The Importance of Emotional Intelligence for Healthcare Providers

Sep 15, 2016
7 min read

As a modern, educated society, we have all heard of IQ. A high IQ (intelligence quotient) means that an individual is, of course, intelligent – able to think and reason at an elevated level.

If it weren’t for your IQ, you probably wouldn’t be reading a niche blog like this, in the annals of higher education!

However, many sources are beginning to show the prodigious importance of emotional intelligence (or “EQ”) in our everyday and professional lives. Successfully navigating interactions with colleagues and co-workers is just as significant as it is with friends and family. It is often thought that emotion and logic are opposite ends of the same spectrum; so what gives? What exactly is EQ?

Your EQ Toolbox

Emotional Intelligence is the unique ability to use emotion effectively in your life and relationships with others.

In the highly acclaimed book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Bradberry and Greaves, EQ is outlined in 2 functional areas with two skills in each, giving four skills total.

The first functional area is referred to as Personal Competence, which focuses on you as an individual.

Within Personal Competence comes “Self-Awareness” (do you know what you are feeling?) and “Self-Management” (can you direct your behavior well?).

The second functional area is Social Competence, which focuses on your interactions with others.

It's two skills are “Social Awareness” (can you pick up on emotions in others?), and “Relationship Management” (can you manage interactions with others effectively?).

These skills build on each other, with Relationship Management often being the most complex.


emotional intellegence

There is no recognizable correlation between one’s IQ and EQ.  That is, one is not a predictor for the other.

But statistics show that someone with a high EQ is much more likely to be professionally successful than someone with a low EQ; unfortunately, IQ does not have such a striking trend. 

While IQ is fairly inflexible, EQ is quite malleable – lucky for us! There is a myriad of ways to improve on your EQ, and one of the best is to dive into Emotional Intelligence 2.0. I highly recommend all working professionals pick up a copy of the book and work through it for some serious reflection.

Let me also make the distinction that being “emotionally intelligent” does not mean you have to be extroverted; it merely indicates that you identify with yourself and others in a cohesive way.


A Mile in Their Shoes

Let me ask you this: have you ever said something that elicited anger or sadness from someone else, but you had no idea why?

Worse yet, did the other person feel angry or sad, but you didn’t even notice? I thought so.

Congratulations, you’re human!

But perhaps this is a clue that had you been using your EQ; you may have been able to more effectively communicate with that individual and sidestep the result.

To paraphrase one of my favorite “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey” from Saturday Night Live: “Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes.

That way, when you criticize them, you’ll be a mile away AND will have their shoes.” Despite the obvious twist on the old expression, this satirical quote goes to show that it is important to consider things from another person’s perspective. When you try to think from the frame of mind of someone else, it can do worlds of good for your level of understanding, empathy, and self-direction. And words alone aren’t the only way to communicate.

As primates, we tend to place verbal communication on the highest pillar and have trouble fathoming other outlets of “language.” But in fact, most animals communicate in vastly different ways. What are you communicating with your posture, facial expression, tone of voice, or even just an eyebrow?

People are as unique as snowflakes – what heavily affects one person may have no impact on another. 

There are countless methods and personality tests that clump people into categories trying to make sense of their character (Astrology; the Chinese Zodiac; the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator being a favorite of mine).

Truth be told, there is a lot to glean from these by learning about yourself - and even more so by learning about the behavioral patterns of others.

Think about it – you generally know what makes you tick (which admittedly is quite the journey for young adults). But wouldn’t it be more beneficial to have some insight into how other people think so that you can navigate social encounters with ease?

How often do you reach for the horoscopes to learn about your friends’ or colleagues’ signs? Let’s stop being so self-indulgent and put the thoughts of others into our head for a change.

Be The Bigger Man

Here is an example.

You and your boss, Dr. Oculus, have very different personalities. You both get along professionally, but you often don’t understand why he does what he does (says the logic of your IQ). Dr. Oculus reminds you of a wind-up toy, in that he has a perpetual spring of energy.

He is extremely Type Aand needs everything just-so. In contrast, you are a hard-working but casual Type-B doctor. You roll with the punches and can stand some disorganization as long as your main objectives of doctoring are being met. You organize your exam room and document your charts as requested by Dr. Oculus because you are asked, but not because it would have been in your nature.

Over time, this leads to frustration on both ends. Dr. Oculus wonders why you aren’t as “motivated” as he is. Similarly, you begin to resent the tedium of his inane methods.

Getting to the point of frustration isn’t something we need to learn, but how to more effectively deal with our relationships is. The most crucial step now is to use your insight to develop as a person and confront the situation appropriately.

Identify what you and your boss are both feeling, and choose a course of action that is amicable.

The point here isn’t to avoid arguments – it is good to disagree on occasion, and you are entitled to your opinion. But the mature professional knows how to assert his ideas in an appropriate way and establish positive working relationships that mutually benefit both parties. Consider both how you and Dr. Oculus feel the tension, own your feelings, and discuss them with your boss. Start from a place of self-recognition, and move towards managing the relationship. A little introspection on your part and some healthy bonding can go a long way.


Growing Pains

No one is perfect.

As humans, we are often quick to point the finger of blame – but remember that it takes two to tango. Enter into new situations with the mindset that there is always room to grow. “Feedback” is not synonymous with “criticism,” and all environments have new things for us to learn. Frankly, outside perspective is a necessary part of self-enlightenment – find a mentor who can help you develop into a more emotionally intelligent individual!

EQ is crucial to your success in your personal and professional lives, so arm yourself now with the knowledge on how to be your best you. After all, if movies, television, and novels can teach us anything, it is that personal development is one of life’s greatest rewards.


Works Cited

  1. Bradberry, Travis & Jean Greaves. Emotional Intelligence 2.0. San Diego: TalentSmart, 2009. Print.
  2. “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey.” Saturday Night Live. NBC, New York City. Television.
  3. McConnell, Patricia. The Other End of the Leash – Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs. New York City: The Random House Publishing Group, 2002. Print.

I'd love to talk more on the topic. Shoot me a message in the comments!


About Cory Hakanen, OD, MBA

Dr. Cory Hakanen is an Optometrist and business professional who works primarily in industry roles within eye care and greater healthcare. He resides in Silicon Valley where he is able to put both his OD and MBA degrees to use …

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