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How to develop emotional intelligence and why it’s important

How to develop emotional intelligence and why it’s important

Emotional intelligence is a really important topic.  To cover this topic in full would take a long time so this post will go through the basics and give some tips to go away with and start developing emotional intelligence for yourself. Also, emotional intelligence is sometimes called EI for short so it will be referred to as that every now and again.

 

 

1. what is it?

A great definition of emotional intelligence is ‘being intelligent about emotions’. That pretty much captures it all, and it’s also quite a cheeky definition, but let’s break it down a bit and explore what that means. General intelligence, intellectual intelligence, IQ or however you want to describe it, is being able to problem solve, analyse stuff, work things out and quickly. The difference with emotional intelligence is that it relates to understanding feelings – both your own and other people’s – and using that knowledge to better manage your behaviour. Some people talk about EI being really deeply rooted in the attitudes we hold about ourselves and other people, they say it’s those attitudes that drive our emotions and feelings and those drive our behaviour. And there’s a good scientific case for that when we study the brain.

 

2. Why does it matter?

The theory goes, if you can understand your own emotional states, what drives them and the impact they have, you can train yourself to be more productive, more focused, to have better relationships with others and even be healthier and happier in your life because you’re not ignoring your emotions, or bottling them up, or letting them spiral out of control, because all of those things can lead to bad stuff happening health – and relationship – wise. Plus, figuring out what’s going on for you emotionally, can really help strengthen your relationships with others because you’re likely to be more understanding of what might be going on for them emotionally and you might even be able to give them a hand to get smarter about their emotions too.

 

3. A couple of tips

So, now we know what emotional intelligence is and why it matters, how can we develop it?

  • So, most important of all, get good at noticing what you’re feeling, when and why and then get good at being able to interpret those feelings, those emotions, accurately.
  • As an example, imagine you need to give a colleague some tough feedback on their behaviour, in the run-up to that meeting you might feel apprehensive or anxious about how the other person might react, or how you’re going to tell them. This could lead to a physical response – sweaty palms, increased heart rate, racing thoughts – and in turn might disrupt your conversation and the result you wanted.
  • So, using Ei in this situation, when you start to feel anxious you could use a ‘reframing strategy’. This involves interpreting the anxious feeling not as a fear of things going wrong, but instead as feelings of anticipation for a good outcome, as though you’re about to experience something positive and exciting. That would then lead to a calming of the anxiety and a better outcome in the meeting.
  • You might even want to reflect on why you’re sensing the emotion of anxiety at all – is it because this kind of meeting hasn’t gone well in the past for you or because you think that you’re not good at giving feedback?
    That might need some more intensive work to change underlying attitudes, perhaps by practising the thing you don’t feel good at or preparing really well for difficult conversations, so that over time your attitude shifts, helping you feel more confident about it.
  • This approach of noticing, stepping back and labelling, then interpreting emotions are the key to becoming more emotionally intelligent. But, remember to give yourself a break when trying this, don’t judge yourself too harshly if it’s tough initially.
  • Soon enough you’ll be building up an understanding of why you’re feeling as you are in certain situations and you can start using that information to build new behavioural approaches and new habits.

But, so far, we’ve focused on the internal side of emotional intelligence, so what about the other part of Ei – understanding other people’s emotions? In time, you can get good at working out your own emotional response to different situations and why that’s happening for you. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to automatically get better at working out what’s going on emotionally for other people. So, a top tip for understanding other people’s emotions is getting good at empathy.

 

4. Get good at being empathic

First things first, empathy isn’t sympathy. Sympathy is more about feeling for someone else’s situation, but it’s often your own attitudes that you’re bringing in to an interaction. Empathy is about putting yourself in the shoes of the other person and understanding their situation from their perspective. This is best done by asking open questions and actively listening to their responses. Then clarifying and continuing to try and understand what’s going on for them so that you can put yourself in the best position to respond appropriately. So, the top tip here is to practice empathy by getting good at asking open questions well, listening actively to what the person is telling you and not judging or jumping to conclusions. Stand in their shoes, not yours.

