Your IQ doesn’t alter much throughout your life.
Emotional Intelligence, on the other hand, can be improved at any time.
That’s great news because, as we saw in part 1 of this article, ‘Emotional Intelligence counts more than IQ or expertise for determining who excels at a job – any job – and for outstanding leadership it counts for almost everything’ (Daniel Goleman).
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is all about knowing and managing others’ emotions and your own emotions. EI is not one skill but rather a collection of capabilities which can be grouped in 4 areas (Self-Awareness, Social Awareness, Self-Management and Social Skills).
These areas are shown in the graph above right – click on the image above to enlarge it (use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this article).
For your Emotional Intelligence to make a positive impact on your job performance, it’s not enough to master one capability within one area. You need to be proficient at several skills within one area. If you’re good at 3 or 4 areas, your effectiveness will be substantially higher.
In this article, we’re going to look at 5 practical exercises which will start you on your way towards a higher EI.
Exercise 1 – Understand Your Emotions
The first step on your path towards higher EI is to know the emotions you’re likely to experience in certain situations and just how much you can take before you your emotions overwhelm you (your co-worker takes credit for your work, you don’t get the promotion you were expecting, one of your members of staff keeps challenging your authority, you have to give a speech,…).
Exercise to build up Emotional Self-Awareness
- When you experience a strong emotion, try to put a name to it.
Is it stress, anger, embarassment, jealousy, despair,…?
- Notice any physical symptoms you may be experiencing.
Red cheeks, heartbeat, pain in your stomach,…?
- Your body language is also a hint as to what you truly feel.
You might say you’re OK but your arms are crossed in a defencive position. You might say you’re confident but your voice is high pitched as if you were experiencing stress and anxiety.
- Once you honestly know which emotion you’re feeling (be honest with yourself or this exercise is pointless), try and understand what caused it.
- Next time a similar situation occurs, notice if you experience the same feeling, physical symptoms and body language and try and understand what your tipping point is (how much you can take before you feel the emotion).
Why is Emotional Self-Awareness important?
Because if you know when you’re likely to experience strong emotions, you can prepare yourself in advance (decide to either avoid or prevent the situation, in any case control your emotions so they do not overwhelm you).
Exercise 2 – Learn To Control Your Emotions
In the business world, even more so than in your daily life, you’ll experience emotions you absolutely cannot act on.
Learning Self-Control is to understand that having emotions and acting on them are 2 different things.
- It’s OK to be angry as long as you express it appropriately (keeping calm and controlled, explaining the reasons why you’re angry, suggesting ways to fix the problem,…).
- It’s OK to feel frustrated at yet another setback… as long as you do not give up, remain positive, pick yourself up and move forward.
It’s completely possible to learn to control your emotions.
Strategies to build up Self-Control
Next time you experience a strong emotion, try to calm down or even return to normal.
You can use any of the following strategies (or develop your own):
- count to 10
- think of something positive
- make a joke of it and laugh it out (humour is a good way to change mindset)
- vent your frustrations by talking about your issues and emotions to someone you trust
Eventually, you’ll know which situations are likely to stir emotions in you and how to let these emotions go or even stop them before they overwhelm you. You’ll improve your Self-Control. You’ll even be able to channel negative emotions into self-motivation.
Important: Self-Control does NOT mean suppressing all emotions but keeping within control the emotions that do not help the situation at hand.
Exercise 3 – Aim For Self-Regulation
Research has found that leaders who have strong Self-Regulation skills are the most successful.
- Self-Control (controlling your emotions)
- Conscientiousness (paying attention to detail)
- Adaptability (being flexible)
- Achievement Orientation (striving to achieve efficiency)
- Innovation (discovering new and better ways to achieve things)
Important Tip: It’s very important that you aim for a balance of all these capabilities.
Working on one of these capabilities at the expense of the others could have an overall negative result.
Let me give you some examples:
- Achievement Orientation without Innovation could lead to a fascination with cost-cutting and risk moderation rather than making your own opportunities and being innovative.
- Being flexible without Achievement Orientation could lead to your giving in on important matters.
- An overly strong Self-Control could lead to a repression of Innovation and initiative.
Exercise 4 – Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Knowing yourself is also learning what you’re good at and what you need to improve. Many people delude themselves as to what they’re good at and what they can achieve, which is a recipe for disaster (over-promising and under-achieving).
Exercise to build up Accurate Self-Assessment
- Make a list of what you think your strengths and weaknesses are
- Listen to the feedback you receive
- Does it match your list? Rewrite your list if necessary until you’re confident it’s a true reflection of your strengths and weaknesses
- Once you’ve established what your real strengths are, work with them. This is a good way to boost your confidence and build a positive reputation based on dependability.
Exercise 5 – Read Body Language
Understanding others’ emotions (Empathy) helps create a much more productive environment.
You can develop empathy by imagining the emotions people are going through. Another very useful way to develop empathy is to learn to read body language. A large part of what we communicate is done through body language. People may lie but their body language often reflects the truth.
Exercise to build up Empathy
- Watch TV without the sound on and try and figure out what emotions people are going through
- Pay attention to people around you: their voice, hand movements, eye contact, body posture, feet positions (the truest part of the body). Can you tell what they’re going through? Does it match what they’re saying? (start doing this with people you know well so you can check with them if you’re right without upsetting them)
- Apply this knowledge to your team if you have one. Teams are living organisms that go through common experiences and emotions. Knowing the state of your team will make you a much better manager. Knowing how to control your team collective feeling will make you a much better leader.
We haven’t covered Social Skills here because it’s a vast subject and you’ll find specific information on most of the Social Skills capabilities on our site (leadership, influence, conflict management, create bonds). But the 5 steps above are an excellent start and cover 3 of the 4 EI areas… enough to start making a positive impact.