“In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels.” ~ Daniel Goleman
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand emotions, particularly one’s own emotions. Traditional IQ tests measure a person’s raw intelligence – skills such as reasoning, language, and mathematics. If IQ is the measure of how smart you are, then EI determines how you actually use and apply these intellectual gifts when interacting with others. Empathy is a powerful component of overall emotional intelligence.
In order to contribute to a respectful work environment, we need to tap into a high level of Emotional Intelligence. Low EI behaviors from co-workers and managers – things such as angry outbursts, rude comments, incivility, and, of course, harassment – lead to stress and burnout as well as anxious work environments. A study by Pearson and Porath of thousands of managers and employees concluded the following occurred after dealing with a low EI manager or co-worker:
- 2/3’s of employees said their performance declined
- 4 out of 5 employees lost work time worrying about the unpleasant incident
- 63% wasted time avoiding the low EI offender
- More than 75% of respondents said that their commitment to their employer had waned
- 12% resigned due to the low EI behavior
Most people have average levels of EI – enough to enable them to successfully navigate everyday interactions with others in the workplace. Unlike IQ, which does not change significantly over a lifetime, our EI can evolve and increase if we make a conscious decision to learn and grow. Here are two practical, easy tips that you can put in place in your everyday interactions to get you started on enhancing your EI:
- We’ve all heard this before, but it truly works – when dealing with someone who is being difficult, before you say something reactionary that you might later regret, take a deep breath and slowly count to ten. In most circumstances, by the time you reach ten, you would have figured out a better way of communicating with that individual, so that you can reduce, instead of complicate the problem. If you’re still upset after counting to ten, take a time-out if possible, and revisit the issue after you calm down.
- Another simple way to reduce reactivity and increase empathy is to try to put yourself in the difficult individual’s shoes, even for just a moment. A “quick-trick” to accomplish this is to consider the person you’re dealing with, and complete the sentence: “It must not be easy….”
- “My co-worker is being so resistant. It must not be easy trying to juggle everything he has on his plate…”
- “My boss is really demanding. It must not be easy to have such high expectations placed on her performance by management….”
To be sure, practicing empathy does not justify or excuse unacceptable behavior. The point is to remind yourself that people do what they do because of their own issues. By staying reasonable and considerate, we can often defuse rather than escalate a difficult situation and come up with better ways of interacting.
To learn more about emotional intelligence and its impact on considerate conduct in the workplace, contact The Roundtable Group through our website, www.roundtablegroup4.com