A lot has been written about the benefits of having an inclusive and diverse workplace. From innovation to customer satisfaction to engaged teams and better revenue, the benefits are many. However, we know that building a culture of inclusion and diversity is a difficult. Recent research has shown correlation between Emotional Intelligence and Inclusion & Diversity. It has been seen that teams that exhibit higher emotional intelligence are also more inclusive.
Let’s try to understand how Emotional Intelligence leads to Inclusion and Diversity.
First, it is important to understand the meaning of Emotional Intelligence. As defined by Daniel Goldman, Emotional Intelligence is “the ability to identify, assess and control one’s own emotions, the emotion of others and that of groups”. Emotional Intelligence helps in understanding other people better and build a sense of trust and psychological safety. With this understanding of others, we tend to become more inclusive.
Here are some key drivers of Emotional Intelligence that make us more inclusive and open to diversity:
- Empathy – This is defined as the ability to understand the feelings of others – “to put yourself in the other person’s shoes”. Greater empathy contributes to higher emotional intelligence. This ability to empathize with others also leads to understanding where people who are different from us come from – what shapes their perspective, outlook and what they need from their environment. This understanding is the first step to being inclusive because only by understanding we can accept.
- Overcoming Biases – Biases are the biggest roadblock to diversity and inclusion. To overcome biases, one needs to be deeply self-aware of their own biases. The ability of being self-aware is directly related to Emotional Intelligence. One of the pillars of emotional intelligence is self-awareness. People with higher emotional intelligence are also more self-aware, they spend time in reflection on their emotions, biases and reactions and put effort in overcoming these biases. The natural human tendency is to generalize and be wary of unknown or different people, many biases are a result of this tendency. Self-awareness can help one in identifying their own biases and create a plan for overcoming them so that one thinks more logically rather than think from biases.
- Self-Regulation – Higher emotional intelligence results in greater self-regulation. Self-regulation is the ability to regulate own emotions and reactions to manage inter-personal interactions better. Self-regulation also results in people being more careful about the language they use and how they interact with others, this means avoiding derogatory or excluding language for diverse groups and regulating your behavior to meet the needs of diverse team members. People with higher emotional intelligence display higher regard for diverse groups and more inclusive in their interactions.
- Interpersonal Skills – Higher Emotional Intelligence means better interpersonal skills, where an individual can work with diverse people effectively by understanding and respecting their perspectives. Interpersonal skills in the context of diversity also means is the ability to recognize, acknowledge, and accept differences in others. Those who deal well with diversity value differences and see the benefits that can come from variety in their environment. As a result, they are comfortable and efficient working with people who come from different backgrounds and have.
Emotional intelligence therefore is a building block for an inclusive and diverse culture. Organizations looking to be more inclusive should work on enhancing the emotional quotient of their people. This is done through regular training interventions on Emotional Intelligence.