Read the Room: Emotional Intelligence at Work

Read the Room: Emotional Intelligence at Work | HRDQU Blog
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Written by: Christina Butler

I once worked with a fellow television news reporter who would approach both lottery winners and grieving parents the same way.  There was very little difference in how he greeted them, his tone, or how he asked them for an interview.  After several months of getting turned down for big interviews, he was venting about how nobody ever agreed to talk to him on camera.  “Cal,” said our field producer, “You don’t know how to read the room.”

Cal is a made-up name, but it’s not a made-up story. We’ve all worked with colleagues who just don’t know how to read the room.


>> Learn more at the webinar: Red Light, Green Light: Stop and Go with EQ


The idea of reading the room relates to Emotional Intelligence. EQ is often defined as the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions – and other’s – in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.

When thinking of reading the room in that context, let’s look at three ways we can use EQ to boost our effectiveness at work.

  1. Read Your Manager/Boss/Client

If you walk into a meeting with your boss ready to ask for some extra time on a project, are you first taking the time to read her mood? If she has just come out of a meeting that did not go well, perhaps it’s not the time to ask for that time extension.

  1. Read the Group

Similarly, you need to read a group when you are delivering an update or presentation. Are people nodding off around the 15-minute mark? Are you seeing crossed arms and tapping feet, or virtually are you seeing cameras turn off? Quick, engage them with some open-ended questions. Read the group and tailor your tone.

  1. Express Yourself

The same way you need to read others in the previous two situations, remember others are also reading you. When you walk into the room do you project confidence? When you present virtually, are you making eye contact? Are you really listening to what your employees are telling you in conversation?

These are just three ways we can strengthen our emotional intelligence by reading the room. I’m sure you’ll discover more ways to add to this list as you continue reading the room for opportunities.

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