 

 

In summary, emotional intelligence is being aware of emotions, yours and other people’s. It’s important because it makes a positive difference to productivity, well being and relationships. You can develop it in many ways but two of the best ways are, first, labelling and interpreting your own emotions without judgement. And second, getting good at being empathic with other people – using open questions, active listening, no judgement, no assumptions. See the world with their eyes, stand in their shoes. And that way you will start to build your EI – your emotional intelligence.

 

Did you know this blog is also available as a podcast along with some other incredible content? Check it out on iTunes, Spotify, Acast.

 

How to be assertive

Being assertive is a topic that comes up a lot in the work the Strengthscope team do with people in the workplace who want to become better at standing their ground when faced with challenging people or situations which involve negotiation.  Assertiveness is not aggression but sits somewhere on a spectrum between being wholly passive (giving in to others’ requests) and being aggressive or overdominant in order to get your needs met. Assertiveness generally means confidently stating and standing up for your views while respecting the views of others, in order to reach a positive outcome in a discussion, debate or negotiation.

 

 

1. Prepare

For many people who aren’t naturally assertive, which is probably most people, it might worth spending a little bit of time to think through what you want to say, how you want to say it and how the other person or people may react, plus also how you might react in different scenarios – if there is disagreement or someone else is really persuasive or you find them hard to handle, how will you deal with it?

However, be careful of overthinking things or overpredicting what might happen – people and situations are unpredictable so you can’t know exactly what will happen once you’re in a situation…be prepared to be flexible but also to remain clear in stating and defending your views.

 

2. Be clear

Be clear on your views and on what you want – a lack of clarity seriously undermines attempts to be assertive; as does overtalking, overexplaining or overjustifying, which often happen when people try and be assertive but don’t do it with confidence or are too concerned about how the other party may react. Often, less is more when you need to be assertive.  Also, to be assertive, it’s really important to talk about you; your feelings, your views, what has happened for you and your response, rather than making assumptions about others, which may lead to them getting irritated because they feel patronised or misunderstood. Also, be clear on what goals you share and where views may differ – you may be able to collaborate to reach a mutually acceptable outcome, but you may not. And that’s ok.  If you have a different view, name it and explain it clearly and succinctly. But clarity is the key.

 

3. Be calm

Excessive emotion doesn’t have much of a part to play in being assertive, particularly not aggression. If you are feeling emotions, try and find a way to let them go before your interaction; if this isn’t possible and you feel your emotions are getting in the way, say so and come back to it when you’re feeling calmer. It can be very powerful when someone calmly explains how they’re feeling about a situation and the emotions they’re experiencing in the moment – this shows real confidence and self-awareness and can absolutely help a discussion or negotiation stay on track even if it’s starting to get a little heated.

 

 

4. Be respectful

You may have heard of Stephen Covey’s book 7 habits of highly effective people, there are some really great wisdom and advice in that book. Habit 5 of the 7 habits Covey outlines is ‘seek first to understand and then to be understood’. Which is a crucial element of being assertive – you will need to truly understand the views and needs of others before you can see where common ground exists and where it doesn’t. Just stating your own views clearly and repeating those without showing an appreciation of other people’s points of view is not the way to be assertive. Instead, be respectful of others’ views while staying clear on your own.

 

 

5. Stick with it

Once you’ve had your views heard and hopefully had your needs met, in part or in full, it’s tempting to think the job’s done. But that’s rarely the case, people may say one thing but then not keep their word, or they may go away and reflect on what you’ve discussed and then take a different view, or they may find that implementing what’s been agreed is harder than they thought, so they change their views. To make sure this doesn’t catch you out, it’s worth putting in check-in points to make sure that things are still working for both of you, staying clear on your views throughout.

