How to Use Emotional Intelligence to Grow Your Professional Network

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Whether you’re a networking pro or struggle to make meaningful connections, there’s always an opportunity for growth.

One way you might consider upgrading your networking skills is by looking at how effectively you’re leveraging emotional intelligence (EQ) in your networking efforts.

What Is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)? Definition and Meaning

Business professional
ESB Professional /

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage your own emotions.

But it also entails reading others’ emotions, communicating with empathy, and tailoring your conversations to ensure that those you communicate with leave the dialogue feeling energized.

All of these traits can make a difference in forging meaningful connections throughout your professional relationships.

Before you dive into how to use EQ in your networking efforts, take a moment to review the four elements commonly used to define emotional intelligence and how you can apply them to networking.

4 Elements of Emotional Intelligence

Happy young professional
Jacob Lund /
  • Self-awareness: Understanding your emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and motivations — connect with others by presenting yourself authentically.
  • Self-management: Effectively managing your emotions, particularly in challenging situations — navigate networking events with grace and composure.
  • Social awareness: Recognizing and understanding the emotions of others — quickly adapt to the challenging dynamics of a networking event.
  • Relationship management: Skillfully managing interactions and fostering positive relationships — establish yourself as a valuable contact.

Harnessing these four components is the foundation for making meaningful connections and building lasting relationships. More than just exchanging business cards, building authentic relationships should be your ultimate goal.

How To Apply Emotional Intelligence to Networking

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Ground Picture /

Referencing the basics of emotional intelligence, dig a bit deeper into how you can apply those concepts directly to your professional networking efforts.

1. Build Genuine Connections

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How often do you consider networking a tool to help you progress in your career? Whether for a job or a promotion, it’s easy to look at networking as transactional.

But applying EQ will help you move away from simply trying to gain something from the people you meet. Instead, you’ll focus on creating authentic relationships.

And you can start by being genuinely interested in connecting with others.

Do you approach your networking conversations from a place of curiosity? Let people intrigue you—get to know them and their professional stories.

You don’t need to be best friends, but you can discover exciting career choices that helped shape their professional growth. Along the way, you can offer your experiences and perspective as well.

2. Master Active Listening

Human resources, interview and resume with a woman manager and candidate meeting at work. – Yuri A /

Are you familiar with active listening? It’s an essential skill in any professional situation, but even more so in higher-stress situations. Anxiety can easily cause you to ramble or start forming answers before the speaker has finished.

Instead, practice active listening. Ask thoughtful questions and pause before responding to ensure the speaker has completed their thought.

Active listening also means using visual cues to interpret what others are saying. Make eye contact and note body language to ensure you understand the entire message.

3. Know Your Worth

A man and a woman in a job interview or meeting
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If you carry yourself with confidence, others will see it more easily. Recognize that no one else has your unique knowledge and perspective.

At the same time, make sure you don’t cross the line from self-confidence to arrogance. Stay humble enough to learn from your connections.

Balance your sense of self-assuredness with humility to create an atmosphere of mutual respect.

When you carry yourself with confidence, you’ll also find it easier to avoid drama and office politics. Networking becomes easier when you hold conversations with a positive attitude.

You can talk about what you love about your career and your outside interests.

4. Interact With Empathy

Office worker

Create meaningful relationships by trying to understand the unique perspectives of others. Be careful not to unintentionally dismiss others’ concerns and experiences, even if you personally see them as no big deal.

You rarely know someone’s entire life story or situation. What you consider to be a minor problem could feel impossible or extremely challenging to them, depending on their circumstances.

5. Discuss Topics Beyond Work

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Are you out of practice making small talk? It’s easy to fall back on work projects and challenges as your main topics of conversation.

But you’ll be far more memorable if you connect over personal interests, hobbies, or recent experiences. You’ll be more likely to create a relaxed atmosphere, build rapport, and find common ground.

6. Respect Differences of Opinion

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In any professional environment, expect different opinions and perspectives on industry updates and professional standards. Recognizing the value in diverse thoughts will strengthen your connections and help you learn from others.

Try to keep an open mind and engage in respectful discussions despite disagreements. Listening thoughtfully to someone else’s perspective might help shape how you embrace new techniques and technologies for better success.

And it goes without saying that everyone comes to the professional workplace with the right to be welcomed despite any political or religious differences of opinion.

Steer clear of discussing topics that can be divisive, no matter how passionate you are about them.

7. Follow Through and Stay in Touch

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The longevity of your network depends on your ability to follow up with your connections. If you say you’ll call, do so. And don’t just follow up once and let the relationship fade away.

Instead, make it a point to reach out to your connections periodically to share updates, congratulate achievements, or simply interact. Life gets busy, so put reminders in your calendar to help you remember to connect.

Level Up Your Networking Efforts by Leveraging Your EQ

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Effective networking goes beyond simply exchanging contact information. You can establish deeper connections and create lasting professional relationships by leveraging emotional intelligence.

With active listening, empathy, and a genuine curiosity about others, you can build a robust professional network.

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