Do you ever struggle with communication? Do you ever feel that your emotions are impacting your decisions? Whether you are having conversations face-to-face, over the phone or via email, it is not just about what you say, but also how you say it. Emotional Intelligence is the learned ability to manage emotions effectively and interpret messages correctly.
Dr. Stevie Dawn Blakely, CEO of Orange Compass, led a workshop on improving emotional intelligence at the Fort Worth Chamber’s first virtual Women’s Insight Network Roundtable. Orange Compass is a corporate training company dedicated to providing staff and leadership training to organizations. Blakely shared six tips to help attendees improve their emotional intelligence.
1. Sharpen your listening skills
“Think about both sides [of a conversation]” says Blakely. “When we deliver a message, is it getting through, and is it also getting through when we’re listening?”
Blakely explained that everyone has filters they hear everything through. Filters can include past experiences, upbringing, and trust.
Emotions directly impact listening ability. “There are always times when our emotions stop our listening, like a brick wall, and when that happens, we’re no longer capable of everything that’s coming in.”
2. Take a Pulse Check
“As a leader, it is never your job to make somebody have a ‘10’ day.” Said Blakely, “All you can do is try to not make it worse.”
The easiest way to keep emotions in check is through what Blakely refers to as “pulse check,” which determines how you are feeling on a scale of one to ten. That number correlates to a person’s effort to listen to somebody. Blakely explains that if someone isn’t having a great day, their brain is trying to fix that, and by doing this, it ignores people attempting to converse.
No matter the number, Stevie challenges people to consider how they can still make the day good. “If we can control our thoughts, we can control our feelings, and then we can control our actions. It’s ok to have lower numbers during times of crisis.”
3. Use Emotional Intelligence in the workplace
According to Blakely, 60% of workplace drama is caused by personal emotions, and she acknowledges that while the workplace is different right now, drama still exists. People bring their personal emotions into the workplace, and the best way to protect themselves is to pull back and to take a pulse check. From there, Blakely says “Ask yourself ‘How can I let that not come out of my mouth in order to have a better day at work or to have a better conversation?’”
Blakely cites a research study, which states that in a standard 8 a.m to 5 p.m. workday, employees are only “at work” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. From 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., their brain is dealing with everything that happened before they got there, and at 2 p.m., they start thinking about what the evening entails. It’s during those times that people need to monitor their emotional intelligence, because that’s when the brain is prioritizing something else.
4. Stop collecting Emotional Stamps on others and yourself
Blakely says people collect ‘emotional stamps’ anytime someone doesn’t do what we expect them to do, and we build up these stamps until something causes us to go ‘postal’, thereby unloading all of these stamps.
“But if you’ve been giving assumptions and you haven’t been clear,” Blakely poses, “can the other party really know what you mean? We can only hold people accountable for things we explicitly asked them to do.”
She adds that right now, while at home, we are collecting more and more stamps and unloading them whether people deserve them or not, and while we collect stamps on everyone, including people at work, the number one person each person collects stamps for is themselves.
Blakely advises to take those stamps and let them go. In times of stress, a person’s emotional threshold, the amount they can be pushed by others, lowers, and people can get riled up more easily.
“It takes a lot less to get us upset, but is that anyone else’s fault? No, that’s just life. We need to strengthen our threshold and lighten ourselves by releasing these stamps.”
5. Understand and learn to adapt your Emotional Attachments
Everyone has emotional attachments to things: at work, this can include sitting in a certain chair at every meeting, taking a certain route to work, or parking in a certain spot. Nobody knows that they have an emotional attachment until someone goes against it, but when that happens Blakely suggests remembering that not everybody knows. When someone hits one of those attachments, we have to check ourselves before we react.
Blakely says that it’s important to figure out ways to either tell the other person or to let it go when these attachments or these triggers have been activated.
6. Learn to give grace
Blakely’s last tip is about giving grace to others when having difficult conversations.
“For every emotional minute, it takes an equal minute to recover and get back to our threshold.”
An hour-long emotional conversation does not disappear once the other person leaves the room. With these conversations, it’s about giving grace and understanding that people need that time to process, while understanding that you need that time as well.
To summarize emotional intelligence, Blakely says that “it allows us to take control of ourselves, our listening abilities, and our ability to communicate. If the other person doesn’t receive our message, it doesn’t matter what we said, because we didn’t accomplish our goal. Emotional intelligence is the ability to say, ‘I’m going to be sure that my emotions aren’t leading the conversation, but that my brain and my thought processes are.’”