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The concept of emotional intelligence has been around for less than three decades, but in that time it has gained prominence as a quality that matters in both a personal and a professional context. So what is it? Emotional IQ is defined as being made up of two personal competence core skills and two social competence core skills.

Personal competence, or self-awareness and self-management is how well you remain aware of emotions and manage your behavior. More specifically, self-awareness is the ability to perceive emotions accurately and remain aware of them in real time. Self-management is making use of emotional awareness so you can most positively direct your behavior.

Emotional intelligence is the -something- in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior navigate social complexities and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.

Dr. Travis Bradberry, President at TalentsmartCo-Author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0

Social competence is how you understand other people’s emotions, motivations, and behaviors. It is comprised of social awareness, or ability to accurately gauge others’ emotions, and relationship management, which is the ability to use social awareness to manage interactions with others skillfully.

How Much Does Emotional Intelligence Matter?

The clarification of just what emotional IQ is led to the discovery that it has an enormous impact on an individual’s personal and professional success. In fact, emotional intelligence has been found to be the strongest predictor of workplace performance, accounting for nearly 60% of success in a range of job types. It makes sense: how well you manage emotions and interactions underlies any number of important skills that affect things you do every day. There’s a strong correlation between high emotional intelligence and top performance in the workplace, while only a small fraction of lower-performing workers scored high in emotional intelligence. It translates to tangible terms too, with emotionally intelligent people making more money across industries, job levels, and geographic locations.

Neuroplasticity and Development of Emotional Awareness

Becoming more emotionally intelligent is well within most people’s capabilities, and it involves strengthening the connections between emotional and rational processes. We have emotional reactions to events before our rational mind is tapped, because sensory input travels through the limbic system (the emotional center of the brain) before getting to the more rational frontal cortex.

The human brain is remarkably “plastic,” or capable of change. Learning new emotional skills is just like learning any other skill: it takes both understanding and putting the skills into practice. As you practice emotional awareness skills, you create new neural pathways. The more these new pathways are reinforced through practice, the easier it becomes to put those skills into action. In other words, you can train your brain to respond with emotional accuracy without having to think about it.

Good News: Emotional IQ More Malleable than Intellect

Intellect, while somewhat plastic, isn’t something you can transform that much. But emotional awareness and responsivity are characteristics separate from your intellect, and they can be acquired and polished over time. Some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others, but people can and do develop better, more productive self- and social awareness, even if they weren’t born with a strong inclination to it. And if you’re a sales trainer, this is fantastic news, because it means your team can learn how to be more aware of the emotions surrounding a situation and how to respond appropriately, which results in stronger bonds with customers and potential customers.

Emotional Intelligence and Pharma Sales Training

Pharma sales training is somewhat different from other types of sales training due to the additional technical and regulatory aspects of it. However, emotional resonance works the same in pharma sales environments as in other sales environments. Most of us realize that within a particular context or environment, emotional states are contagious. It’s possible for someone’s positive outlook to “rub off” on others, and it’s also possible for someone’s negative attitude to poison the environment for everyone.

What many people may not realize, is the strong link between financial performance and emotional awareness of leaders. Our rational and emotional selves are not as separate as we may imagine, and in fact, it would be unwise to try to partition the two, even in the professional environment. This, of course, doesn’t mean that we grant our emotions free rein in professional encounters, but that we should be aware of our own and others’ emotions and respond appropriately.

How Pharma Reps Can Increase Emotional IQ

Here are some techniques anyone can use to improve their emotional IQ, and they’re worth reviewing with your pharma reps:

  • Reducing the effects of negative emotions. This means learning to avoid jumping to negative conclusions and ascribing personal motives to others when they’re not warranted.
  • Learning to remain emotionally balanced, even under stress. When we don’t handle stress well, we risk lashing out rather than acting rationally.
  • Understanding assertiveness versus aggressiveness. Assertiveness is sometimes necessary, as is expressing difficult emotions. Both are about understanding appropriate boundaries and avoiding psychological projection.
  • Becoming proactive rather than reactive in difficult situations. Everyone encounters difficult people in professional contexts. Learning how to respond calmly and effectively regardless is a true sign of the accomplished professional.
  • Developing resilience after adversity. By asking ourselves, “How can I learn from this bad thing that happened?” we gain clearer perspective and are more likely to effectively handle the situation.
  • Knowing when “non-professional” emotions are appropriate. When a valued client experiences personal tragedy, for example, it’s OK to suspend our professional demeanor temporarily to express heartfelt sympathy.

Don’t Dismiss Emotional Self-Awareness as “Only a Soft Skill”

Writing off the importance of emotional intelligence as “just a soft skill” is a disservice to your team. How we handle emotions has a tremendous effect on the workings of our cognitive processes. When we’re overwhelmed by emotion, our ability to act logically can decline precipitously. The heart of emotional awareness is understanding your own motivations and behaviors, and being able to do this makes it easier to develop awareness of other people’s emotions and reacting appropriately.

While the concept of emotional intelligence hasn’t been around that long, in just that short time psychologists, managers, and trainers have grasped the importance of the concept and made great strides in understanding how it affects work behavior. We invite you to further explore our areas of training expertise and how to put them to work for you and your sales team.