Ways to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence for a Career in Human Services - Penn-Mar

Ways to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence for a Career in Human Services

Posted on August 3, 2023

Success in any career — especially in the field of human services — involves mastering certain skills. Among these, one essential yet often overlooked attribute is emotional intelligence (EI or EQ for “emotional quotient”). But what is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the capacity to recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions, and to empathize effectively with the emotions of others. In simpler terms, it’s about forging a deeper connection with our own emotions and those of others.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the world of becoming more emotionally intelligent, exploring how to improve emotional intelligence, and examining why emotional intelligence is important for a fulfilling and successful career in human services. 

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

In today’s fast-paced work environment, the importance of emotional intelligence is paramount. Emotional intelligence is not just about being “nice” or “emotionally available” — it plays a pivotal role in developing strong relationships, fostering a positive work environment, and facilitating successful outcomes. For professionals in human services, where interactions with people are routine, emotional intelligence becomes a cornerstone for effective support.

Individuals who have undergone emotional intelligence training possess a clearer understanding of their emotions, enabling them to manage stress and emotional upheaval effectively. They can better empathize with clients, leading to improved service delivery and enhanced client satisfaction. But what makes emotional intelligence particularly vital for a career in human services? Let’s dig deeper.

The Necessity of Emotional Intelligence in Human Services

When human services professionals are working with emotional intelligence, they are better equipped to understand and address the emotional and social needs of their clients. They can empathize with individuals, making them feel heard, understood, and supported. This ability facilitates stronger client relationships, fosters increased trust, and results in improved care.

A career in healthcare, for instance, often requires a strong dose of emotional intelligence. Building patient-provider trust is crucial, as professionals in this field are often working with individuals who may have a complex diagnosis, such as those with developmental disabilities. In such scenarios, emotional intelligence is a key element of building a genuine and trusting connection. 

A Closer Look at the Components of Emotional Intelligence

The emotional intelligence components encompass five core areas that contribute to overall emotional intelligence:

  • Self-Awareness: If you are self-aware, you’re in tune with your own behavioral patterns and motives. You comprehend how your feelings and actions influence others and can articulate your emotions and the reasons behind them. Self-awareness also includes the ability to spot triggers, understand strengths, and acknowledge limitations. This trait often goes hand-in-hand with humility, acknowledging our shared human condition.
  • Self-Regulation: Being able to self-regulate means your emotional responses align with the situation at hand. It involves being able to take a moment when needed, keeping impulses in check, and considering the outcomes before making decisions. Self-regulation also encompasses the skills to diffuse tension, navigate conflicts, handle challenging circumstances, and adapt to environmental changes. It’s about nurturing the aspect of oneself that effectively manages emotions.
  • Motivation: If you’re intrinsically motivated, you’re passionate about personal growth. You have a strong drive to excel, as defined by your own criteria for success. The drive to achieve goals comes from the desire for personal development, not external rewards like wealth, fame, prestige, or acknowledgment.
  • Empathy: Those with empathy understand others’ perspectives without being self-absorbed. In conversations, they can grasp another person’s viewpoint and empathize with their experience. Even if they haven’t been through the exact situation, they can relate it to their own experiences to understand and offer compassion. They are patient in their judgment of others, understanding that everyone is trying their best given their circumstances.
  • Social Skills: Individuals with well-developed social skills excel in team environments. They are considerate of others’ needs during conversations or conflict resolution. They display open and inviting behavior, using active listening, displaying strong verbal communication skills, and keeping welcoming body language. These individuals are skilled at building relationships and, if the situation warrants, demonstrating leadership.

Ways to Improve Emotional Intelligence

Becoming more emotionally intelligent is a journey that involves cultivating and practicing certain habits. Here are six actionable steps to enhance your emotional intelligence:

  • Mindful Observation: Start by noticing your own emotions. What feelings are you experiencing throughout the day, and what events trigger them? Mindfully observing your emotional responses provides insights into your emotional patterns and behaviors.
  • Self-Reflection: After observing your emotions, reflect on why you reacted in a particular way. What was it about that event that triggered such a reaction? Understanding the “why” behind your emotions is a crucial step toward self-awareness.
  • Emotional Regulation: Learning to control and manage your emotions is essential. Strategies for emotional regulation might include deep breathing exercises, mindfulness practices, or cognitive behavioral techniques that help you respond to your emotions in a healthier and more constructive manner.
  • Empathy Practice: Try to understand things from others’ perspectives. Next time you’re in a conversation, listen more than you speak and try to understand the other person’s feelings and experiences. Developing empathy enhances your social awareness.
  • Conflict Resolution Skills: Learn how to manage conflicts effectively. This involves clear communication, active listening, and finding a mutually beneficial resolution. Good conflict-resolution skills are crucial for relationship management.
  • Seek Feedback: Encourage others to give you feedback on how you handle emotions and social interactions. This can provide valuable insights and areas for improvement. Be open to feedback and willing to make the necessary changes.

Remember, improving emotional intelligence is a journey, not a destination. The more you practice these steps, the more emotionally intelligent you will become.

Real-World Emotional Intelligence Examples in the Workplace

Applying emotional intelligence in the workplace is more than a theoretical concept. Here are some emotional intelligence examples in action:

In a career in healthcare, a nurse may be confronted with a patient in distress. Applying emotional intelligence would involve empathizing with the patient’s discomfort, understanding their own emotional response, and then communicating in a comforting and reassuring manner.

Similarly, for those seeking a meaningful job that involves helping people, emotional intelligence is critical. For example, a social worker using emotional intelligence might understand the emotional dynamics of a distressed family, manage their own reactions, and then communicate effectively to de-escalate the situation.

To thrive in the realm of human services, one must possess a wide range of skills. Among these, emotional intelligence stands out as a key differentiator. By honing your emotional intelligence, you can better understand and connect with clients, leading to improved care and personal job satisfaction.

Consider expanding your skills by seeking emotional intelligence training. This investment in personal growth will not only make you a more effective human services professional but also pave the way for a rewarding and fulfilling career.

If you’re looking for a great career that involves helping people, consider a career in healthcare by becoming a Direct Support Professional! At Penn-Mar Human Services, our mission is to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live courageous lives full of self-determination, independence, and equity. Our approach is innovative, person-centered, and successful. Through meaningful employment, community inclusion, and residential choice, the people Penn-Mar supports are empowered to live their best lives. 

If you’re interested in a career in healthcare and want to make a difference in the lives of others, consider filling out an application to join our team! We offer a wide range of employee benefits and competitive compensation. You can also get involved by learning more about our services or signing up to volunteer with us today!

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