Coined nearly 30 years ago, emotional intelligence, or EQ, has become a hot topic in the workplace. But what does it mean to be emotionally intelligent, and how does it help you form stronger connections both in and outside of work?

Simply put, emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and regulate your own emotions, as well as recognize and respond to the emotions of others. Today, we’ll focus on ourselves—how we respond to and handle certain situations.

Learning to recognize your behaviors and respond accordingly not only helps you succeed in the workplace but also aids in developing an authentic personal connection. Let’s start with self-awareness.

Self-awareness

Self-awareness is what it sounds like: consciously acknowledging your moods and behaviors. It’s the first step in becoming a more emotionally intelligent individual and forming stronger connections with people.

Luckily, self-awareness is skill you can develop. It starts with being more observant and asking how and why you respond the way you do.

The how:

Step one is examining how you respond in a given situation. Here are some questions to get you thinking about your level of self-awareness:

  • Are you too competitive?
  • Are you too insensitive?
  • How do you feel when timelines change or delays occur?
  • How do you respond to critical feedback from a superior or client?
  • What are you like when giving feedback and how do others respond to it?
  • Do you share too many personal details?
  • When were you most frustrated at work and how did you respond?
  • What’s your initial reaction when you receive either bad or good news?

The why:

After you’ve asked yourself how you react, you’ll need to self-reflect further and ask why you react in such a way.

Every situation, person, and day is different. What else was going on in your life that day that possibly led to those feelings? How were you feeling physically at the time?

Self-awareness tactics:

You may not know the answers to these questions right away, and that’s okay. There are a few tactics you can use to gain better awareness. They include:

  • Keeping a log of interactions with others or certain situations. Answer what happened, how did you act, how did others act?
  • Ask your friends and family for insight. Sometimes it takes someone we trust to shed light on our behaviors.
  • Ask for formal feedback at work. How you behave in your personal life may be different from your work life. Getting feedback from peers and superiors can be helpful in understanding your behavior.

Developing better self-awareness can help you better manage stress, have clearer thinking when making decisions, and most importantly, build stronger, personal connections with others.

Self-regulation

Once you’ve recognized your behaviors and moods, what do you do with them? Emotions can be tricky in the workplace but are essential when it comes to personal connection. There are healthy ways to express emotion and not-so-healthy ways.

Consider the following scenario:

A client comes to you a week before a project is due, asking for half a dozen things outside of the scope of work. How do you respond?

You could send an emotionally-charged note back that could potentially damage your relationship with them and jeopardize your current project. Or, you could step away from a while and come back to the situation with a clear head.

This is why self-awareness is so important. It impacts all the relationships around you, and it can impact your bottom line.

Self-regulating tactics:

Try one of the following tactics when presented with a difficult situation:

  • Closing your computer after an upsetting email.
  • If in a meeting, calmly stating you’ll need to think about it and get back to them. (Give them a clear time as to when you’ll get back to them.)
  • Taking a brief walk.
  • Processing with another person.

Giving yourself mental and/or physical space allows you to process how you feel about the situation. It also helps you examine whether or not those feelings are warranted. Once you’ve taken some time, you can now respond respectfully, authentically, and strategically.

Using self-regulation for good:

On responding strategically, there’s a fine line between it and manipulation. Emotions influence intent. If you’re coming from a place of anger, you may (knowingly or unknowingly) lash out at your client, employee, friend, which can damage your relationship.

Self-regulation and awareness should be used for your own personal growth and to form more trusting, authentic, personal connections. These skills shouldn’t be used to serve a hidden agenda.

While you can take time away to gather yourself and think through a response, it’s still important to articulate and express those feelings. It should not be used as an opportunity to disguise your feelings altogether. The key is finding healthy ways to respond and express your emotions to improve and deepen personal connections with others.

Cultivating your self-awareness and regulation skills takes time and should come from a place of good-intent. But as your EQ improves, so will your relationship with others.

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