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Leading with Emotional Intelligence

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Have you ever been in a meeting where you are discussing a certain problem or topic and two people have different perspectives on what the issue is? At first things are being discussed in a respectful way and then somewhere along the way the tone, volume and discussion shifts radically.  Egos are ignited, block walls are built to defend home territory, and the interaction turns into a blame game where accusations are hurled across the room like bullets. Sound familiar?

Often times as we go about our work we get so involved and invested in what we are doing that when someone purports a different perspective than ours we get angry and defensive. We dig in our heels and close down to other ways of being and seeing. Our emotions rise within us and carry us off like a rushing river downstream, and in a blink of an eye we are saying things and acting in ways that we wish we hadn’t.

According to Bradberry and Greaves, authors of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, “Emotional intelligence (EI) is your ability to recognize and understand your emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships”. This sounds so easy on paper but when it comes to communicating with others, often it is more difficult than it looks.

  • Have you ever stopped to think about how others influence your emotions?
  • How easy is it for someone to push your buttons?

 The funny thing about it is that our buttons can shift depending on our mood or attitude. Some days nothing can bother us and other days we combust upon contact! The first step to grasping EI is to start noticing our own emotions and interactions. Start paying attention to how we perceive a situation as emotions are born out of our thoughts. How we are thinking about a person, place or event triggers our emotions about it. Then our bodies follow suite with responses for the thoughts and emotions.

 Self-awareness is key to managing our responses to situations, people and events. The more we can become conscious of what we are thinking before we speak and act, the more we can choose our response and not react. For me responding indicates something that is done deliberately and as a choice, where reacting is unconscious and allows emotions to run the show. I know from experience that if I let emotions take the upper hand usually chaos ensues, relationships are damaged, and nothing gets accomplished except hurt feelings.

 Practicing emotional intelligence takes work but the benefits and pay offs are huge. Careers can flourish or derail by this one key factor. Relationships can transform, trust can be built, issues can be explored, problems solved and decisions made that have been looked at from multiple perspectives. How we show up in our relationships as well as the words we speak can transform when we practice emotional intelligence. Hopefully our calm demeanor will infiltrate others behaviors as well so when we get into a situation at work like those heated meetings, the issues can be explored instead of the escalation of conflict.

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Photo courtesy Jimmy Jack Kane

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