From end-of-the year budget planning to the dreaded office holiday party, this time of year can be filled with an unhealthy amount of work-related stress. When you rush from one holiday commitment to the next, attempt to meet deadlines, and respond to external demands, you’re apt to lose touch with your emotions. That may cause you to act out unconsciously and miss out on the valuable information that your emotions contain.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. It is a measurable component of who we are. Yet unlike IQ (Intelligence Quotient), which remains relatively stagnant throughout one’s life, EQ is a skill that you can learn, practice, and develop. This holiday season, why not practice it in the form of giving back – to your colleagues – at work?
Bonus: these 5 emotionally intelligent gifts won’t cost you a penny!
1.) Active listening. If we are the speakers, we expect others to listen. So why can’t we provide the same courtesy to our colleagues instead of thinking about what to say next, staring at our cell phones, or daydreaming? Rudeness aside – the effects of poor listening are numerous, ranging from simple misunderstandings to lost revenue.
Easy how-to: Focus on what your colleagues say, paraphrasing to check for understanding, as well as to let them know you’re paying attention. Ask for input and take notice of how they share information. For example, are they excited about a particular project? (they may feel confident and/or accomplished). Are they speaking softly and not communicating clearly? (they may be feeling insecure and need your support and guidance).
Your colleagues’ demeanor, as well as the words they use, can provide important clues on how they want to be communicated with.
2.) Curiosity. People who are curious about their co-workers’ viewpoints are most likely good at managing relationships and building networks. These tactful yet persuasive folks are successful at initiating change, setting goals, and building and leading teams. Curious managers ask the right questions so that they don’t put their own needs ahead of the team’s needs.
Easy how-to: Ask your colleagues about their perspectives and engage with them sincerely. Show interest in their ideas, exploring together how you can come to a compromise. Note that you can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to interacting with everyone in your workplace.
Tailoring interactions based on personality, cultural orientation, and position is a huge part of effective Emotional Intelligence.
3.) Mindfulness. Information overload and lack of time are common sources of stress at work. Cluttered minds can’t problem solve effectively, or make good decisions. One tool for managing the stress of mental overload is mindfulness. Mindfulness is also about being mindful of our effect on others. We’ve all had colleagues (or supervisors) who are completely oblivious to the fact that they behave like jerks! These people do things that may be mildly annoying, or have disastrous consequences. We may even (unintentionally?) be jerks ourselves because we don’t realize how our behavior affects others. For example, while we may want (or need) our cell phone during work hours, we may not realize that our ring tone is loud and obnoxious to the person sitting beside us, or that checking our phones during meetings implies we’re not paying attention. Similarly, how we behave in stressful situations can have a profound – and possibly negative effect – on those we work with, preventing us from advancing within the workplace.
Easy how-to: Self-awareness is a foundation of emotional intelligence, but there’s a lot more to being self-aware than simply reflecting on your actions. Take a good hard look at your behavior and the results. Instead of asking yourself “Why did I do that?” ask “What can I do better next time?” Now, if you really want to increase your EQ, you can ask your staff for feedback.
Ironically, research shows that other people actually see you more objectively than you see yourself.
4.) Learning from mistakes. Easier said than done when we live in a world that’s very good at punishing us for our mistakes! Let’s face it: making a mistake is embarrassing, and it makes us feel terrible. The problem is that as humans, we’re often unwilling to feel the negative feelings that come from accepting that we’re wrong – because we’re very attached to being right, particularly for matters that involve pride or shame. We make up excuses as to why it’s not our fault, blame others, or pretend it didn’t happen. And the cost? Refusing to accept that we’ve made a mistake dooms us to making many more.
Easy how-to: Developing Emotional Intelligence takes a lot of practice, and with that will come mistakes. Instead of being hard on yourself, make sure you understand, and take away, lessons from the experience. Trying and failing is all part of the process. Even Abraham Lincoln had many failures. He also had the self-awareness and humility to recognize his fallibility, neither hiding nor denying his mistakes.
Allow your direct reports the freedom to make mistakes too, recognizing that it’s not the mistake that’s the problem: it’s what you do with it afterward that truly counts.
5.) Presence (not presents). “Being present” at work takes two forms: one is being “here” physically, but the other more significant one is having a connection to our jobs and the people we work with. One of the most important things leaders can do is to “be present”: pay attention to the environment, understand the implications of their decisions, and make time to recognize and acknowledge their staff.
Easy how-to: When you’re passionate about your work, it shows. If your job or work environment isn’t a good fit for you, take an honest and thorough self-assessment of your strengths, weaknesses, and background. You may be able to do this on your own, but many people find it helpful to work through guided career-change workbooks, or with an individual who specializes in career changing.
Emotionally intelligent career-changers don’t just learn the needed technical skills to find a job, but develop as individuals and employees to sustain themselves in a satisfying career.
This holiday season, take the time to distinguish the emotions you feel, recognize them as distinct and different, and do something constructive about them. These simple steps will tremendously improve your emotional intelligence, and as a result, your personal and professional success.
Happy Holidays and all the best in 2018!