Using Emotional Intelligence to Work Effectively with People You Don’t Like

Alyssa Gregory

hateRegardless the type of work you do and how amiable you are as a person, I can almost guarantee that you will eventually be in a situation where you have to work with someone you just don’t like. It could be a coworker at your job, an employee or team member of a client, a board member of an organization where you volunteer, or a teacher or coach at your child’s school.

The dynamics may change, but the factors that comprise the interpersonal relationship are the same across all situations, and when animosity enters the mix it can be a challenge to keep the relationship civil and productive. This is where emotional intelligence comes into play.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Your emotional intelligence refers to your ability to understand and empathize with others. According to Howard Gardner, a Harvard psychologist who authored, “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences,” your emotional intelligence is the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them.

Characteristics that are believed to be a part of emotional intelligence include:

  • Emotional awareness
  • Self-confidence
  • Self-control
  • Empathy
  • Political awareness
  • Understanding others
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Conflict management
  • Collaboration and cooperation
  • Team capabilities

The Four Domains of Emotional Intelligence

In his book, “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ,” Daniel Goleman, psychologist and science journalist for The New York Times, outlines these four domains of emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-awareness (emotional self-awareness, accurate self-assessment and self confidence)
  2. Self-management (emotional self-control, transparency, trustworthiness, adaptability, achievement orientation, initiative, optimism, conscientiousness)
  3. Social awareness (empathy, organizational awareness, service orientation)
  4. Relationship management (inspirational leadership, influence, developing others, change catalyst, conflict management, building bonds, teamwork and collaboration, communication)

Developing Emotional Intelligence

At its core, emotional intelligence really relates to your people skills; how good you are at communicating, understanding and relating to those around you. It can be argued that if you can improve your level of emotional intelligence, you will be able to work more effectively with those you may not like or get along with. In fact, you may even become more successful in all aspects of your life.

Here are some actions you can take to develop your emotional intelligence so all of your relationships, including the difficult ones, are more productive.

  • Look at yourself honestly and commit to specific areas of self-improvement.
  • Think through the possible impact of your words before you speak.
  • Avoid judging the actions of others before you have all of the facts.
  • Be accountable for what you do and follow through on what you say you will do.
  • Listen to opposing viewpoints and admit when you are wrong.
  • Praise others and give credit where credit is due.
  • Analyze your common emotions in times of stress, and work to control them.
  • Be consistently and genuinely respectful.
  • Curb negative thoughts and work to foster optimism.
  • Work at becoming a better listener.
  • Agree to disagree with those who have incompatible beliefs.

All of these actions will improve your empathy and that can be one of the most valuable traits to exhibit when working with someone you don’t like. When you’re empathetic, you act with compassion, respect and tolerance. And if those are your prevailing qualities in a challenging situation, you are certain to make it a productive relationship.

Image credit: Ale_Paiva