Emotional Intelligence – An Inside Out Job

Emotional Intelligence – An Inside Out Job

Emotional intelligence is your ability, either innate or learned, to acquire and apply knowledge from your emotions and the emotions of others. Using this information, you can make better decisions about what to say or do (or not say or do) in any given situation.

The Emotional Intelligence (EI) competencies fall into two categories: intrapersonal (existing/occurring within the individual) and interpersonal (existing/occurring between persons). The competencies build logically upon each other. The first few (emotional self-awareness, emotional self-regulation and emotional self-motivation) are intrapersonal and lay the foundation for the interpersonal competencies — empathy and managing relationships.

Emotional Intelligence is an inside-out job. It starts with oneself: developing the intrapersonal skills. The more skilled a leader or manager is at emotional self-awareness, emotional self-regulation and emotional self-motivation, the easier it is to pick up on the subtle social signals of others, be empathetic and manage relationships successfully. Effective interpersonal skills depend largely on developing effective intrapersonal skills.

Emotional Self-Awareness Goleman(1) defines emotional self-awareness as “having a deep understanding of one’s emotions … how your feelings affect you, other people and your job performance.”

Emotional Self-Regulation
This is the ability to step back, to “hit the pause button” before, during or after an emotionally charged situation. Goleman writes that self-regulation “frees us from being prisoners of our feelings.”1

Emotional Self-Motivation
Self-motivated people not only know what they are feeling, they can transform their anxiety or negative emotions into positive, productive emotions and actions. They can call up feelings of confidence, optimism and enthusiasm.

Once a foundation of the first three competencies (all intrapersonal) is established, EI begins to influence a person’s interactions with others. From a traditional business perspective, empathy may seem inappropriate or unnecessary. However, in today’s economy, where teamwork, cross-cultural sensitivity and coaching and mentoring are essential, empathy is a core skill.

Managing Relationships (Social Skill)
This competency combines sincere care and friendliness with a purpose. To manage relationships effectively, leaders must understand and channel their emotions in useful ways, be motivated to take positive action and exhibit empathy toward others. Rather than trying to manage or manipulate relationships, this is about setting a positive tone of cooperation no matter what the circumstances. It can help all sides find common ground where collaboration can lead to movement in the desired direction.

Where Do You Start?
Laying a strong foundation in emotional self-awareness increases the likelihood of building strong skill in the other competencies. Some actions that can be taken to enhance skill in emotional self-awareness include…

o Notice and name your emotions – being able to name what you feel provides information that can be used to make decisions about what you should or should not do or say in particular situations.

o Identify triggers to negative emotions – these can be people, events, or situations that frequently trigger a strong, negative emotional response. By recognizing triggers, the learner will know when it might be helpful to change or regulate his or her emotions (the second EI competency, emotional self-regulation).

o Identify what’s important in your life and the positive emotions they evoke – these positive emotions are the emotions the learner will want to experience more frequently. Increased frequency in experiencing these kinds of emotions is related to more positive energy. And research shows that when the emotions are positive, thinking is clearer and better decisions are made.

Outstanding leaders are often said to have “good people skills.” But the person they are most skilled at handling is themselves. They start from the inside and work out. The good news is that all of these competencies can be systematically learned, enhanced and developed.

1. Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence, 1995, Bantam Books.

Copyright 2008, Byron Stock

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