Are you a student in high school or college or a young professional? Do you think you have chosen an education that suits your main interests? Have you acquired knowledge and hard skills to be able to work in this field? Do you still sense you are somewhat missing something to feel truly comfortable and included at work? At school, you learn concepts and know-how. What about soft skills? What about learning to identify, understand and manage your emotions? What do you think of a professional who looks self-confident, self-driven, and express him/herself respectfully and assertively towards other individuals, considering their opinions and emotions? Don’t you think this professional manages stress better, takes decisions more effectively and nurtures high quality interpersonal relationships?
If yes, I invite you to read this article. It will introduce some methods to turn your and others’ emotions into allies and success factors at work.
- What is emotional intelligence and how can it help you?
- Emotional Intelligence is a skill!
First, let us talk about skills. As a matter of facts, emotional intelligence is a skill, and not the least of them! A skill includes 4 types of aptitudes one can develop, maintain, and enrich. A skill is therefore dynamic. Everybody can learn and improve their skills. A skill includes theoretical knowledge, know-how (hard skills), interpersonal behaviours (soft skills) and physical aptitudes. Nowadays at work, expertise in a specific field tends to be the most valued. Here we talk about theoretical knowledge and know-how. What about soft skills? You may have met people who are not the best experts. And yet life at work or in society looks so natural, easy, and smooth to them. They have developed their emotional and social functioning. This is THE key to optimal interpersonal relationships and performance. It is not a surprise that more and more schools and workplaces include personal development courses and trainings. When Artificial Intelligence (AI) will take over most technical skills, Emotional Intelligence (EI) will become an important competitive advantage for human beings. In near future, robots are far from being able to reproduce human emotions and their interactions.
- What are emotions?
Let us now talk about emotions. Emotion comes from Latin emovere, which basically means “take a move”. When something great or unpleasant occurs, our brain sends a signal to our body. This signal makes the body move. In most cases, we move because we have felt one of the 4 primary emotions: fear, anger, sadness, joy. Other feelings can make us react as well, such as revulsion, surprise, shame, or guilt for example.
It is late and Mary walks alone in the street after a party. Suddenly, two people she does not know yell at her quite brutally. She runs away very fast. She has been scared!
Ugo receives his graduation letter from school. He gets his diploma with amazing grades. He jumps in his mother’s arms. He is happy!
Are you able to guess a bit now how your emotions can be a significant asset in your everyday life?
Primary emotions arise spontaneously and naturally. We cannot prevent them from coming. We feel them and react before thinking because we basically want to survive. What would be the consequences if you express whatever emotion whenever and wherever you feel to?
Let us take an example: Roger comes to work and find his desk empty. All his stuffs are gone. He feels heat running in his cheeks and anger starts to enter his body. At this very moment, Tim passes by. Roger asks very firmly: “Who has removed my stuffs?”. His colleague answers: “I did but…”. Roger does not let him finish and starts getting angry at him. A few hours later, Roger learns from other people that Tim kindly moved his stuffs to his new desk the day before. Indeed, Roger was off work and totally forgot the department reshuffled the open space while he was away…
Let us take the same example with another viewpoint: Roger comes to work and find his desk empty. All his stuffs are gone. He feels heat running in his cheeks and anger starts to enter his body. At this very moment, Tim passes by. Roger feels anger in him and takes time to understand what is happening to him. He understands that he needs to know the background of the problem and as well, he needs to be reassured that he has not been prejudiced. He asks Tim gently: “Do you know where my stuffs are? It is weird, everything is gone.” Tim answers with a gentle smile on his face: “Yes, I moved your stuffs to your new desk. You were out of the office when we reshuffled the department.” Relieved and pleased Roger answers: “Yes that is right, I totally forgot about this. Thank you, this is very kind of you!”
