emotional intelligence

3 ways to improve your emotional intelligence

Emotional Intelligence has a well-established seat at the development table these days, being widely accepted as one of the key differentiators and the foundation of building leadership capacity.

Unsurprisingly, then, there’s a whole host of tried and tested Emotional Intelligence tools up for grabs.The MHS EQ-i and EQ360, the Hay Group ESCI, as well as endless customized internal 360º surveys that highlight or draw out EI competencies.

In my work for Impact I find myself engaging with all these diverse approaches. To ensure consistency amidst this variety I like to work upon a solid foundation of advice and coaching. I explore the same three areas – Reflections, Allies and Habits - with all those I work with in this area. This foundation works to build a heightened awareness of self and others, allowing us to manage ourselves - and our relationships - more effectively.

Reflections

Reflections represent our intentional choice to review and understand what we do, what we say, and how we interact with those around us. Ultimately, this is about increasing our awareness. It is a conscious choice we make to think about the impact we have on others and ourselves - and it’s taking time at the end of the day or week to capture these thoughts. 

We can capture reflections in different ways - by journaling – on paper or in one of the many apps available today, through meditation, or during active solo time – by going on a walk or a run. Find a method that works for you – one that makes it easy for you to fully replay the day or week and examine your interactions with yourself, your peers, friends, strangers and others. 

While reflecting ask yourself questions:

  • What did you like about those interactions?
  • What would you have done differently?
  • Have you enhanced relationships?
  • Is there any relationship mending needed?
  • Can you identify moments when you were triggered emotionally and how might you manage those triggers in different ways?

Allies

Allies are those around you willing to actively support your development – a social support network. Allies help us test our reflections. They help us build awareness of blind spots and provide information for new reflections. Involving others, professionally and personally, to provide insight, feedback and perceptions allows you to understand your impact on others.  Allies help us create the critical feedback loop necessary to build our emotional intelligence. 

If you are working to develop increased self-awareness you may ask a colleague to challenge and support your self-perceptions and reflections relating to your personal interactions with others. 

Working on developing empathy? Ask a friend or partner to be an ‘empathy hub’ - someone you regularly engage with in order to express your understanding of their feelings and their frame of reference. I ask my ‘empathy hub’ to be proactive with me and try and catch me out – if I am being particularly unempathetic they may prompt me to reframe the situation or explore the other person’s reality so I understand what that person may be experiencing.

If you are working on stress or conflict tolerance ask a peer to monitor your interactions in a meeting or situation you know will trigger you. Have the peer identify the moments, behaviors and language that affect you and talk this through after.

Habits

“We are what we repeatedly do” Aristotle

Our reflections and ally engagements will ultimately result in actions taken on behalf of the insights produced. Action is a crucial component of Emotional Intelligence and our behaviours are the currency of this action.

Cultivating our awareness and action into habits optimises our behaviors and decreases the cognitive load required to manage ourselves and our relationships. This is where we begin to fully develop and leverage our emotional intelligence – by consciously, intentionally and repeatedly doing. This results in building the habit of emotional and social awareness and the habit of acting in good faith on behalf of that awareness.

So, build a habit of your reflections. Keep a reminder in your calendar, an alarm on your phone, or a Post-it note on your desk.  Find the mechanism that works best for you to keep reflecting. Ask your allies to keep you honest and prompt you to take actions you’ve committed to. Create a simple habit chart to track important actions. Building self-expression? Task yourself with verbalising your feelings in a conversation once every day. Track this for a month. Stay motivated while building habits by tracking and reflecting on results and maintaining a feedback loop with your allies.

With this foundation of reflections, allies, and habits in play you’ll be in a better position to increase your emotional intelligence whilst preparing yourself to quickly address and develop more specific EI competencies.