Best Practice
May 7, 2012

To your emotional rescue

Emotional Intelligence 2.0
Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves
TalentSmart, 255 pages, $26.95

    
By now it’s commonplace knowledge that emotional intelligence is vital to success at work. Less commonly known is the fact that emotional intelligence is not set at birth or in our formative years: We can enhance our emotional intelligence, if we wish.

But the big mystery is how to do that. Emotions are tricky, elusive stuff, and building emotional intelligence is not the same as increasing our knowledge in more concrete areas of work, such as developing better data management skills or writing more succinct reports.

In Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradbury and Jean Graves take on that challenge. Their title is a signal. The first round of books on emotional intelligence were explanatory, helping us to understand the concept and its importance. This book moves us to a higher level.

It starts by dividing this amorphous area into four skills:

Self-Awareness: Your ability to accurately perceive your own emotions in the moment and understand your tendencies across different situations so that you can quickly make sense of those emotions. A high degree of self-awareness requires a willingness to tolerate the discomfort of focusing on feelings that may be negative. “Self awareness is not about discovering deep, dark secrets or unconscious motivations, but, rather, it comes from developing a straightforward and honest understanding of what makes you tick. People high in self-awareness are remarkably clear in their understanding of what they do well, what motivates and satisfies them, and which people and situations push their buttons,” the authors note.

Self-Management: Your ability to use your awareness of your emotions to act in a positive manner, managing your emotional reactions to situations and people. They stress this goes beyond the most obvious times when your emotions are clearly aroused – fury at a boss, for example – to the variety of situations each day where your emotions are more surreptitiously hindering your effectiveness.

Social Awareness: Your ability to accurately pick up on emotions of other people and understand what is really going on with them. Often this means not being so caught up in your emotions that you fail to recognize what others are feeling and thinking, when it is different from your own feelings. That means you have to stop talking, cease the monologue running through your mind, and instead of thinking of what you intend to say next listen to the other person. “To be socially aware, you have to spot and understand people’s emotions while you’re right there in the middle of it – a contributing, yet astutely aware, member of the interaction,” they write.

Relationship Management: Ability to use your awareness of your own emotions and those of others to manage interactions successfully. That can involve clear communication, effective handling of conflict, and building strong bonds with others. “Relationship management poses the greatest challenge for most people in times of stress,” the authors observe.

The first two skills, self-awareness and self-management, relate to your personal competence in this realm. The next two, social awareness and relationship management, are elements of social competence.

But in some ways, that’s still Emotional Intelligence 1.0 – what it’s about. Let’s move on to Emotional Intelligence 2.0 – some strategies that can help you improve.

Self-Awareness Strategies

  • Quit treating your feelings as good or bad. Judging your emotions keeps you from understanding what you are feeling. “Next time you feel an emotion beginning to build, take notice of it immediately. Refrain from putting it into the good or bad pile and remind yourself that the feeling is there to help you understand something important,” they advise.
  • Observe the ripple effects from your emotions. Like a stone thrown into water, your emotions ripple outward – and usually not with the same sense of serenity. A manager who loses his cool and berates an employee not only bruises the feelings of the target of that fusillade but also others who witnessed it. Your emotions are powerful weapons, so start to observe them and the impact on others, reflecting on your behaviour and deciding what ripples you want to exude.
  • The biggest discomfort to increasing self-awareness is the tendency to avoid the discomfort from seeing yourself as less ideal than you like to imagine. To counter that, you must lean into your discomfort. “Rather than avoiding a feeling, your goal should be to move toward the emotion, into it, and eventually through it. That can be said for even mild emotional discomfort, such as boredom, confusion or anticipation. When you ignore or minimize an emotion, no matter how small or insignificant, you miss the opportunity to do something productive with that feeling,” they write. After the first few times you push yourself into discomfort, you’ll realize the discomfort isn’t as bad as you feared and the process reaps rewards.
  • Know who and what pushes your buttons. This will help you to take control of situations, rather than being thrown off stride by irritating people or behaviour. Even better, dig down deeper and find out the source of your buttons. Perhaps someone’s behaviour reminds you of your younger sister and brings the jealousy you felt towards her back into play. Understanding the source of the emotions can help you manage them.
  • Keep a journal about your emotions. “In just a month, you’ll begin to see patterns in your emotions, and you’ll develop a better understanding of your tendencies,” the authors state. “Pay careful attention to the people and situations that push your buttons, triggering strong emotions. Describe the emotions you feel each day, and don’t forget to record the physical sensations that accompany each emotion.”

Self-Management

  • Most people breathe too shallowly, and don’t get enough oxygen into their body, which can lead to poor concentration, forgetfulness, mood swings, restlessness, depressed and anxious thoughts, and a lack of energy. The next time you are in a stressful or emotional situation, focus on taking slow deep breaths. Inhale through your nose until you can feel your stomach well outward and getting tight. Then exhale through your mouth, gently and completely. The authors counsel that breathing right is one of the simplest yet most powerful techniques for managing your emotions.
  • In a sticky situation, create an emotion vs. reason list, by drawing a line down the middle of a page. In the left column write what your emotions are telling you to do and in the left column what reason is telling you to do. “Now ask yourself two important questions: Where are your emotions clouding your judgment, and where is your reason ignoring important cues from your emotions?” the authors explain. The list will help you understand whether you should allow your emotional or rational side have more say in the situation.
  • Much of self-management comes down to motivation, so make the goals you have for improving in emotional intelligence known to others, as that will motivate you.

Social Awareness

  • Develop a back-pocket question to pull out when awkward silences occur in social situations. It will also show the other person you are interested in his or her thoughts and feelings. All you need to do is ask “What do you think about X?” citing an issue about work or current events (but not politics, religion or other sensitive areas) tha

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