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3 Ways to Be More Emotionally Intelligent at Work

6 minute read

Creating more emotionally astute, mutually satisfying work interactions is something that benefits everyone. There are a few things everyone can do to increase their emotional intelligence in work settings. One of the easiest and most effective ways to strengthen your emotional intelligence is through an understanding of personality style. While every individual is a unique and complex mix of characteristics, experiences and perspectives, we each tend to align most closely with one of six general styles:

The warm, relationship-focused Connectors

The conscientious, committed Advisors

The logical, data-driven Organizers

The creative, playful Originals

The resourceful, action-oriented Doers

The reflective, imaginative Dreamers

Knowing a bit about how these styles behave, what makes them tick, how to identify them and what they need will help you understand the people you work with on a deeper level and ensure you connect with them more easily.

Here are three easy ways grow your emotional intelligence:

1. ABO (Always be observing)
People “advertise” their personality style in all sorts of ways: Through their clothes, their workspace and, most importantly, through their language—not just what they say, but how they say it. These “advertisements” give you an inside track as to what’s important to them and how they want to be communicated with. Consciously tuning into those of your coworkers is critically important if you want to up your emotional intelligence quotient.

A great place to see personality in action is in meetings. Someone who enjoys engaging in personal chitchat before things get started is probably a Connector. Organizers often listen intently and take methodical notes throughout a meeting, while Originals can be fidgety. Advisors pepper the discussion with questions designed to ensure it’s moving in the right direction. Doers get impatient or even challenging when things become bogged down in detail. Dreamers may seem like they’re in another place altogether.

Cross-reference a few different workplace behaviors to confirm your initial impressions. In email, for example, Connectors are more likely to use feeling statements (“I would love”… “I’m so sorry!”) and emoticons; short paragraphs and bulleted lists are classic Organizer tells. Originals deploy relaxed language in their communications: Lots of “cool,” “awesome” and “yup!” Advisors keep things formal and context-appropriate. Doers are charming, persuasive and great at thinking on their feet. Dreamers are often withdrawn, much more comfortable in a one-on-one conversation than in a crowd.

2. Connect with empathy
Once you’ve seen enough of a pattern to confidently identify a coworker’s personality style, use what you know about that style as your point of conversational entry. The simplest rule of thumb here is to give back what you get.

Connectors place a high priority on nurturing relationships, so leading with a question about their weekend or comment about a photo on their desk shows them that you care about them on a personal level, not just a professional one. Advisors value their judgment and will often preface statements with, “I believe…” and “In my opinion.” Solicit those beliefs and opinions when you approach them by asking an open-ended question, such as, “What are your views on…?” Organizers prize data, order and clear thinking; be mindful of those preferences by specifically asking them what they think or making your written messages concise and organized.

Keep things like language and environment informal in your interactions with an Original, even if the substance of your conversation is serious. With a Doer, get right to the bottom line and tell her how she’ll benefit from whatever the subject is. And don’t force a Dreamer into the spotlight. Meet with him one-on-one and draw him out with specific, directive questions: “Tell me your thoughts about…”

Communication is about what’s being heard, not what’s being said. Your coworkers are more likely to connect with you when you “speak the same language.” They’ll feel recognized and understood by you, making the conversations that follow much more positive and productive.

3. Recognize different reactions to distress
Distress is an inevitable part of work life, and knowing how to get someone out of it is a hallmark of emotional intelligence. Here again, personality points the way. Each style experiences distress for different reasons and communicates it in equally different ways. Alleviating it is a matter of understanding and meeting a person’s core psychological needs—what motivates them and makes them do what they do—in the moment.

Read More: The Surprising Way to Solve a Tough Work Problem

A Connector in distress, for example, needs to feel unconditionally accepted and appreciated. An Organizer, on the other hand, needs recognition for his work and good use of time. Advisors need to know that they’re respected and their contributions are valued when they’re in a distressed state, whereas Originals in distress need things to be easier and less boring. Doers will lash out in distress if they aren’t getting the action or challenge they need. Dreamers head in the opposite direction, becoming passive and pulling into themselves in an effort to get the private time and space they need.

To defuse distress in an emotionally intelligent way, your response has to give the person in front of you what they need, which may not be what you would need in the same situation. At the same time, your response must be authentic to you in order to be effective. If giving a distressed Connector a big hug isn’t your thing, that’s O.K. A genuine, “Hey, everything’s going to be O.K.—you’re doing a great job and I’m really glad you’re a part of our team,” will do the trick just as well. If you understand the core need, you’ll be able to meet it in a way that leaves you both feeling heard and valued.

Melissa Moore is a behavioral analyst and is chief people officer at Mattersight.

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