Chances are you’ve heard about emotional intelligence before. It’s a big buzz word in the corporate arena, especially among those who work in or with human resource departments.
As often as we might hear the word at seminars or see it in company emails, many people might still struggle with understanding how to apply emotional intelligence to every-day life. As a result, these same people miss out on a chance to learn and thrive from their experiences, a learning curve that can truly help them evolve as leaders.
So we’re starting a new series on the blog all about emotional intelligence, following along with the Mayer & Salovey model, which highlights four skills in particular when it comes to emotional intelligence. Those skills are:
- Identifying Emotions
- Using Emotions
- Understanding Emotions
- Managing Emotions
Let’s begin with examining the first skill in this model: identifying emotions.
It can be said that emotions are simply data, bits of information that are telling us something about how we (or others) are feeling about a situation or a decision. When we ignore our emotions and put them to the side, therefore, we’re essentially tossing vital feedback out the window.
Imagine you passed around surveys around the workplace to receive feedback from your team members on a new initiative. Now imagine that after collecting the completed surveys, you simply toss them in the trash! In a lot of ways, this is precisely what we’re doing when we ignore the feedback our emotions are trying to convey to us.
You might think that you’re doing yourself a favor by suppressing your emotions. We tend to see giving in to our emotions as a weakness. But emotions can actually be quite useful to you – especially in the workplace.
It all starts with identifying your emotions. In other words, recognise how you feel.
Check in with yourself at the beginning of each day. Ask yourself questions like:
- How do I feel at the moment?
- What is my thinking style right now?
- How do I need to feel for the rest of the day to be most effective?
- What strategies can I use to move myself into that emotional head space?
A good habit to develop is to keep a mood diary. A few times a day, try to record the emotion you’re feeling and the events the immediately preceded that emotion. This will enable you to keep track of patterns in your emotional life, which can often give you a clearer picture of how you respond to certain situations.
You also want to think about how you express your emotions. For instance, do emotions show up in your facial expression, in your tone of voice, or in your body language? Or all three? Being aware of how you express your emotions can help you to better manage your reactions in instances when it serves you better to ‘keep your cool’.
Finally, start to become aware of the emotions of others. All it requires is that you pay closer attention to people, especially to their facial expressions, vocal tones, and body language (i.e. avoiding eye contact, crossing arms, etc.). There’s a wealth of information in these subtle cues.
When you’re better able to recognise and identify your emotions, you’ll soon start to see that you have a good ‘read’ on people. Recognising emotions in others is critical to effectiveness – it is fundamental to negotiating, conflict management and is a core leadership skill. Once you can identify emotions, you can then start to use them to your benefit, which is what we’ll discuss next time!