Why Emotional Intelligence matters in business networking

Why emotional intelligence matters in business networking

Outside of the Catena network, I have noticed that some people still associate business with being “hard-nosed”, with emotions in that context being viewed as fluffy or surplus to requirements. While emotions aren’t something that get discussed much in everyday business, I’ve been thinking a lot about the subject recently after being asked to give a talk on Emotional Intelligence. The more I thought about it and, having spoken in depth about it with Catena member, Julian Hall, from Calm People, the more deeply I looked at the business services I offer and saw how they can be refined by using Emotional Intelligence! I first became aware of the phrase Emotional Intelligence in about 2006 when I attended a sports seminar hosted by the Professional Cricketers’ Association. I was very familiar with the fact that sports psychologists could have a huge impact in sport, but this was the first time I had heard about Emotional Intelligence being highlighted amongst the players themselves and its impact on and off the field. Unlike a knee-jerk response in sport or networking, emotional intelligence is a self-management tool: you are aware of what you are feeling and that shapes how you behave, rather than responding with your first reaction.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

The phrase Emotional Intelligence was coined in the 1990s by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer, who described it as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action”. The author of the book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, argued that it wasn’t cognitive intelligence that guaranteed business success, but Emotional Intelligence. He described emotionally intelligent people as those with four characteristics:

1. They were good at understanding their own emotions (self-awareness)
2. They were good at managing their emotions (self-management)
3. They were empathetic to the emotional drives of other people (social awareness)
4. They were good at handling other people’s emotions (social skills).

So how can that help us with networking? Well to me, networking is all about building relationships, So, yes Emotional Intelligence and networking are directly related. Consider a typical networking event. People attend for the purpose of making connections and building their business. Everyone there has chosen to be there and wants to make connections. They are full of optimism. There is a roomful of potential connections, clients, referrals, friends. So, what happens at the end of the event? What has been accomplished? Sometimes emotion can hijack the interactions you have and determine your reaction to a networking event.

The key aspects for networking

The following are the key aspects that Emotional Intelligence can bring to business networking:

1. Self-Regard – the ability to both like and have confidence in yourself. With too little self-regard, your self-confidence will hold you back from making connections with people at an event.

2. Assertiveness – the ability to put your needs, thoughts and opinions out into the world. With too little assertiveness, you miss the opportunity to clearly convey your message. With too much assertiveness, others may again avoid contact because you are viewed as aggressive or self-centred.

3. Empathy – the ability and willingness to take notice of other people’s needs and feelings. With too little empathy, the conversation becomes one-sided (“I” centred) and the listener loses interest. So, the listener blocks the speaker’s message which results in a failure to establish a meaningful connection.

Being aware of how these emotions (both yours and your listeners) impact your social interactions and relationships will greatly improve your success in networking. When people ask me how Catena operates, I describe it as a business dating or introduction agency. Catena is helping business people grow business relationships – and the same skills and levels of emotional intelligence as you engage on a first date would largely be the same at networking. The beauty of a business relationship of course is that you can have many! And from the relationships that you form, they can be beneficial in many ways.
With an open, emotionally intelligent approach to networking, you may gain future employees or suppliers, potential collaborations, extend your industry contacts and of course, have the opportunity to refer to other connections within your own network. That could be for someone who is looking for a person with a skillset that you know of, or you may have met the ideal supplier for one of your contacts. To me, the referral currency in networking created by Emotional Intelligence is invaluable. What is business without relationships, after all? Every successful relationship – business or otherwise – depends on an emotional connection.

That’s not fluffy or surplus to requirements. It’s just good business sense.

Claire Bicknell, March 2019