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4 Ways to Amp Up Your Emotional Intelligence (EI)

Howard Gardner (Harvard researcher and psychologist) defined EI as the level of your ability to understand others, what inspires them, and how to create a collaborative working relationship with them. Psychology Today™ described EI as the ability to identify and manage your own feelings while being sensitive to the emotions of others.

There are four key components to EI: Self-Awareness, Self- Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management. Each of those four components contains specific competencies (12 in total). Improvement in any of those areas can lead to greater success for you (inside and outside of the workplace). Here are some ways you can Amp Up your EI:

Become More Self-Aware: Take a breath! Recognize and acknowledge your emotions without labeling them as good or bad. Don’t pretend your feelings do not exist and take a moment to figure out what they are trying to tell you. Suppressing feelings can lead to stress, anxiety or even depression. Try to identify what triggered those feelings and identify any patterns that may exist (i.e. whenever I ______, I feel_____). It’s hard to fix things that you don’t acknowledge.

Practice Self-Management:  Tell your inner critic to pipe down! Sometimes we say things to ourselves that we would never say to other people (at least not out loud). When things go awry (which can happen to the best of us), change the dialogue. Instead of saying, “things never work out for me!” or “I’m so dumb, crazy, lazy, stupid, etc.” consider saying, “That didn’t work out the way I expected – I wonder what I can do to create a different outcome.” Shifting your inner dialogue can change your perspective, which can change everything.  It may be hard to change habits that have been in place for years, but that’s okay – baby steps are still steps.

Additionally, practice restraint more often. You don’t always have control over the things happening around you, but you do have control over your response to those things. When you have a disagreement with a colleague, do you think about your response before you say it out loud or do you “shoot from the hip”? Are your comments constructive or just mean? How often do you examine your role in miscommunications? Can you admit it when you’re at fault? Does your behavior match what you say you value? Make sure your words and actions line up!

Be More Socially Aware: Practice empathy more often. The issue on the table may not be important to you, but that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant to the individual, the team or the organization. Try to see things from another’s perspective. You don’t have to co-sign, but you can listen. By the way, did you know that listen and silent have the same letters? Food for thought!

Actively Engage in Relationship Management: Don’t hoard your brilliance! Consider helping someone else discover their brilliance too, by mentoring or coaching them. Consider how you can strategically reduce or resolve conflicts that bubble up rather than adding fuel to the fire or pretending they don’t exist. Practice being approachable, coachable and teachable, and if you have influence on the team, be sure you are using those powers for good!

Here’s the bottom line – you are so much more than your credentials and your resume! The ability to show empathy, find possibilities in challenges, positively influence others, mitigate conflicts, contribute to team efforts and inspire others to be their best are powerful tools for anyone with a desire to lead. Soft skills are really leadership skills in disguise and they can be learned. Missteps in those areas can make us appear rude, insensitive or less than civil to the people around us.

In the federal sector, OPM issues annual surveys to measure job satisfaction, but there have been few studies which specifically explore how incivility impacts staff. If you’d like to share your experience with incivility in the federal workplace, please click on the link below. The survey will take approximately 20 minutes to complete (but most participants complete it in less than 10), and it is completely anonymous (i.e. no need to provide your name, geographic location or the name of your agency). Participation is voluntary and you can discontinue at any time. Here is the survey link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/IncivilityStudy

Wanda Pemberton is a coach, author and doctoral candidate at Walden University. This incivility study is being conducted solely for academic purposes. Views expressed in the article do not represent her Agency.

Wanda Pemberton is also part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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