“Emotions don’t belong at work.” “Check your emotions at the door.” “Leave home at home and work at work.” Have you heard these phrases or something like them at some point in your career? Or maybe you've even said or thought them yourself. Has it ever seemed like there was no room for emotions at work, with people pretending not to feel while they were on the clock? Well, the truth is that emotions have always been in the workplace.
In an article written by Nikita Duggal, she stated that “These days we are allowing emotions at work and recognizing the benefits of doing so. And Emotional Intelligence matters more than it used to because the workplace has changed. Today we work largely in teams, not alone, and savvy companies realize that recognizing emotions can lead to healthier environments. This doesn’t mean an emotional free-for-all, but it does mean people are more likely to be aware of their own and others’ emotions and act accordingly.”
Emotionally intelligent people are more adaptable to change and can manage their feelings for the purpose of reducing stress, communicating effectively with others, empathizing with them, and overcoming challenges. This means they tend to get along better with others and are likely to be more successful.
Although we are not born with high Emotional Intelligence, it is something we can work to improve. Justin Bariso, author of EQ, Applied: A Real-World Approach to Emotional Intelligence, offers seven ways to improve Emotional Intelligence in an article written for Inc:
1. Reflect on your emotions
This is where self-awareness begins. To grow in Emotional Intelligence, think about your own emotions and how you typically react to situations. For example, when you read an email that implies you dropped the ball, when another driver cuts you off in traffic, when someone blames you for something you feel is unfair, or a colleague begins to cry unexpectedly- how would you react? When you can identify your own emotions and reactions, you become more mindful and can start the process of building control.
2. Ask for perspective
What we perceive as reality is often different from what those around us see. A courageous question I have been wanting to ask others is, “what’s it like to be in relationship with me?” Getting answers to questions like this can allow us to see ourselves more like others do. And then we can use that knowledge to adjust as necessary.
Once you’ve increased your self-awareness and understand how you’re coming across, pay more attention to your emotions. Continue to reflect on how you react to situations and stay in “learning mode”.
4. Take time to respond rather than react
This sounds easy in theory, but can be difficult to practice - especially in stressful or frustrating situations. However, something as simple as taking a moment before acting or speaking in a situation creates a habit of thinking first.
5. Explore the “why”
Demonstrating qualities such as empathy and compassion are valuable for healthy relationships, as we try to see a situation through another person’s eyes. However, even if we’ve experienced a similar situation, we must go further than drawing on our own experiences and explore why someone feels the way they do. We do this by trying to understand what they might be dealing with that we don’t see, or exploring why we feel differently than they do. Essentially, exploring the why allows us to see team members more accurately for who they are.
6. Choose to learn from feedback
Remember, it is a gift and you have a choice in what to do with it. You can choose to learn from the feedback, or you can get angry and let emotion get the best of you. When we choose to learn from feedback rather than defending our behaviors, we can grow in Emotional Intelligence.
7. Practice, practice, practice
We weren’t born emotionally intelligent, but it is something we can work on improving. It won’t happen overnight, and we’ll never get it perfect. But with effort, patience, and a lot of practice, we can begin harnessing the power of emotions to work for us, instead of against us.
The ability to recognize and understand emotions in ourselves and others, and our ability to use this awareness to manage our behavior is critical for success not only in our personal relationships, but for professional success as well. And that is why Emotional Intelligence is something worth learning more about.
How do you apply Emotional Intelligence in your work and personal life? Where can you improve your Emotional Intelligence?