Have you ever wondered why some individuals always seem to keep their cool in the midst of a heated meeting? Why can Manager A deliver critical feedback with kindness and calmness and Manager B fumble through a similar conversation? The answer is emotional intelligence (EI), a skill associated with competent leadership and excellent communication.
Fundamentally, EI is a personal resource that is put into action in daily workplace encounters by all of us. Daniel Goleman discusses the domains of personal and social competence for self-management and relationship management. Frankly, without well-developed EI, one is likely to have many frustrations.
Because the workplace involves varying interpersonal activity, we may find ourselves consciously assessing how to respond in a given situation. Do I listen to someone drone on about why they cannot complete an assignment or do I interrupt with “care” and redirect the conversation toward a solution?
On a daily basis I have my “buttons pushed,” but I learned a long time ago that responding versus reacting is the course to follow. This is an example of self-awareness and self-management, two of Goleman’s EI competencies. In other words, I have to recognize why my emotions are rising. What did someone say or do that hit a chord? Second, in these circumstances, my awareness allows me to remain calm, pause, ask for clarification, walk away and so forth.
As a psychologist, I learned to be a good listener. In therapy, good listening is essential but in many other work situations simply listening is insufficient. As a dean, I have to give constructive feedback, ask for information and make recommendations in a clear and succinct manner. Even though I believe I am communicating with clarity, I also have to remember about the power differential with others. This means, I must be aware of how others project on to me attributes of dominance and control just because of my role. With EI, we engage in role-taking strategies so that we can see more than our singular perspective — “communication is not what you say but what others understand.”
How well is your EI working? Share an example of when your EI was a resource at work.