Emotional Intelligence: Step One to Getting Buff

10/17/2017 09:59 am ET

Emotional Intelligence. You’ve heard the term so often these days that it’s made it through all the noise to capture your attention: 

Hmmm…, this seems important, now what? 

Emotional Intelligence can seem like a vague, fuzzy topic. What exactly is it, and if you want to improve, how do you start?

Here’s the accepted definition of EI:

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the capability of individuals to recognize their own and other people's emotions, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one's goal(s).

Okay, but we’re going to need to get a lot more specific in order to make this learn-able and practical!

Emotional Intelligence has been broken down into four distinct skillsets:

Self-Awareness

Self-Management

Social Awareness

Relationship Management

The names themselves don’t seem too daunting, right? Any reasonably-functioning adult would have a level of competence with each of these skillsets, right. But in fact, only a small percentage of us have really mastered each area.

It has been proven that:

70% of us do not handle conflict or stress effectively, and just 36% understand emotions as they happen. The greatest challenges are at work, where just 15% feel respected and valued by their employers.

People with high EQs are 10 times more productive than those with low EQs: 90% of top performers are high in EQ, and a one-point increase in your EQ adds $1,300 to your annual salary.

We also know that EQ can be learned. So, let’s get to it!

Step One in getting buff with your EQ is Self-Awareness.

Self-awareness is your ability to accurately perceive your emotions in the moment – as they are happening – and to understand your tendencies to react depending on how you feel. Easier said than done!

Self-Management is what we do with that information. I’ll be exploring that in the next article. For now, let’s stick with self-awareness. Ask yourself these questions:

What happens when

-         someone cuts me off in traffic? 

-         I’ve received bad news?

-         my sales calls aren’t going well?

-         someone criticizes me?

Do you quietly rage? Retreat? Lash out on Twitter? Argue and make someone else wrong? Hold onto resentment?

Self-awareness is our ability to, in a sense, helicopter above ourselves and simultaneously experience feelings and be mentally aware of the feelings and our tendency to react. 

This is challenging because of how we are biologically wired. Our brains are set up so that all outside stimuli hits our limbic system (feeling centre) first, and only then makes its way to our cerebral cortex (thinking centre). 

A thousand years ago, when our lives depended on running from a predator, this was a valuable evolutionary structure.  Today, it is a liability that holds us back. 

The more synaptic connections we can make between our feeling centre and thinking centre, the more we are in the driver’s seat of our actions. We can make positive and productive choices in any given situation.

Emotional Intelligence starts with self-awareness. Here are a few strategies you can use to get buff in this first step to strengthening your EI:

Catch yourself in the act of reacting. The second you notice your buttons have been pushed, you have created a connection between thinking and feeling. That alone will put the power of choice back in your hands. Work on catching yourself sooner.

Review your patterns. Who just annoys the crap out of you? Notice any hardened emotional responses here. These started as reactions and became patterns. When you become aware of the collected emotions you experience around this person and can identify them clearly, you are no longer in reaction to them. You gain awareness and autonomy.

Don’t judge your emotions. What is wrong with me? I can’t believe I reacted that way! Why does this get under my skin so much? Judging your emotions keeps you from really understanding what you’re feeling. Instead, practice sitting with and simply observing the feelings. (Yep, this is challenging.)   Can you name them?

Identify your emotions as they’re happening, without labeling them as good or bad. Observe and breathe through them. All emotions are transient. Practice observing their comings and goings.

Self-awareness is the foundation upon which the other three EI skills are built. Take some time to employ these strategies and you’ve already increased your Emotional Intelligence.

Did you enjoy this article? Kira writes weekly articles packed with actionable tips for sales professionals in the financial services industry. Sign up here to receive Kira’s article delivered straight to your inbox every Tuesday.

Kira Callahan is an expert sales conversation coach serving the financial industry. Her private clients typically experience 30% – 100% increase in appointments and business booked. Click here to find out more about Kira.

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