The people who need to improve their emotional intelligence are the ones who least realize it.
The research is very clear. Several studies including the Center for Creative Leadership found the primary causes of derailment in executives involves deficits in emotional competence. They lack the ability to effectively deal with change, are poor at working well in a team, and demonstrate weak interpersonal skills.
In her Harvard Business Review article Signs That You Lack Emotional Intelligence, author Muriel Maignan Wilkins identifies 7 telltale signs of a low emotional intelligence (EQ) individual.
The low EQ individual…
- Often feels like others don’t get the point and it makes them impatient and frustrated.
- Is surprised when others are sensitive to their comments or jokes and think their listeners are overreacting.
- Thinks being liked at work is overrated.
- Shares his/her opinion very early on in discussions and defends them with vigor.
- Holds others to the same high expectations they hold for themselves.
- Blames others for most of the issues on their team.
- Finds it annoying when they are expected to know how others feel.
The author offers four strategies for helping a low EQ individual get better.
1. Get Feedback
People cannot work on a problem they don’t understand or realize exists. One of the critical components of EQ is self-awareness (the ability to recognize and stay aware of behaviors in the moment). Low EQ people naturally become very defensive and make excuses (or as I like to say rationa”lies” their bad behavior).
They have to be willing to receive and accept feedback.
2. Close the Gap Between Intent and Impact
Those with very low emotional intelligence severely underestimate the negative impact their words and actions have on people. Fact is, they don’t understand the gap between what they meant to say and what others perceived they said.
To close this emotionally draining gap, the low EQ person must learn to think before talking. By proactively screening their words and body language, they can better understand how what they’re saying and how they’re saying it is making others feel. Then and only then will they communicate in a manner where their intent matches the impact they desire.
3. Pause and Redirect
High EQ individuals are adept at adapting to situations and avoid knee-jerk reactions that are often the triggers for bad experiences. For the low EQ person, they can develop this skill by learning to think before talking and acting. This can be particularly challenging during times of impatience and frustration.
By pausing when they feel a trigger that often led to an undesirable behavior, they are able to effectively redirect to a clearer, less damaging approach.
4. Achieve Balance
Another critical component of emotional intelligence is empathy which people often confuse with sympathy. (See descriptions of all 5 EQ competencies below). Low EQ people don’t have to dismiss how they feel. That would be too much to expect.
They should seek to establish a workable balance where they feel good about their agenda while appreciating how others see the situation. Being sensitive to how others feel about a given situation is considered to be the most important skill to have as a leader, so this is major area for growth.
In my experience, helping a person who has a need to improve their EQ can be challenging yet it can also be one of the most rewarding and personally freeing experiences of that person’s life because they are finally able to get out of their own way to reach their true potential.
5 COMPETENCIES OF EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Source: Byron Stock & Associates
- Emotional Self-Awareness - Having the skill to focus your attention on your emotional state – being aware, in-the-moment, of what you’re feeling.
- Emotional Self-Regulation - Having the skill to be able to choose the emotions you want to experience, rather than being the victim of whatever emotions occur – not letting others “push your buttons.”
- Emotional Self-Motivation - The ability to use your emotions to cause yourself to take positive action to continue to persistently pursue goals even in the face of significant adversity or difficulty.
- Empathy - Not to be confused with sympathy – possessing the ability to listen effectively and accurately enough to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This is not necessarily to agree with them, but to truly understand the situation from their point-of-view in order to improve communication, problem-solving, and trust.
- Nurturing Relationships - The ability to demonstrate sincere care (as contrasted with “required courtesy”) for others.
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