How To Increase Emotional Intelligence
Ever been in a situation where, on the surface, the facts check out and everything looks good on paper yet a little nagging doubt remains? Maybe it’s an employee you’re about to hire or a house you’re considering buying. The job candidate’s credentials are impressive and the house is a dream, still something in your gut screams “No.” Ignore the bad feeling and your reservations about the potential employee could be confirmed weeks later. And that house you dragged your feet about buying? Funny how the realtor never mentioned the hard-partying neighbors next door.
Paying little heed to gut feelings or choosing to act on impulse without the benefit of thought can lead to regrettable decisions. It’s far better to blend the power of thinking with the data of feelings – that is, rely on an ability known as emotional intelligence. EI first entered the popular lexicon in the 1990s thanks to the work of several academic psychologists. Despite varying approaches, all EI theories recognize the importance of four basic components.
Namely, how well a person:
- perceives emotions
- understand emotions
- utilizes emotions to predict outcomes
- manages emotions to achieve personal effectiveness in specific situations
David R. Caruso, Ph.D., a management psychologist who develops and conducts emotional intelligence training around the world, says people routinely overestimate and underestimate how emotionally intelligent they are. “Emotions are data and you always want to have good, accurate data,” Caruso says. It helps to not make assumptions. Never assume you’re reading another person or even yourself correctly. Ask very targeted questions, and be sure to use the close-ended variety. Ask the realtor on a scale of 1 to 10, how noisy is this neighborhood? Quiz that potential employee about specific approaches to job-related tasks. Don’t accept a pat “I can handle anything” answer.
Emotional intelligence requires a degree of introspection too. When you experience anxiety about a situation, first analyze the source. “Attend to the feeling then let your analytical ability assist you,” says Caruso. Lack of sleep could be the culprit. A hellish commute might have caused undue stress or a problem at home could be weighing on your mind. In other words, the source of your anxiety might have nothing to do with the situation at hand.
For example, if your initial gut reaction is to veto a proposed program at work – what is prompting you? Is it a suspected flaw in the plan or are you simply hungry for lunch? Always zero the personal side of the equation out and if significant concerns about a venture remain, you know you’re justified in applying the brakes or at least, postponing pending further investigation.
Once you have a better awareness of what you and others might be feeling — and why — you can begin to manage your emotions to reap rewards in your business and personal life. Anxiety in and of itself is not a bad thing. It’s smart to be anxious before an exam or a big presentation because then you’re likely to prepare. Even anger, if harnessed and channeled correctly, can be a constructive force and an agent of change.
A properly trained life coach can help you improve your emotional intelligence. If you’re not good at identifying emotions in others for example, he or she could teach you what different facial expressions convey. A life coach might videotape you conducting a simulated meeting so that later you can review it together and analyze your body language and voice inflections and what they mean.
Caruso emphasizes that all good decisions, and all effective actions, are the result of thinkingand feeling. Emotional intelligence is all about leveraging the data of emotions, a very worthwhile pursuit.
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