Emotional Intelligence is being touted as the X factor in those who rise to the top and are able to stay there.
How good is yours?
Here is a quick test to check your emotional connections – can you identify your feelings around this changing scenario?
Imagine you asked your boss if he wanted to walk with you to the client presentation. He says no, he’ll catch a cab. You get there and are waiting in front of the building when he arrives, walking with your colleague, deep in conversation.
How do you feel? How do you feel about him?
Now imagine he joins you in the coffee queue and explains that he wanted to think through his presentation and clear his head, which is why he turned down your offer to walk together. He was disappointed when the colleague caught up with him and he mentions “we both know how much he can talk.”
How do you feel now? How do you feel about him?
This time picture a different response from your boss. When he spots you, he laughs and quickly explains his cab broke down a couple of blocks away and he saw your colleague walking so he joined him.
Does that change how you feel or how you feel about him?
There is no right or wrong to the feelings you have. The importance thing is to identify what you feel about yourself and the other person, so you can manage your emotions.
Why do feelings matter?
Emotions are activated by real or imagined events and they trigger a response in us. That response may be rational or it can be totally irrational, either way it is equally real.
The response we feel then shapes how we behave, how we react and interact with other people.
Kendra Wilkins Fontenot summarizes four areas of Emotional Intelligence:
1. Self Awareness – Ability to recognize your emotions as they happen and understand your general tendencies for responding to different people and situations
2. Social Awareness – Understanding where the other person is coming from, whether you agree or not
3. Self Management – Using awareness of your emotion to choose what you say and do in order to positively direct your behaviour
4. Relationship Management – Using awareness of other person’s emotions to choose what you say and do in order to positively direct your behaviour
The better you get at recognizing your own feelings and identifying what someone else might be feeling, the easier it is for you to build strong relationships; with your team, with your clients, with your boss.
Your emotional intelligence lets you build rapport quickly. This is often the foundation for trust, a fundamental building block in relationships of all kinds.
To build rapport, you need to understand and manage your own emotions. This allows you to question what has triggered your feelings and look for other explanations.
People who don’t have much understanding of their own feelings are more likely to reactively snap back at someone. They may harbour a grudge or simply avoid that person altogether; all behaviours that break down rapport and lead to a lack of trust.
Managing your emotions
So how can you increase your own emotional intelligence?
You need to build your self-awareness and self-management.
The first step is to regularly identify what you feel. Take a few minutes to locate what that emotion is and what triggered it.
Then challenge your reaction if something’s upset you, caused you anger, anxiety or fear. What other response could help you more in this situation?
If this is new for you, break it into a logical sequence:
Was the thing that triggered these emotions real or imagined?
Is your response to it rational or irrational – are you blowing it out of proportion?
How do you want to respond? How else could you respond?
Empathy – what are they feeling?
Leadership surveys show that managers and leaders with strong Emotional Intelligence become star performers.
They use this strength to connect with their staff and understand what motivates them.
To get this magic you need to use your empathy – put yourself in their shoes.
This is the other half of emotional intelligence – social awareness and relationship management.
Ask yourself what could be happening with that person that might influence what they have said or done.
Could there be another explanation for the way they acted?
Actively trying to imagine what someone else might feel is the other half of emotional intelligence.
If you can project what their feelings might be, you have a much stronger chance of managing the relationship.
Empathy for inspiration
Empathy helps you project what might inspire, motivate or reassure someone. It also helps you understand if your words might cause anxiety, fear or defensiveness.
Putting yourself in their shoes helps you know how to encourage someone to work harder, make them feel appreciated or motivate them to try something new. If you want to elicit negative emotions like fear, you’ll be doing it consciously.
Often our words or actions create a cascade of feelings in the other person, without EI you are unaware of what you’ve unleashed.
A hidden bonus in focusing on the other person’s feelings is it moves you out of your own anxiety or self-consciousness.
Want to know more?
For a bit more on how empathy can increase your own confidence have a look at this post: Empathy, your secret weapon for confidence
If you’d like a breakdown of the steps and signals to build empathy there is a good Ted Talk by Helen Riess called The power of Empathy.
Emotional intelligence can be learned. We are hardwired for it and have the ability to increase our wisdom around emotions in the same way we increase our knowledge in other areas.
All it takes is awareness, practice and a desire to learn.
So, how are you feeling?