In our second blog post about learning essential soft skills, we discuss the importance of adaptability and emotional intelligence skills, and provide you with tips on how to work on these areas.
Today we’re talking about two useful soft skills; adaptability and emotional intelligence. Soft skills are described as non-technical skills that people have, taking into account qualities such as personality, attitude and motivation. This means that soft skills can be applied to all kinds of different jobs and situations, so all people can benefit from working on them.
Whether you’re already great at adapting and have high emotional intelligence, or you want to improve on and better understand these skills, this article will be able to provide you with some useful tips and advice. We’ll discuss the importance of interpersonal skills such as adaptability and emotional intelligence, explain how you can understand them, and demonstrate where they might be useful.
Why are adaptability and emotional intelligence skills important?
The use of the word ‘soft’ when referring to ‘soft skills’ makes it sound as if these kinds of skills are not as important as ‘hard’ or technical skills. However, this is a false assumption, as soft skills are neither easier to master nor less important than hard skills. In fact, LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends report from 2019 showed that 92% of hiring managers and talent professionals said that soft skills were just as important as hard skills – or even more so.
That’s because soft skills are often linked to the kind of professional you are – to be around, communicate with and work alongside. The director of people at Southwest Airlines, Greg Muccio, even called soft skills “essential skills”, which is perhaps a more appropriate name for them.
Adaptability skills are really important as they help you deal with new scenarios and situations, therefore building your resilience and confidence. Emotional intelligence is also a valuable soft skill to develop, as it allows you to better understand other people and improve your relationships with others. In fact, both adaptability and emotional intelligence were listed by LinkedIn as part of their top 5 most in-demand soft skills of 2020.
What is adaptability?
Adaptability is about a person’s ability to change their behaviour or perspective authentically and appropriately. Experts from our open step about understanding diversity and inclusion suggest that adaptive people know how to manage interactions, and they do this by showing empathy, flexibility and social adaptability.
An example given in our open step shows that someone with an adaptive mindset might say, “To solve this dispute, I will change my approach” or, “I need to change my behaviour to account for differences in others”. It’s not about changing who you are at a fundamental level, but more about understanding when to modify your approach or behaviour to benefit yourself and those around you.
Adaptability is also closely related to resilience, which can be defined as bouncing back from adversity. Associate Professor Marcus O’Donnell from Deakin University suggests that “[resilience] is about a general openness in our lives, being flexible and adaptable in our thinking, flexible and adaptable in our relationships, flexible and adaptable in our career.”
How can I improve my adaptability skills?
Here we’ve put together some great advice and tips on how to develop your adaptability skills and how to build resilience when dealing with new situations.
It’s important to note that not everyone deals with things in the same way, and this doesn’t mean one way is better than the other. It’s an individual process, and the most important thing is that you feel comfortable and confident when adapting to a new situation or environment.
Learn from different people
As adaptability relates to being open to new experiences, it can be really beneficial to surround yourself with a wide range of people with different perspectives. Learning about how they view life or tackle obstacles can change your own perspective and make you more curious about the world.
Reframe your thoughts
In our open step about reframing your problems from Deakin University, the educator suggests that the ability to reframe or think differently about problems is a key part of building our resilience tool kit. This is related to our adaptability, as it means we engage with and understand the issues we’re faced with, rather than letting them get in the way.
One way of reframing your thoughts could be trying the design thinking process. In our open step, this is described as:
- An information gathering process where you talk to lots of different people
- Taking in different perspectives to your own
- Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes with empathy
- Becoming open to different ways of reframing a problem.
It’s impossible to adapt if you don’t put yourself in challenging circumstances with hurdles to overcome. If you never step out of your comfort zone, you’re more likely to become accustomed to doing things in one way, and you won’t be open-minded to different people, perspectives, and opportunities. Instead, accept challenges, and even seek them out.
If you’re scared of making mistakes, you’ll struggle to form a truly adaptive mindset. Instead, view mistakes as learning experiences that increase your openness, adaptability, and determination. Mistakes are a fundamental part of life, so you should never avoid something because you’re afraid of making them.
Take online adaptability courses
It’s easy to look at a piece of advice and say you’ll use it, but the best way to improve your skills is by proactively working on them, and online courses are a great way to do that. Take a look at our soft skills courses on topics related to adaptability, such as resilience and critical thinking, to find one suited to your needs.
What is emotional intelligence?
There are lots of different explanations of what emotional intelligence really is, so we looked to some of our experts for guidance. In our open step on emotional intelligence by Coventry University, we take a look at Mayer and Solovey’s four-branch model for emotional intelligence from 2004.
They suggest there are four main aspects to emotional intelligence:
- Perceiving emotions. This is the ability to recognise and label the emotions of ourselves and others, and express those emotions or respond to them appropriately. This might include picking up on non-verbal cues that people give, like body language.
