EQ isn't just essential for a happy relationship, it's also a highly valuable business skill. Research shows that if you compare individuals with similar backgrounds and in similar roles, those with a higher EQ significantly outearn their peers.

Other studies show that "when employees feel listened to, they are less likely to feel emotionally exhausted and less likely to quit their job. They are also more likely to trust -- and like -- their bosses, and feel committed to them," Yale business professor Marissa Kind has explained.

In other words, the ability to read others emotions and make them feel understood will earn you cold, hard cash, as well as making work (and life) more pleasant for everyone. Wouldn't it be great then if there was a dead simple way to instantly increase your EQ? New science suggests there just might be.

Just close your eyes.

When it comes to understanding the world and making judgements about what we perceive, we generally tend to think more information is better. Two opinions are better than one. Multiple data streams beat a single source of information, etc. But according to new research out of Yale and recently published in American Psychologist, this common intuition just might be wrong when it comes to understanding what others are really feeling.

The research team conducted a series of studies where they asked 1,800 participants to observe a variety of exchanges between two other people, or to interact with another person themselves. The goal of all these exchanges was to see how well volunteers did at correctly assessing the emotions of those they observed or interacted with. But here was the twist -- in some case participants got to use both their ears and their eyes. In other cases they were allowed only to listen or look.

According to commonsense intuition, you'd probably guess that more information produced better results, and therefore those who had the benefit of both their ears and their eyes did best. But that's not what the researchers discovered. Instead, they found that those who relied on listening alone did better across all the studies.

Calling the results "surprising," study author Michael Kraus commented: "People are paying too much attention to the face -- the voice might have much of the content necessary to perceive others' internal states accurately."

Why is that? More research is needed to answer definitively, but Kraus suggests that the explanation might simply be that we're all pretty practiced actors who are relatively adept at keeping our true emotions off our faces. Hiding the emotion in your voice might be a less practiced - or harder to master - skill.

Putting this insight to use

So what should you do differently today at the office? Blindfolding yourself before that important meeting probably isn't going to fly, but these results suggest that if what you're seeing with your eyes contradicts what your ears are telling you, you might want to go with your ears. You might also want to experiment and see if you generally get a better read about someone's emotional state via a voice-only communication medium like the phone.

The findings also suggests that we'd all benefit from doing whatever possible to level up our listening skills, as this is likely to have the biggest impact on our EQ. Or, as Krauss, succinctly puts it: "listening matters."