How Empathy Intersects with Emotional Intelligence


By Iris Jacobson.

From research, it is clear that emotional intelligence influences the way we work – from our interactions with others, to how we make decisions, to our personal leadership styles. When we, and our clients, have a stronger sense of our emotional competencies, we can strengthen our work performance.

In my current role as a career transition consultant in private practice, I focus on career clarification and job search using a narrative and strengths-based approach. In my former life, I trained sales consultants on influence and selling techniques. Both of these roles require mastering emotional intelligence to build relationships. As a result, I was invited to lead an online chat session on this topic at Career Professionals of Canada’s CAREERPRO conference.

At the event, we explored how to increase our empathy and improve Emotional Quotient (EQ) – both for personal success and to help clients move forward.  There is no doubt that a stronger EQ improves how we interact with others, make decisions, and lead teams. When we, and our clients, have a stronger sense of our emotional competencies, we can strengthen our work performance. And, when we, as career professionals, can identify opportunities for our clients to become more ‘EQ aware’, we can help them in their career strategies, from networking, to job interviews, to those first 90 days on the new job.

Empathy means being able to recognize how other people are feeling, and share emotions with them. Being a more active listener and really paying attention to what people are saying can help you get a better sense of how they’re feeling. When you can use that information to inform your decisions and improve your relationships, that’s a sign of emotional intelligence.

To improve empathy, put yourself in other people’s shoes. Think about how you would feel if you were in their situation. Actively imagine how it must be to go through the experiences they’re having and what might alleviate some of their hardship in terms of support and care.

When you see someone experience a strong emotion, ask yourself, ‘How would I react in the same situation?’

Be truly interested in what people are saying, so you can react in a sensitive way. Instead of letting your thoughts drift, ask questions and summarize what they’re saying so it’s clear you’re in the conversation.

Read people’s body language. Make a point of trying to read between the lines and pick up on people’s true feelings by observing their facial expressions and other body language. If you’re not sure that you’re skilled at interpreting facial expressions, try taking a quiz to see where you have room for improvement. A person’s tone of voice can also be telling. A higher tone of voice indicates that someone’s stressed.

Career development is an intensely personal experience for both client and consultant. Therefore, we must develop the mature emotional intelligence skills required to better understand, empathize, and negotiate with other people. By injecting empathy into the career development process of your clients, you will improve your own EQ along with client outcomes.


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