effectively with AI. It becomes increasingly important to harness the power of emotional intelligence in our interactions with these digital counterparts.

The artificial/emotional intelligence connection

In this era of AI, emotional intelligence emerges as the secret sauce for success, serving not only to enhance human interactions but also to work wonders with AI. When emotional intelligence empowers us to listen and ask better questions during human conversations actively, we can also extend that wisdom to our interactions with AI, effectively bridging the gap between humans and machines.

If this feels hard for you, don't worry; we won't leave you hanging. Emotional intelligence isn't some elusive unicorn you can't catch. It's a skill, a muscle you can flex and develop, just like that bicep you've been working so hard on in the gym. You could become a beacon of emotional intelligence in your circle with practice and a pinch of self-awareness.

Here's a little reminder: While business, profit, and making money might seem all-consuming, there's always more to the story. Beneath it all lies your emotional needs for security, appreciation, respect, and belonging. Developing emotional intelligence unlocks the power to understand and meet these needs, driving your ultimate success in the age of AI.

Published: Sep 22, 2023

Updated: Jan 30, 2024

Software developmentAgileProduct management