Overestimating your emotional intelligence is easy. We all typically lack an outsider's view of ourselves and, as a result, fail to see our limitations. Given how important emotional intelligence is to living, wanting to avoid choices that dull yours is understandable.

There is one common habit that harms emotional intelligence and undermines success at work and even with romantic partners: ignoring others while looking at a smarphone , according to researchers at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business.

Professor James Roberts and Assistant Professor Meredith David have examined the impact on cell phone use on various types of relationships and the issue of "phubbing," a portmanteau standing for phone snubbing. One person is distracted by a phone while the other is left waiting.

The emotional intelligence issue is pretty clear. When you keep looking at your phone while someone else you're supposedly spending time with is there, you essentially tell the other that the phone is more important. The action undercuts the very existence of the other person. How do you feel when someone phubs you?

The normal response is to be irritated, angry, and eventually disinterested. That's what Roberts and David have found in multiple settings. Here's how Roberts has described the effect on romantic partnerships, as quoted by a Baylor publication, when someone kept turning to a phone when with someone else:

"What we discovered was that when someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction," Roberts explained. "These lower levels of relationship satisfaction, in turn, led to lower levels of life satisfaction and, ultimately, higher levels of depression."

Phubbing in a work situation by supervisors toward employees had equally bad results, with 76 percent of surveyed people showing a lack of trust in the supervisor, 75 percent showing "decreases in psychological meaningfulness, psychological availability and psychological safety," and a resulting 5 percent drop in employee engagement.

"Employees who experience boss phubbing and have lower levels of trust for their supervisor are less likely to feel that their work is valuable or conducive to their own professional growth, and employees who work under the supervision of an untrusted, phubbing supervisor tend to have lower confidence in their own ability to carry out their job," David said. "Both of those things negatively impact engagement."

Emotional intelligence starts with understanding and controlling your own emotional reactions to situations. But that in turn should lead to a better understanding of the emotions of others. If you can remember how you'd feel being treated as less important than a smartphone, you can begin to stop yourself from doing the same thing to others.

If it helps, here's a practical tip: barring an unexpected urgent message about an illness or death in the family, notification that your home is on fire, or something equally critical, nothing on your phone will be anywhere near as important as the people you spend time with. Pay attention to fellow workers, romantic partners, family members, and friends and everything you do can become richer.

Published on: Dec 15, 2017
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