A common myth about emotional intelligence, is that being aware of our own strengths and shortcomings is enough. However, the truth is that being aware is only a fraction of emotional intelligence. Knowing and managing yourself can be a battle in and of itself. Then, add the complexity of really trying to get others. Understanding and observing others takes discipline, intention, and plenty of time.
So how do you know if you’re making progress in the realm of emotional intelligence? The not-so-good news is that we’re never going to master emotional intelligence. But the good news is that we have opportunities every day to take actionable steps to practice EI. Let’s find out how by reviewing the areas of emotional intelligence so you can reflect on where your strengths lie.
Self-awareness is our capacity to better understand why we feel what we feel. Focusing on ourselves allows us to better understand our own motivations and actions, and therefore be able to see situations more objectively.
People with high self-awareness:
- Know their strengths and limitations, their motivators and demotivators, their pet peeves and triggers. They do not overestimate themselves or downplay their strengths
- May more easily control their thoughts and behaviors
People with low self-awareness may:
- Get trapped in the zone of people-pleasing
- Have a hard time accepting and hearing feedback from others
- Often make excuses to avoid facing harsh truths
Actionable Tips to Boost Self-Awareness:
- Get feedback: Ask your co-workers, closest friends and family, “What’s it like to be in relationship with me?” This isn’t an exercise to see how “bad” you are, but a chance to acknowledge where you’re doing well and where growth can happen.
- Write in a journal: If you’re unaware of your thoughts or why you do things (I’m feeling the urge to escape/quit/flee, but I am not sure why!), then keeping a journal might be for you. Writing may help you focus on your thoughts and perhaps pinpoint the root cause of your frustrations, such as writing down the time you got in a conflict with your team members. To read more about this, check out the article “Connecting the Dots”.
Self-management refers to the ability to keep our emotions, thoughts, and impulses under control. Self-management takes things a bit further than self-awareness as we practice strategies to control our thoughts and emotions, especially if they may be harmful to a situation. Self-management allows us to anticipate our response before going into a situation and actively regulate ourselves.
People with high self-management:
- Recognize the impact their thoughts and actions may have on others
- Demonstrate flexibility with changes in their circumstances
- Hold themselves personally accountable for things that are in their control
People with low self-regulation may:
- Be impulsive and react rather than respond appropriately
- Have low self-confidence and self-esteem
- Have angry outbursts or verbally attack others
Actionable Tips to Boost Self-Regulation:
- Practice accountability: You’ve missed a deadline. You’ve received feedback that you don’t agree with. Technology isn’t working and you’re about to give a presentation. You forgot your lunch. Your co-worker is talking too loudly. You received an email that set you off. Whatever it is, try not to play the victim. Instead, take control of what you can change. Ask yourself questions like, “What can I do differently next time?” “How do I want to be perceived in this situation?” “What might I need to adjust?”
- Go with the flow: Instead of focusing on strong emotions like anxiety, fear, or enthusiasm when you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation, close your mouth and open your eyes and ears to find out what’s going on. Take time to observe, then gather your thoughts about how you might need to adjust in order to contribute effectively.
Social Awareness & Relationship Management
Social awareness refers to the ability to accurately read and interpret social cues. Relationship management is the ability to use those social cues to understand what’s happening and plan your response accordingly. Both elements include making people valued and understood so that we can respond effectively, rather than react or let frustrations fester.
People with high social awareness:
- Know how to gracefully exit a conversation or “agree to disagree”
- Anticipate why behaviors might be showing up and can plan an appropriate response
- Modify their approach if they are not getting the results they were hoping for
People with low social awareness may:
- Assume that others know what’s going on and don’t have to provide an explanation
- Misread social cues and dynamics, or simply not care about them
- Have a hard time understanding where others are coming from
Actionable Tips to Improve Social Awareness & Relationship Management:
- Learn to communicate with others the way they want to be communicated with: Do you prefer charts and graphs, but have co-workers that appreciate dialogue and discussion? Think about how you might be able to carve out time for discussion during your meetings. Do you like to chit chat before a meeting, but have co-workers that want to get right down to business? Try to find a time after the meeting to catch up on their weekend. Are you OK just dropping by someone’s desk for a conversation, but get the sense that they are uncomfortable when you show up? Try sending an IM to ask them before coming over so that they can be prepared.
- Go out and observe others: Trips to restaurants, coffee shops and even the grocery store are great opportunities to practice social awareness. Observe people in line, read the room. What clues are their behaviors giving off? Given what you’ve seen, think about how you might enter a conversation with them or what might be challenging. The more you observe others the better you can be at social awareness and thinking about how to adjust for different situations and environments. Check out the blog, “Developing Your Emotional Intelligence” to learn more.
Take a moment to reflect – where do your emotional intelligence strengths lie? Where is there room for growth? Stay tuned for the next emotional intelligence blog, where we will explore an example and spot the areas of emotional intelligence breakdown.