Our emotions provide us with valuable information about ourselves, others, and situations. From frustration to contentment, from anger to elation, we confront these varying emotions daily in the workplace. The key is to use our emotions intelligently – by being aware of their presence and intentionally using them to guide our behaviour to enhance our situation. This process comprises two elements, says Hendrie Weisinger in ‘Emotional Intelligence at Work’ – first (considered here), we need to understand our emotions and develop self-awareness and, second, we must know how to manage those emotions to best advantage in the workplace.
1. Understand the meaning of emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is ‘the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action’. For example, if a client drives you crazy to the point of anger, do you shout at him? Or, knowing that you can derail your relationship with the client if you don’t keep your emotions in check, do you put a lid on your anger, and use your emotions more appropriately? How you manage this situation is a measure of your emotional intelligence.
2. Understand self-awareness.
Because you are at the centre of your universe, you must understand what it is that makes you do what you do before you can begin to alter your behaviour for better results. You must understand what is important to you, how you experience things, what you want, how you feel, and how you come across to others. Without self-awareness, your effectiveness in the workplace will be stunted. According to US psychologist Hendrie Weisinger, to increase your self-awareness, you need ‘some serious thoughtfulness and the courage to explore how to react to the people and events in your worklife’. To sharpen your self-awareness system, he says you must focus on five areas…
3. Work towards increasing your self-awareness.
In all situations, try to meet the following five demands, detailed in Hendrie Wreisinger’s ‘Emotional Intelligence at Work’:
a) Engage in positive inner dialogue and appraisal.
Hundreds of times each day, we talk to ourselves in the form of an inner dialogue comprising judgemental thoughts. These ‘silent appraisals’ are the impressions, interpretations, evaluations, and expectations we have about ourselves, other people, and situations. Once we become aware that these thoughts can influence our feelings, we can alter them to handle our situation and relationships better.
Look for patterns in your inner dialogue. Perhaps it always reflects insecurity, raises doubts, or suggests uncertainty. Perhaps your thoughts are invariably optimistic or critical of others and yourself. By seeing patterns, you can find out whether your inner dialogue works for or against you in the workplace
b) Tune in to your senses.
Our senses – seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching – provide us with data about the world, ourselves, other people, and situations. Frequently this data is filtered and transformed by our inner dialogue or silent appraisals.
But it’s easy to misinterpret sensory data – a frown does not always indicate anger, nor a tapping foot impatience – but, with a high degree of self-awareness, by consciously tuning into our senses, we can double-check, clarify, and amend our thinking to provide more accurate appraisals
c) Get in touch with your feelings.
Our feelings are our spontaneous emotional responses to the interpretat-ions we make and the expectations we have. Like sensory data, they provide important information that helps us understand why we do what we do.
Tuning into feelings does not come easily for most of us – although physical and behavioural evidence will often help. For example, a warm flush in your face can signal embarrassment, a stirring stomach can indicate nervousness, clenching the arm of the the chair can mean anger, or tapping your pencil anxiety or impatience.
By ignoring or denying our emotions, we deny ourselves the ability to work through them. Negative feelings can often fester – which is why high self-awareness will enable us to acknowledge their presence, manage them, and move on
d) Know what your intentions are.
Intentions refer primarily to our immediate desires – what we would like to accomplish in a specific situation. It’s important to be fully aware of our intentions: we can use that information to adopt better strategies. Weisinger provides an example:
“Your intention may appear to be that you want to get promoted to a vice presidency. But your hidden agenda might be that you want your parents, who always thought you wouldn’t amount to anything, to be impressed with your success.”*
High self-awareness means that you recognise the true intention of your actions
e) Pay attention to your actions.
Our actions are physical, so other people observe them. If we want our actions to work better for us, we should be aware of the signals they give out. For example, you sit slumped in your chair at a meeting because your back hurts (but others think you’re uninterested in the discussion); or you keep interrupting because you have lots of ideas and are eager to have your comments heard (others think you’re simply rude and don’t care what other people say). Monitor such actions – speech patterns, body language, nonverbal behaviour. They can have others judging you inaccurately.
4. Put it all together.
Self-awareness means becoming fully aware of the wealth of information you have about who you are. By tuning in to all five components, you can step back and observe yourself in a particular situation and be better able to choose the most effective course of action.