What do you think of those 2 cases? What would be the consequences on their future relationship? What kind of impacts could there be on their cooperation at work? How is Roger going to feel in both situations? How will it affect his self-perception, his well-being and as a result of facts his efficiency?
Those examples show you how Emotional Intelligence is a great advantage in various situations: for your health, effectiveness, at school, at work, with your customers or suppliers, family, friends, teams, hobbies…
When we are a child, we cannot put words on our emotions and we simply let them be. According to our personality and education, we tend to either express emotions quite excessively or block them inside. In both cases, there will be consequences in our bodies, minds, and relationships. When we grow up, we will either be an adult having difficulties managing emotions or an adult who recognizes emotions and use them effectively.
There are different definitions for Emotional Intelligence (EI). I choose to share one from the EQ-I 2.0 tool I will describe later in this article. Emotional intelligence is a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how well we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.
Good news is that emotional intelligence is a competence. It means everybody can learn it, the same way you would learn a concept or technique. We can improve our EI continuously. The other good news is EI includes multiple dimensions, which are all interdependent. When we develop one, it necessarily improves others too!
- Some tips to work on your emotional intelligence:
I guess you wonder now how to develop this special skill? I will share some tools with you. They are obviously not thorough. They will however let you start practice and get a flavour of the first results.
- Understand your strengths and improvement areas.
On the market, there are several assessments measuring Emotional Intelligence. I chose EQ-I 2.0 because it was inspired by Daniel Goleman’s renown work. He has been one of the first to foster EQ (Emotional Quotient) as a key condition to success. IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is not enough, both are necessary. Daniel Goleman, “Emotional Intelligence” – 1995.
Moreover, EQ-I 2.0 is the most passed assessment in the world so far. It is a self-assessment, which relies on 5 dimensions, scrolled down into 15 competences. It provides broad ways to develop! Please find below the EQ-I 2.0 wheel:
The 5 dimensions directly influence your well-being, performance, and emotional & social functioning. Indeed, the way you perceive yourself will definitely influence the way you express yourself, and again, the quality of your relationships. The way you interact with others will affect your decision process and of course the way you manage stress. The way you manage stress has an impact on your self-perception and so on and so on.
You assess yourself for each of the 15 competences. As mentioned earlier, all competences are co-dependent. If some competences are not equally balanced, you can use your strengths to balance the weakest ones. For instance, if you have a strong empathy and a weak assertiveness, you can use your ability to put yourself in others’ shoes. It will soften the way you express yourself, with kindness and respect.
Let us go through some concrete examples.
We will not be able to go through all competencies. To do so, it is necessary to pass the assessment and debrief with a certified professional. He or she will explore personalized options in line with your EQ profile.
- Improve your self-esteem
We are many to lack self-confidence, self-regard and we are many to underestimate ourselves and our achievements. Some exercises and tools can help to grow our self-esteem.
One tool I use both with adults and children is the wheel of emotions. Via your primary emotions, you can identify and get aware of your secondary emotions and further. Above all, you can find out what your needs are. Because behind each emotion, there is a need, fulfilled or not. How can you love yourself without understanding how you feel and what you need to ease your sensations? If we take a look at Roger’s example again (see above in the article), we can see Roger has first felt heat going into his cheeks. Thanks to that sensation, he has identified he was getting angry. What need was this anger related to? Roger probably had a need for respect, communication, inclusion or whatever else. The wheel of emotions enables us to take the time to think through our feelings, analyse them and avoid overreacting or block emotions. We basically avoid promoting behaviours that will make us feel ashamed, foolish, or guilty. And yet, actions that can jeopardize or self-esteem.
Another daily routine that can help you gain self-regard, is to write down 3 achievements or 3 attributes you like about yourself. Your brain will remember positive actions or behaviours that gives purpose and value to your life. This develops optimism and self-confidence if you practice regularly. For instance, you could write down:
- I am proud to be an autonomous and kind person
- I have succeeded to pass my driving license this week.
