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Developing Self Awareness to Build Emotional Intelligence

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Suppose you’re working with someone and have finally come to an agreement. But then an email arrives with yet another requirement. How would you react?

Thinking consciously about how we are likely to express ourselves is the hallmark of emotional intelligence. In this situation, would you be exasperated? Angry? Or thankful that they remembered one more crucial detail?

Here’s a handy definition for Emotional Intelligence: the ability to express the appropriate emotions at the appropriate time. If IQ is your intelligence quotient, your EQ is your emotional quotient. And EQ involves four underlying sets of skills. Two of these relate to your own emotions, and the other two having to do with the emotions of others.

Person Making Faces

© Flickr user kellywritershouse

Let’s focus today on that first skill that has to do with you and what you see in yourself: self-awareness. This s knowing what you’re feeling in the moment and what is important to you. Self-awareness helps you make sense of your emotions so you can formulate the appropriate response.

Let’s go back to that email. What will you do? Stew over the email? Send an explosive response? Quit the project?

People with a low EQ tend to do something immediately without thinking. People with high EQ slow down (are self-aware) before reacting.

Clearly it’s better to take a moment first. But how do you do it? Here are four strategies for improving self-awareness.

#1 Notice Your Feelings and Emotions

We all experience sensations. Usually they happen before we realize it and we are screaming, laughing, crying, or just enjoying life. But your conscious, rational brain also has the ability to observe your own feelings and emotions to better understand them.

First: remember that a feeling is a personal impression. It’s a sensation that happens in the mind in response to a stimulus. But an emotion is how your whole body reacts to a feeling.

If you touch a hot stove, that will feel painful. You might then experience the emotion of foolishness, or anger at someone else for leaving the oven turned on.

There are five core emotions: Happiness, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Shame. Think about which feelings trigger each emotion. Contemplate what has happened to you and why you’ve felt that way in the past.

#2 Accept Your Feelings

Feelings are perfectly natural, but many people judge their feelings as good or bad. People with high EQ should examine their emotions because they give important clues as to what is going on as far as your feelings. If you’re angry, what feeling triggered this? Likewise if you’re sad or happy, pay attention to what feelings triggered these emotions.

#3 Be Aware of the Impact of Your Emotions on Others

What do you feel like doing when you receive an email that might cause you to lose it? If you blow up at your co-worker, this will have an effect on that person as well as everyone else who is present. If you go to your office and stew, you might bring the anger home and take it out on your family. Spend some time reflecting on how your behavior affects others.

#4 Check in with a Trusted Mentor or Friend

Because you may have a difficult time assessing the impact of your own behavior on others, solicit feedback from others about this. Ask for specific examples and situations and be sure to look for patterns. Yes, this takes courage, but this is how you grow.

Bathroom Scale

© Flickr user Magnus D

Having high EQ is the way to get buy-in from the people with whom you’re dealing and inspire them to follow your lead. But first, you have to be aware of and make sense of your emotions.

It’s not easy. But it is worth it.

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Cindy Allen-Stuckey

Cindy Allen-Stuckey

Cindy Allen-Stuckey, CEO and founder of Making Performance Matter, collaborates with organizations to convert their strategy into action. She takes global organizations to the next level by developing customized "people strategies" that bring their business strategy to life and enabling them to optimally execute it.