Did you know that frequent face-to-face personal interactions and close personal relationships are more likely to make you live longer than exercising, eating well and quitting smokes and booze? In her recent book, The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, And Smarter, Susan Pinker brings together the most recent research on health, ageing and centenarians to show how these social factors far outweigh the benefits of many physiological factors such as sleep, diet and exercise. Face-to-face contact and close personal relationships release neurotransmitters that foster trust, reduce stress and pain and induce pleasure, thus helping you lead a longer, healthier life.
Research in the area of emotional intelligence has shown meaningful relationships between the level of our emotional intelligence and the quality of our relationships and interpersonal interactions (for example, the work by Smith, Heaven, and Ciarrochi, 2008). It’s not just having close relationships and social interactions that make you live longer, it’s also the quality of them. People who demonstrate greater self-awareness, more empathy and who are better at managing their own and others’ emotions, tend to build better-quality relationships with others, as well as relationships that last longer and are more dependable (for example, the people in the relationship are more likely to lend us money, take us to the doctor and generally be there for us in times of need).
Recently, we examined the relationship between levels of emotional intelligence, occupational stress and resilience in collaboration with Worksafe Tasmania and the Department of Premier and Cabinet Tasmania. Our model of emotional intelligence measures how well people demonstrate six emotional intelligence competencies that are known to contribute to success in the workplace. Namely:
- Self-Awareness: being aware of the way you feel and the impact your feelings can have on decisions, behaviour and performance.
- Awareness of Others: the capacity to perceive, understand and acknowledge the way others feel.
- Authenticity: the capacity to openly and effectively express how you feel, honour commitments and encourage this behaviour in others.
- Emotional Reasoning: the capacity to effectively use the information in feelings (from oneself and others), and combine it with other facts when decision-making.
- Self-Management: the capacity to effectively manage one’s own mood and emotions; time and behaviour; and continuously improving oneself.
- Positive Influence: the capacity to positively influence the way others feel through problem solving, providing feedback, and recognising and supporting others’ work.
We found that all six of the competencies of our model meaningfully correlated with occupational stress and resilience. People who demonstrate the competencies well report feeling less stress and more resilient at work. What was interesting in this work and which connects nicely with Susan Pinker’s research, was that the skills to do with others such as ‘Awareness of Others’ and ‘Positive Influence’, correlate almost as strongly with your personal resilience and how stressed you feel, as the competencies to do with self such as ‘Self-Management’ and ‘Self-Awareness’.
So, what’s the message in all this? If you want to live healthier and longer, develop your emotional intelligence; there’s probably no other better thing you can do. This will not only help you create more relationships, but it will also improve the quality of them. Focus on the competencies of emotional intelligence that have to do with empathy and positively influencing the way others feel. Focus on how to make others feel heard, valued, cared for, listened to, and understood. Sharpen your skills at helping people shift from negative emotions to more positive ones, and helping people find more effective responses to stressful events. Like the tagline of our business says, it will not only be game changing for your business, it will be life changing for your people.