 

So some quick tips on being assertive; prepare, be clear, be calm, be respectful and stick with it. Good luck!

Did you know this blog is also available as a podcast along with some other incredible content? Check it out on iTunes, Spotify, Acast.

Exercise: why, what, and how

Exercise. It’s kind of a big topic, so that’s why this post will focus on the impact it can have on work and well-being so let’s go into it.  Exercise why, what and, how.

 

Why

  • A sense of accomplishment, setting and meeting goals – for many people, this is a big benefit of exercise. Having a target to work towards, whether it’s running 1k, a parkrun 5k, cycling or swimming goals, being able to do a certain yoga move, this can provide a great incentive and focus for people to try and make your goals meaningful for YOU.

 

  • Health benefits – weight loss, you’re less likely to get ill, lower risk of heart disease, cancer… you might hear this all the time from everywhere but it doesn’t make it any less true; even small amounts of exercise make a difference. These could also factor into your goal-setting too, weight loss, reduction of blood pressure, cholesterol etc.

 

  • Psychological benefits – a lot of people talk about the benefits of exercise for de-stressing – getting distance with work or any sources of stress. Plus exercise stimulates endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, all of which play an important role in mood, lifting your mood and making you feel higher and more positive. Which is why people say they feel great after they’ve exercised. For most people, the psychological benefits include regulating and lifting your mood, acting as a powerful tool for improving your overall mental health and well-being. Exercising also helps you to have better quality sleep which is massively helpful in regulating mood and mental health.

 

What

  • Whatever you enjoy, whatever doesn’t feel like a have to but a want to. Tennis, walking, basketball, yoga, pilates, swimming, cycling, even gardening counts, particularly if it’s a bit extreme.
  • If you’re the kind of person who likes to try new stuff, there are ALWAYS classes and a billion YouTube videos on new exercise ideas. Indoors, outdoors, it doesn’t really matter, so long as it’s right for you.

  • 2.5 hours of exercise a week is what is currently recommended as a minimum. So work CAN definitely get in the way and become an excuse but why let it…lunchtime walks, mini-breaks that involve moving around, anything to get your blood pumping.

 

How

  • Gym or outdoors? The gym has great kit and can track your fitness and progress but there are additional benefits of getting outside with all the extra stimulation plus the extra Vitamin D production you get from sunlight, particularly important during the winter months

 

  • Will you use music or visuals – a lot of people love and need their music to motivate them during exercise, either as a distraction or as something to get them enthusiastic and pumped up. Spotify even has a run genre that picks music linked to the number of paces you take in a minute, so keeping you on the beat and to time.

 

  • With fitness tracking or without, you can do challenges with friends, but it might also help to get away from tracking apps and switching all the tech off, which can also be a great relief.

 

  • Starting out to advanced – are you a coach to 5k person? If so, there are LOADS of ideas on starting off on the internet; the NHS website even has a couch to 5k podcast series. If you’re more advanced, again the internet is full of resources.

  • On your own or with others – this is a big choice for many and most mix it up. Some people are really private about their exercise goals and use exercise as an opportunity for me-time; otherwise would prefer it to be social and to have buddies around to motivate, encourage and challenge them – and it’s easy to do either but know what works best for you.

 

  • You can make choices all the time – use an escalator but walk up to it, take the stairs, not the lift, walk a little faster on your way to work; get off at the stop just before your normal one; cycle, don’t drive everywhere if possible. Every choice adds up to that 150 minutes of exercise a week.

 

 

At the end of the day, make it YOURS! It can and should feel fun and motivating and a little challenging.  Bottom line, just do it, there are all sorts of reasons why you’ll feel better for it.  And your work will benefit too – you’ll be more alert, with a more positive mood, feel less stressed and be sleeping better. So go and convince your boss that everyone at work should be encouraged to exercise during work hours because it truly benefits everyone.

