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What is Emotional Intelligence? How much do I have?

The Oxford dictionary defines Emotional Intelligence (EI) as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”

Some experts boil this down to balancing what’s in the head and in the heart, and approaching a challenge using common sense and not just “book learning.”

The theory of Emotional Intelligence and the phrase itself is believed to have originated with psychology studies at Yale and the University of New Hampshire in 1990. 

Sometimes referred to as Emotional Quotient, or EQ, it’s become a very big deal. You can take classes on it. You can take quizzes on it. You can do exercises on it with your kids.

And according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, Emotional Intelligence will be one of the top ten job skills in 2020. 

The insight it provides is valuable both in the workplace and as a key to personal health, happiness, and success.

Qualities of an Emotionally Intelligent Person

An emotionally intelligent person will skillfully collaborate, communicate, and engage with others. 

For example, have you ever been in a meeting where everyone is talking over one another trying to get their opinion in? These types of meetings showcase both inefficiency and lack of emotional intelligence. Often times, the leader will step up and say, “Laura, I hear what you are saying, but we should let Jodie finish her thought first and then collaborate on a solution.” 

Not only is it polite to not interrupt others, but it’s also showing your team that you are listening to their opinion and you care about what they have to say. Showcasing this mutual respect is a great example of someone with high emotional intelligence. 

Employers often hire primarily for intellect, not emotion. However, an understanding of EI can pay off in predicting how an employee will interact with colleagues and patients.

How do they treat other people? When hiring, if possible, have in-depth conversations with the references of a prospective employee. Find out how they responded to the unexpected; to a challenge not detailed in an office manual. 

  • A patient goes into labor while in the chair? 
  • A prophy jet clogs? 
  • A pipe bursts in the bathroom?
  • A colleague is having a meltdown in the break room after a romantic disaster the previous night?

There are some tried and true ways to evaluate certain aspects of EI. Whether it’s a job interview or a first date, we are constantly showcasing our EI skills. If someone does not show the same respect to the cleaning staff as they do the CEO, you don’t want them working with your patients. 

A person with strong EI can take constructive criticism without being defensive; is open to new ways of doing something; they can pick up on other people’s emotions by listening and learning.

How EI can be developed

An EI assessment can do some obvious things like help rule out bullies, know-it-alls, and, “I’m always the smartest one in the room” types.

One reason EI is so important today, and how there are ways to cultivate it, is to help put diversity into practice. A dental practice is not going to embrace growing ethnically diverse members of its community if it is oblivious to, or disrespectful of, cultural differences. You need the kind of person who says; “I’m not familiar, but I’d like to learn.” You don’t need the “my way or the highway” mentality, or someone who desperately clings to the notion, “But we’ve always done it this way.”

We have often heard that there is no “I” in team. So be the team member with a backbone. If the contributions of a colleague are being undermined be the one to intervene. “Renee was making an excellent point. I’d like to hear more details from her without interruptions.”

Encourage courage. If a team member is being unfairly intimidated, by a colleague or a patient, speak up. The customer (patient) is NOT always right.  

When the tone is set that everyone’s opinion carries value, the best-case scenario is that the team members who have gotten used to being marginalized are now empowered; and the loudest mouth in the room begins to get the message that the rules are changing with the times.

How does EI impact how you hire in your dental office? 

Whether it is a military commander in the midst of battle or a dental team that’s just run into a big complication during a root canal; the inner voice may be screaming “YIKES! WHAT DO I DO NOW?” But the one with a high degree of EI will outwardly be displaying a calm, meticulous, confident, “WE’VE GOT THIS.” 

Back in the 1980s, a lot of celebrities appeared in a deodorant commercial with the potent tagline, “Never let them see you sweat.”

So be the calm in the storm, and make hiring choices of people who do the same. If you are the emotionally intelligent leader who consistently shows respect, empathy, egalitarian treatment, patience, and kindness to colleagues, you can bet that when there’s a crisis, these people will step up to the plate for you. If, on the other hand, your management style is rigid and unforgiving, when the stuff hits the fan, these people will be slow to jump in and help.

An understanding of emotional intelligence will improve the quality of patient care and outcomes and help with decision making and well being of your team. Dental schools are beginning to incorporate EI into admission and curriculum criteria. The Journal of Dental Education concluded after studying some third- and fourth-year dental students that “curriculum designers should consider implementing and evaluating components designed to help students develop emotional intelligence competencies. Health professions students invest a great deal of time, effort, and financial resources in their training. It is the responsibility of educators, then, to equip them in the best way possible.”  

So, what are you waiting for? DentalPost just unveiled a new emotional intelligence assessment, take a look today!


>> Emotional Intelligence Assessment


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