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Getting practical with Emotional Intelligence

“I want to separate my emotions from what I need to do” said a young client to me last week. “I need to stop feeling so emotional about it all” she retorted. And in a tough corporate workplace there isn’t too much room for tears and ‘emotion’.

In stark contrast, another of my clients has recently embarked on an Emotional and Social Intelligence gathering exercise. They want to discover how to build this thing called ‘emotional intelligence’ and how to challenge their leaders to be more socially intelligent.

It’s a conversation that is challenging me, as the research points repeatedly to this being the rub of exceptional leadership. And it spills over into all facets of our lives, not simply being a switch we can flick when we enter the workplace.

Goleman, the father of emotional intelligence, points to four clusters and 12 competencies, to build an artillery of emotional and social intelligence. And so I’m going to embark upon a series of the clusters in an attempt to better understand them and build competence for my clients, since yes, with what we are increasingly learning about our brains, these things are supposed to be able to be taught.

Enter Emotional Self Awareness, the first cluster reserved all for itself and at the heart of Goleman’s model.“It describes the ability to understand our emotions, our drives, our strengths and our weaknesses. It enables us to sustain our emotionally and socially intelligent behaviour over time, despite setbacks.”

Let’s return to my somewhat distressed client and her wish to dismiss her emotions. As much as I didn’t wish to perpetuate her upset, we needed to identify just exactly what she was feeling. And then to spend time digging beneath the surface to identify what values and motivations were driving that response.

This is the work of the coach, who needs to help the client gain a handle on what really is happening currently, in order to move forward to what she would desire instead.

Only in giving the emotion a name – or several in this case – can we begin to recognise how feelings affect you and your performance. “It is an important skill for leadership at any level, as well as many aspects of life.”

As the mother of a tween and teen son, I have made it my business to encourage an emotional vocabulary from a young age, for this very reason, particularly in countering some of the stereo types that face men. For I meet many a senior male leader, who would simply be so much more effective if he was more aware of the connection between what is happening and his own feelings.

I think there still exists the perception that delving into the emotional realm is ‘soft’, ‘weak’, ‘fuzzy’ and frankly a waste of time, impeding getting on with the ‘doing’. And I know that for my ‘thinking’ clients, those who show up more strongly in the analytical and action quadrants of psychometrics, they can find this a particularly hard reach.

But pausing to reflect – even if for a moment;

  • What am I feeling?
  • Where do I feel it?
  • What could the underlying value be?
  • And what assumptions am I making?

Could in itself lead to a far better course of action than one which is still tied up in the suppressed emotion.

This leads us into self management and the next blog topic in this series.




One response to “Getting practical with Emotional Intelligence”

  1. […] emotional awareness, the predecessor of emotional self control, we need to get in touch with just exactly what is at […]

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