 

 

Did you know this blog is also available as a podcast along with some other incredible content? Check it out on iTunes, Spotify, Acast.

Dealing with change

Dealing with change

 

When it comes to change, big or small, in work or life, it’s important to remember to look after yourself and approach it with positivity.

 

 

Here are four tips on how to do just that…

 

 

1. Change is pain

The first thing to know is that change…ANY change…is registered in the same part of the brain that recognises and processes actual physical pain. When people tell you that they’re finding change difficult, hard, even painful, that may well be the reason. So when faced with change, we often find ourselves in a fight, flight or freeze situation, where our brains are telling us that the change is a threat that we need to fight (reject), run away from (avoid) or freeze in the face of (panic or deny). So if you recognise the brain’s typical response to change, it can start to help you make your way through a process of re-interpreting it in a more helpful way, perhaps as something which can have benefits, or which isn’t quite so threatening.

 

 

2. Navigating the change curve

People talk about ‘the grieving cycle’, sometimes the change curve, here we will use the D.R.E.C. curve, as this describes most people’s response to change well – the letters stand for Denial, Resistance, Exploration and commitment. The first two happen before you have accepted that a change is real and isn’t going away, the second two after you’ve accepted that the change is happening so you may as well start looking more closely at it.

In the early stages, people often avoid change, they keep looking back to how things were before and thinking that it will all get back to ‘normal’ soon. But as time goes on and this doesn’t happen, the next stage of response can be to become more anti and emotional. This is the Resistance stage. You don’t think this is how things should be, and you might feel upset, disappointed, or angry about it. But then the change doesn’t stop coming and you might start to feel pretty low, unheard, negative. But most of us don’t want to stay in that phase for long, so we start to move through the bottom of the change curve and explore what the new world might look like, what benefits might it bring, etc.

Quite often though, it is easy to slip back into negative emotions related to resistance. It’s important to realise that this model isn’t totally linear because neither are we. Once you’re spending more of your time exploring rather than resisting, you’re firmly in the third stage and you start to integrate the change into your life. When you start to commit to the change, you’ve reached the fourth stage. This is when the change is accepted as reality. This model is often useful in figuring out where you sit on the curve, on the curve and what stage might be coming next. Humans are messy and complicated so that’s not always the case, but generally, it helps to know that this is the process that most people will go through and we can provide appropriate support at each stage.

 

 

3. Change is pressure

Change adds to our mental load. This means that we have less capacity to think straight and come up with good quality thinking. The result of this is that the things we usually are good at, the positive qualities we are known for, are at risk of going into overdrive. For example, you might have a

Results Focused strength which, under normal circumstances, energises you and helps you get stuff done.  But under pressure from change, you can over-rely on that strength, becoming too focused on results and forgetting to include other people, getting irritable when others aren’t delivering their stuff on time. This can happen with ANY of our positive qualities when under pressure. So, it might help to dial up another strength that can balance the one that’s in overdrive. Using the example of too much Results focus, you might rely on your Empathy strength to remind you to consider others more, or a Collaboration strength, to help find out what matters to them and try and discover a way forward that works for both of you. So, when pressure causes your strengths to go into overdrive, remember to counter this with other strengths that will help bring balance to the situation.

 

 

4. Change is drain

If you like change or challenge or learning, it may be easier for you to deal positively with change but even people who are strong in these areas can find that change can drain them. The best approach is to recognise this and give yourself a break. Refresh, replenish, and restore yourself so that you don’t feel wiped out. In short practice some self-compassion. Most people aren’t naturally good at this, so it might mean taking time out of your day to go for a walk, or leaving work a little early some evenings so that you can do something for you. Make sure you’re eating and sleeping properly as these are often the first to go when people are facing change, and are one of the easiest ways to burn out quicker than usual. In essence, take the time to feel more positive again, and give yourself a boost.

 

Did you know this blog is also available as a podcast along with some other incredible content? Check it out on iTunes, Spotify, Acast.