Emotional Intelligence & Conflict Resolution at Work

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The presence of conflict can make people act in funny ways, typically reacting with either fight or flight responses. Emotional intelligence plays a role in determining how you respond to conflict in your most natural state. Emotional intelligence can be a complicated thing to wrap your head around, so what exactly is it?

Emotional intelligence “describes our ability to understand our (and other’s) emotions and recognize those emotions as they surface”.

When you have high emotional intelligence, you should leverage that strength and use it to your benefit, being intentional about managing your interactions with others, especially in heightened situations. When you have high emotional intelligence, you’re more naturally empathetic and sensitive to how others are feeling. Expressing your feelings in the workplace can be awkward and uncomfortable, especially in workplaces of the past. However, in recent years it has become much more accepted to show feelings and vulnerability in the workplace.

People who take emotions into account and treat colleagues as human beings (rather than just a colleague) can create a blend that combines professionalism with genuine emotions. This blend allows for more effective conflict resolution and successful outcomes.

As was mentioned earlier, people typically react to conflict with a fight or flight response. Although one or the other might be your natural preference or tendency, you can work to improve how you respond to stressful situations, increasing your conflict resolution skills. In 1995, Daniel Goleman created a set of four pillars to help us better understand emotional intelligence. Those four pillars are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. From a high level, these four pillars mean:

Self-awareness – understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses, and motivational factors (moods and emotions)

Self-regulation – understanding of managing your own emotions (self-control)

Social awareness – understanding of others’ needs (thoughts, feelings, and concerns of others)

Relationship management – understanding of own abilities dealing with others (develop relationship and build trust)


How are these four pillars relevant to you, as a leader? They can easily be applied in a conflict resolution context, and that looks like this:

Self-awareness – manage your stress while remaining calm, controlling your body language. The ability to stay relaxed yet focused in stressful situations is crucial when resolving conflicts.  

Self-regulation – control your emotions and behaviors, verbalizing your needs so they are heard by others. Many people ignore or suppress their strong emotions, but you don’t have to do that if you can just manage how your emotions are displayed.

Social awareness – pay attention to others’ feelings, their words, their body language, the social context. Nonverbal communication can tell you much more than verbal communication can.

Relationship management – maintain and strengthen your relationships, rather than trying to win an argument, being aware and respectful of differences.


Conflict is messy and confusing but having strong emotional intelligence will make it a little bit easier for you to handle and manage. Use it to your advantage, managing conflict in healthy ways that lead to effective resolutions.

If you want team training to improve conflict resolution, communication, and employee engagement, chat with a CoreCounts Consultant about the options we have for team training!

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