- My best friend thanked me, as I helped him to finalize his application form to colleges.
- Improve your assertiveness
We all have the choice to express ourselves a way or the other. Of course, our education, background, experiences have influenced our self-expression, because they have anchored functioning patterns in our behaviours. When we have something to say, push our point of view or our needs, we can be passive and silent; we can be passive aggressive and indirectly manipulative to fulfil our needs; we can be aggressive and attack others; or we can be assertive and both communicate confidently our needs and show respect and kindness to others. Of course, it is easy to say. There is a tool, called the NCV model. When used on a regular basis, it can help you to better communicate your feelings and needs with others. Marshall B. Rosenberg has created this communication model called non-violent communication. In his book “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” – 1999, he explains the below OFNR model:
Let us take an example: You have a team meeting every day at 9.00 am. Your colleague Samy arrives very often late and it does irritate you a bit. From your point of view, it delays the overall teamwork. How are you going to express it to him?
Using the OFNR model, you will say:
- O: “Samy, I saw you arrived at 9.10 on Monday, 9.12 on Tuesday and 9:13 on Wednesday.”
- F: “I feel frustrated because the meeting is supposed to start at 9:00.”
- N: “I would like the whole team to meet on time in order to go through the complete agenda and action plan.”
- R: “Would you be willing to show up at 9:00 sharp please?”
What do you think of this? Isn’t it an undisputable way to express how you feel and what you need in the most respectful terms: with no judgement and no blame? Isn’t it the best way to get an equally kind and open-minded reply and open the dialog? I invite you to try it out.
- Create rich interpersonal relationships
We all need to interact and to be included in a culture, a group, a team. Mutually satisfying relationships rely on 3 equally important factors: respect yourself and what you need; take into account others’ needs and feelings; and get sincerely involved in the group. It all depends on finding the right balance between our independence, our empathy (For Korn Ferry, Empathy means having the ability to sense others’ feelings and how they see things. You take an active interest in their concerns. You pick up cues to what’s being felt and thought. With empathy, you sense unspoken emotions. You listen attentively to understand the other person’s point of view, the terms in which they think about what’s going on), and our interest in the group’s social life. It is not an easy task!
There are multiple ways to sustain mutually gratifying relationships. Let me introduce a tool that helped me a lot to take a step back and gain serenity.
In his book, « The 4 Toltec agreements » – 1997, Miguel Ruiz invites us to follow the following golden rules:
- Be impeccable with your word: As said earlier, assertiveness is the best way to both express our feelings, opinions and needs, and respect others. Gossips and criticisms may have bad consequences on us and others. Let us stop spreading poison around us.
- Don’t take anything personally: If you wish to have good relationships, I invite you to take for granted that every behaviour, action or word said, is not against you. People have good reasons to do what they do. And they do not necessarily assess what the side effects are on others. Nobody is perfect! If you think this way, you will acquire a more positive attitude and take things as they are. Plus, you will develop your empathy, trying to think from others’ perspectives.
- Don’t make assumptions: Most people tend to interpret others’ actions and do not take time to validate what they see. We often get the wrong idea about what people think, do or say. It can lead us to be a bit paranoid and aggressive towards others. Let us ask when we are not sure!
- Always do you best: Everyday is a new day, why do you want to be and feel the same constantly? Who can be consistently energic, enthusiastic and effective? What a huge pressure you put on yourself! Why not doing your best according to your state of mind? If you know you have done your best, you will not feel incompetent or guilty. Being more self-compassionate will help you to accept up and downs in your energy, and be less judgemental about your own self and others. You will better respect your own pace and get involved when it is time for you to.
As a result of facts, all above mentioned EI skills and measures will clearly help you with your decision making and stress management.
How do you feel now? How motivated are you to take better care of your emotions and others’? What do you think of developing emotional intelligence as any other skill?
Reason’s enemy is not emotion. “I think, therefore I am” is no longer sufficient!