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Bump Your EQ, Bump Your Income

It turns out, curiously, that the better a person is at recognizing human emotions, the more richly he’ll be rewarded at his job. That, says a new and extensive study out of the University of Bonn in Germany, delivers us back to the much-contemplated land of the emotional quotient (EQ), and the influence it has to wield on different areas of life. In this case, it seems, if you’re in tune with other people’s emotions, you can better navigate the political and social landscape of the workplace, and — hence — make more money in your job.

“Although managing employees and dealing with people often involves reading their emotions and determining their moods, not everyone is good at it,” lead researcher Dr. Gerhard Blickle explained in conjunction with the study’s release.


“It’s the same as foreign languages or athletics: some people are good at it, while others aren’t. Most people can do a sit-up. But not everyone is an Olympic champion.”

Researchers asked subjects— 142 working adults — to identify the emotions portrayed in 24 images of human faces and 24 recordings of human voices. In each case, the models were expressing their feelings clearly, and not making any attempts to mask them. The participants were asked to name the emotion they saw or heard.

If subjects were right 87 percent of the time, they were considered to be “good” at recognizing emotions. If they were right more than 90 percent of the time, they were considered “really good.” Those who couldn’t recognize emotions 60 percent of the time or worse were considered “not so good” in this facility.

On average, participants were successful in naming the expressed emotion 77 percent of the time.

Following this test, the colleagues and supervisors of the participants were asked to weigh in on the subjects’ political skills, identifying them, for example, as “socially well attuned,” “apparently sincere,” “influential” or “good networkers.” The results of this inquiry, says Blickle, indicate that folks with a talent for recognizing emotions “are considered more socially and politically skilled than others by their colleagues. Their supervisors also attribute better social and political skills to these people. And, most notably, their income is significantly higher.”

As such, urge the researchers, employers might put more value on the skill of recognizing emotions in their selection of managers – especially in professions in which social connection is important.

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