- Facilitating emotions. Once we’ve recognised our emotions, we need to be able to deal with them and stay resilient in spite of them. This is about being able to overcome emotional challenges.
- Understanding emotions. Are we able to recognise subtle differences between different emotions, such as anger and jealousy? Understanding emotions is also about recognising that our feelings might impact our actions, and also that emotions may not last.
- Managing emotions. The final branch suggests that emotional intelligence requires us to be able to manage our emotions. This means being open to lessons that our emotions might offer, and being able to detach from unhelpful emotions.
The psychologist, Daniel Goleman, took this theory even further, and suggested that there were other factors of emotional intelligence at play. You can read more about this in our open step about innovative leadership, but effectively, he stated that the following attributes made up emotional intelligence:
- Self-awareness. Are you aware of yourself and your emotions?
- Self-regulation. Can you regulate your emotions and change your behaviour?
- Internal motivation. Can you commit to your goals wholeheartedly?
- Empathy. Do you understand and empathise with other people’s emotions?
- Social skills. Can you build and manage relationships?
How can I improve my emotional intelligence skills?
Here we’ve put together some advice and tips on how to develop your emotional intelligence skills and what to look out for when you’re engaging with other people. It’s important to note that emotional intelligence will not always look the same in different people.
Some neurodivergent people, such as those on the autistic spectrum, may find it difficult to read other people’s emotions, but this doesn’t mean they’re not intelligent. It’s important to be understanding of the fact that we all have a different worldview and perspective, and to embrace our differences.
In order to improve your emotional intelligence skills, you first have to look inward. Examine how you respond to different emotions and situations, and how you react to people. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Are there any emotions you can’t deal with? Are you able to stay calm in stressful situations? Understanding who you are is the first step to being in touch with your emotions.
Get in touch with your emotions
Once you understand yourself a little better and can identify how you react to things, it’s time to sit with your emotions a bit. It’s one thing recognising your emotions, and another thing to deal with them in a positive and appropriate way. Some things you could try include journaling about your emotions, expressing yourself through art, or talking to a friend or therapist.
Learn to take responsibility
Being able to take responsibility for your actions is an important part of emotional intelligence, as it shows that you understand how you might affect others. It also shows that you’re not afraid of introspection, which demonstrates maturity. So if you do something wrong, apologise, and people will respect you more.
Take online emotional intelligence courses
Where will I use adaptability and emotional intelligence skills?
Developing your adaptability and emotional intelligence skills can be beneficial to you in daily life, whether you’re meeting someone new, moving to a new place, or getting promoted. Below we go into a bit more detail about where you’ll find these soft skills most useful.
For those just entering university, it can feel a little overwhelming. Many students find themselves living in a totally unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar people, sometimes for the first time in their lives.
Adaptability is extremely useful in this situation and can make the difference between enjoying and not enjoying university life. Additionally, when you’re surrounded by so many new people, emotional intelligence can help you to attract and make friends. If you need more guidance on this topic, we have some great courses about preparing for university.
You can benefit from adaptability and emotional intelligence skills in pretty much any workplace. You never know when there will be organisational changes to your company, staff changes due to promotions and redundancies, or other disruptions.
It is always good, therefore, to be able to quickly adapt without being negatively affected. On the other hand, emotional intelligence can help you become a better leader, stronger communicator and more empathetic colleague.
Throughout life, everyone faces challenges in their relationships with others, whether that means experiencing a breakup, a loved one moving away, or fighting with a fellow employee. Adaptability and emotional intelligence are great tools to help you deal with such challenges, as you’ll be able to keep your cool in difficult situations and find effective solutions.
Where can I learn more about adaptability and emotional intelligence?
If you’re looking to actively improve your adaptability and emotional intelligence skills, we have a variety of fantastic courses related to these important areas. Taking online courses not only enables you to learn vital skills from home but also demonstrates to employers that you’re willing to put time into your own personal development.
- Resilient Teaching Through Times of Crisis and Change by University of Michigan
- Wellbeing and Resilience at Work by University of Leeds & Institute of Coding
- Critical Thinking at University: An Introduction by University of Leeds
- Decision Making: How to Choose the Right Problem to Solve by University of Leeds & Institute of Coding
- Decision Making in a Complex and Uncertain World by University of Groningen
Emotional intelligence courses
- Developing a Creative Mindset: Build Empathy, Collaboration, and Resilience into Your Creative Process ExpertTrack by D&AD
- How to Enhance Your Creative Empathy by D&AD
- Emotional Intelligence at Work by Coventry University
- Coaching Skills: Leadership and self-awareness by Deakin University
We hope that this guide to adaptability and emotional intelligence skills has helped you to understand the importance of soft skills such as these, as well as how different people can approach them. Hopefully, you now have some useful and practical advice on how to develop and improve such skills, and understand how others may utilise them.