Buzz words are all the rage and when it comes to managing your emotions, the cliches flow like water from a waterfall. It can be confusing to really grasp how to strengthen your emotional intelligence and position yourself in a place of confidence and power.
Wikipedia gives you all the theories and definitions that you may want for emotional intelligence (EI). Here at LaMP International Limited, we like to keep things simple and easy to relate to. The starting point is always understand the terminology.
The knee-jerk reaction is usually to think that emotions are only about how you feel. That is very far from the truth and a myth that we will quickly dispel here. Your emotions are a melting pot full of your thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
Let us first understand what emotional intelligence is.
Emotions Are Complex
Our emotions are reflective of different states of feelings that create physical and mental changes which impact on how we behave. An emotion is not singular. It is neither a component nor an entity that causes an effect. It is closely linked to your behaviour but is not a primary causal force because it does not act on its own.
Perhaps the most defined “box” for discussing emotions is within introversion and extroversion. We say simply that introverts are less social and better at concealing their emotions, while extroverts are more social and expressive with their emotions.
As a confirmed introvert myself, I can tell you that I am also very expressive so these expectations never made any sense to me at all. What I can attest to is that introverts and extroverts EXPRESS their thoughts and emotions differently and this is reflected in our preferred styles of behaviours.
The “oil” that determines how either one expresses is called empathy. In my humble opinion, emotional intelligence could well be termed Empathy Intelligence.
Connecting Your Personal Experience With Others
Empathy is not to be confused with sympathy, the latter being our ability to feel sorry for our sorrowful about the misfortune of others. On the other hand, empathy allows you to role reverse with someone else. Through reversal, or placing yourself in the other person’s shoes, you are better able to use role analysis to genuinely assess the impact of their situation on their thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
In other words, you will be clearer about what they are doing and why.
The ability to connect in this way, in my opinion, is being lost on our fast-tracked world. It takes time to connect with others and it also takes presence. In today’s world we are moving at such a fast pace and so disconnected that effective communication has been severely weakened.
Our reliance on technology and fleeting digital exchanges is not helping us to become more empathetic and this is having a negative effect on our emotional capability.
Relationships are being managed by our fingertips and often without the benefit of a visual. We are unable to see the other person and rely on our assumptions as we quickly read their words. There is no 180 or 360 degree view to see their physical position or hear their tone.
To be authentic and connected and to communicate effectively, you are required to be involved, participative and present.
More To EI Than Being Nice And Liked
Being empathetic and connecting your personal experiences with others are important elements in EI but unfortunately it is where too many people stop. Remember that emotions are complex and to just limit EI to you and a bridge that connects you to others will be shooting yourself in the foot.
Your self-awareness and knowledge should be put to good use by helping you overcome challenges and to positively influence and manage conflict. If your EI is strong, you will not walk away from conflict and allow it to become a destructive fire that ignites everything in its path You will also not confront it aggressively but rather assertively.
There is a level of discernment that accompanies EI and affirms the courage that you require to work through difficulty, calmly and respectfully. Too many environments are clouded by the inability of those with “titles” and in charge to converse and behave in a manner that is healthy and uplifting to the well-being of others.
Instead of relieving distress, they create and add more.
- When last did you pay attention to the way you were communicating?
- Do you allow your behaviours to slip into the buckets of busyness and importance and use them as excuses for how you behave?
- Do you allow yourself time to get involved with your engagements and be present in your exchanges?
These are some initial areas to begin moving yourself into self-awareness.
Inspire And Influence
The true “test” of your emotional intelligence is how you manage your relationships. This is perhaps most evident in our family and work relationships as they are closest to us, but applies to all. If you are in a management or leadership role, more eyes will be on you more often and therefore the expectations will be higher.
There is no apology for that. It is simply the ways it is. To whom much is given, much, much more is expected.
Many of the coaching and mentoring interventions that I am involved in have resulted from senior managers and leaders being told that their relationships require improvement. Perhaps they are not influential or inspirational enough or lack the ability to coach and mentor those for whom they are responsible.
For others, it is as a result of their inability or unwillingness to enable effective teamwork or manage differences and conflict within their teams and work groups. A primary reason for this is the unwillingness to understand that within a group or team, the strength of each member is critical for performance.
Similarly, if there is weakness, the team will flounder and struggle to find its way or fully realise its potential.
One element in EI, such as how you deliver unpleasant feedback, could severely hamper your EI competency and contribute to an unhealthy Employee Experience. If you allow this to happen too often, it will eventually damage your reputation and make it difficult or impossible to regain genuine respect and engagement.
Do You Attract Or Repel?
This may sound harsh. There is no other way to give it the importance that it deserves though. It is a good starting position to begin to understand and measure your EI.
I recall being a very young Supervisor who paid no attention to the fact that my behaviour was having a negative and very destructive impact on my staff, all of whom were much older and more experienced than I was. My appointment in my early twenties was only because someone thought that I was “bright”.
I allowed that to take me into a place of being over-confident, lacking empathy and being a poor communicator. I hid under the umbrella of being an introvert and it was my excuse for not wanting to admit that I needed to work on myself as an individual and a manager.
One day my CEO told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was repelling everyone around me. No one wanted to work with me and if I had no followers, I could not ever be a leader.
To say that those words hurt was putting it mildly. The good news is that they also changed my life.
I wanted to be a good manager and I wanted to be remembered for my leadership ability.
So, allow me to ask: How do you want to be remembered?
Do you want to strengthen your emotional intelligence and become a more effective communicator?
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