Emotional intelligence (EI) is all about self-evaluation. At its core, it’s a skill to help you better understand yourself and the way you interact with the world. This can help you in the workplace, with your partner, within your social network and really within all aspects of your life.
Having a deep understanding of yourself and your emotions can allow you to internalize your personal traits in a way that will work to improve the way you interact with others and the way you go about your everyday tasks. Below are three ways you can use EI as a tool to be a better business leader:
1. Show empathy.
As pointed out in this article, Serena Williams at last year’s U.S. Open showed a perfect example of empathy. While experiencing what she perceived as unfair treatment from the umpire, Serena was flooded with emotions. However, during the medal ceremony, she decided to switch off her own anger to celebrate Naomi Osaka’s win. This only could have happened through a moment of self-evaluation where Serena made the decision to either consume herself with her own sentiments or take an empathetic turn to support Osaka. This shift amped up her fans, causing them to switch from booing at injustices faced by Serena to cheering for Osaka.
Instances of perspective, control, self-evaluation and empathy can be challenging but are well worth it in how you connect to and are perceived by others. In business, empathy can allow you to figure out what your partners, employees and clients are actually trying to accomplish. The ability to understand them, and the ability to use that knowledge effectively, can provide you with the utmost value possible. To be a great leader, you have to be a great listener.
In my case, I always think about somebody I’ve always aspired to be or to be like. Having a mentor is wonderful, and to be the most empathetic leader, I try to be a mentor for my employees and my team — in making sure they grow not only professionally within our company, but also personally. I try to give people more than just a job.
2. Seek out feedback.
In my opinion, self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management make up the difference between how you see yourself and how others see you. Your assumptions and personal narratives can sometimes work against you in understanding how others perceive your actions.
Since each person has their own set of histories and experiences, each person perceives others in their own wholly unique way. Ask for feedback from your colleagues, friends, families or a counselor to get a better understanding of how you are perceived.
For example, it’s very likely that many people claim to be good listeners, but are they actually? Getting external feedback brings to light areas for improvement that you otherwise would have missed.
Improving these skills and gaining a better understanding of your own self-perception can help the way you form relationships with others in all aspects of your life and career.
Asking for feedback has allowed me to pinpoint areas where I need work, which I would have otherwise been oblivious to. By constantly getting feedback and comments from our project managers, team leaders and chief of staff, I gather a lot of qualitative feedback. It allows me to optimize so many hours of work, focus and dedication to that feedback and allows me to take a step back and analyze the overall picture. I engage personally with everyone’s feedback, and it has been a way to optimize our company growth.
3. Keep yourself in the driver’s seat of your emotions.
As author Justin Bariso writes in this article, an emotional hijack is “a situation in which emotions overrule our typical thinking processes.” In cases such as these, we are often forced to choose between a “fight, flight or freeze response.” To avoid having reactions you might regret, Bariso recommends reflecting by asking yourself questions about the event. For example, if a driver cuts you off, a common immediate response would be fury toward the driver and viewing it as a full-fledged personal attack. By taking a step back to assess the situation, you will come to find other scenarios that actually make more sense than the personal attack narrative your brain jumped to.
To keep my own emotions in check, I’ve always believed in positive thinking and aspiring to protect the downside of a situation. At the same time, you don’t want to mislead anyone. You can be a wonderful entrepreneur with a positive outlook on everything, but you have to think about the challenges so when they come along, you’re ready. Running a service-based agency, my responsibility is to grow my clients’ businesses, so I’ve practiced understanding my clients, feeling for them and having empathy. With experience, I have learned to handle this pressure. People who can handle pressure can be entrepreneurs and be successful, and you’ll eventually learn when to go into something and when to get out of something.
These are a few of the many ways to keep yourself in control of your emotions while allowing for a deeper understanding of yourself. By practicing empathy, getting external feedback and thinking through your reactions, you’ll be able to restructure the way you interact with colleagues in the workplace and improve on your reaction and problem-solving abilities when faced with conflict. Starting your own journey of self-discovery and evaluation will be your first step toward self-improvement that will surely be felt in the workplace and beyond.