PART 2: EQ
Back in days when I started my career, the rule about emotions at work was very clear – you leave them outside. There was no place for them and we all needed to be “professional” meaning calm and emotionless. Even joy of achievement had to be extremely moderate. Even worse for women – one of the biases that females have to deal with is that “women are too emotional”. Therefore, many of us put a lot of effort to suppress our emotions and hold a poker face. Nowadays the situation is changing. EQ is a must! Now we have to master empathy and recognize our own emotions as well as the ones of others in order to advance in our career and be successful.
Researches show that distant, cold emotionally suppressed leaders who tend to clamp down on their emotions tend to be less trusted and liked by people they are leading. Whereas people who are able to accept and express their emotions seem to be more human and therefore tend to be more trusted and accepted.
I’m not gonna go into a deep dive of the peculiarities of EQ. Instead, I’d like to focus on a few aspects which are could be good to remember when interacting with other people in order to make every cooperation and project a success.
Emotions are everywhere
The truth is that emotions are with us all the time and everywhere – at home, at work, when we are alone and when we interact with others. Human being is designed to be emotional. It is a part of our nature and it is one of our biggest qualities. It’s impossible to escape them. Embrace this fact and instead of denying or suppressing emotions putt effort to get into a partnership with them.
People and events trigger our various reactions and affect our emotional state at work and outside of it. It is neither bad nor good – it’s the reality. The sooner we stop judging people for being real, alive and expressive the more positive and cooperative environment we will create around us. We should not expect ourselves and our colleagues or employees to be tin soldiers. On the contrary, we should encourage them (and ourselves) to become more empathic and more capable of accepting the presence of emotions.
Why is it important to recognize emotions?
Regardless we like it or not our emotional state impacts every aspect of our lives: our behavior, decision making, motivation, etc. Denying this fact is not the smartest thing anymore. The truth is that we choose only between two options: (1) either we control our emotions, or (2) our emotions control us. It’s that simple. While option 1 requires (a lot of) our effort option 2 doesn’t at all and therefore many people believe that we are hostages of our emotional state and there’s not much we can do. It’s not the case. However, recognition and naming of our emotions are prerequisites for the ability to control them.
If we are not conscious of how we express our emotions, we are like an open book to others. Our facial expressions, gestures, posture, tone of voice give away a lot of information on how we feel at a particular moment – confident, fearful, annoyed, calm, etc. The same goes for other people – reading other people’s emotions gives us opportunity to evaluate their state and to find the best way of interaction with them in any situation.
Our emotions draw us towards certain actions, behaviors and decisions. If we are angry with our colleague how productively and efficiently can we cooperate while being still high on anger? If we are annoyed with someone how can we provide a constructive feedback to that person? Awareness of our emotional state allows us to take full responsibility of our further actions and decisions.
Regardless we take it or not liability for our actions is always with us. We cannot reduce our responsibility by putting the blame on emotions. Being angry, stressed, disappointed is not an excuse anymore. We are able to control our emotions, if we choose not to do that, well… we have to deal with consequences.
How to identify emotional state?
Our body is the best indicator of our emotions. There are external (facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures, etc.) and internal, more subtle (heartbeat, breathing, pace of blood circulation, etc.) signs. Our body constantly gives us signals it’s just that we need to take time to pay attention to them. Quite simple but also challenging in our fast-paced and busy environment. In order to notice how we feel we need to pause for a moment. I’m not talking about long meditation hours. I’m referring to small moments during which we allow ourselves to notice our body, breath and other body actions (e.g. clenching teeth, raising eyebrow, pressed lips, you name it).
Our face alone is a perfect medium of emotional communication. There are over 40 different muscle groups that are doing different movements and this way signaling emotions. We can differentiate awe, embarrassment, shame, anxiety and many other emotions by simply looking at someone’s face.
Another important element is our voice. As discussed previously the tonality of voice is 38% of communication. People get more information from how we talk instead of what we say. Remember, information without emotions is worthless.
How to benefit from EQ?
According to Aristotle we need all emotions, but to moderate degrees. Every single emotion helps us in its own way. Frustration at work can alert us to potential injustices. Feeling fear alerts us about potential risks and so on. Being aware and naming our emotions is a pathway to productive and collaborative relationships. It is essential tool in negotiation, people management and any other interaction with people. More importantly, it is essential in building a trust.
In order to gain all these benefits, we must master our awareness. We must take time to be perceptive and observant. To follow signs of our own body and the ones of the others. Our awareness gives an opportunity to read our audience, to notice the effect we are making on others. We can detect if people feel bored or intimidated, agitated or nervous and then adjust our expressions to the situation.
In my opinion our EQ helps us to build strong bridges with other people. It allows us to connect with others on a human level and that (for me) is the biggest benefit of all. Nowadays, when surrounded by various social and physical distancing, people miss being connected and understood. Having such connections at works is a treasure. It helps to build strong teams and strong partnerships. It grows co-workers into peers and it differentiates leaders from managers. After all, in many instances IQ gives priority to EQ.
I believe that by mastering communication and EQ one can master any project regardless its size or complexity. Building strong connection with people builds the strongest and invincible alliances makes everyone feel the essential part of the team. It unites and inspires in such a way that no salary or benefits could ever do. It’s not a rocket science, anyone can achieve it with a bit of effort, care and willingness to pay attention to oneself and others.