There are few responsibilities we have at work that won’t be handed over to computers and automatons in the decades to come, but one skill that will never be fully devolved to the robots is emotional intelligence.
Every encounter you have at work is defined by the emotional intelligence of those involved. Even when you work by yourself, the way you respond to challenges and set-backs is defined by your so-called ‘EQ’.
So while Silicon Valley boffins work away at ‘affective computing’, a form of artificial intelligence that will augment our own use of empathy, insight, and self-control. Ultimately, you remain responsible for your own interpersonal relationships and how you manage your emotions.
If it’s an area of your game – and, indeed, your very existence – that you’ve neglected, it could be time to pay a little closer attention to your emotional intelligence. Maintaining high levels of EQ can help make your workplace a more pleasant, creative, productive place to be, as well as reducing your personal stress levels and enabling you to identify, work towards, and achieve your fundamental ambitions.
Get to know your own emotional universe a little better, and you will come to understand how those around you function, too. Hold regular meetings with yourself, and take good minutes. Ask yourself not how you’ve performed today, but how you’ve felt, and how you’ve reacted to issues that have arisen. If your instinct has been to hide from, shout at, or bury problems as they’ve emerged, you can probably consider yourself in need of a thorough emotional overhaul.
Find a quiet moment and a pencil and paper and try to trace back your flawed reactions to their basic underlying causes. Did you hide because you feel inadequate? Shout because you felt out of control? Bury a task because you felt swamped by your workload? The good news is: these are symptoms of underlying problems that can be addressed in positive ways.
Feelings of inadequacy cause some of the worst reactions in human beings. We lash out or hide away because we’re afraid of being found out. But these are not solutions that will help next time those feelings rear their ugly head.
Instead, use feelings of inadequacy as an opportunity to address potential areas of improvement. Turn a task that frightens you into a learning experience, or into a chance to collaborate with a like-minded soul. Figure out how you can turn mistakes or weaknesses into strengths – for example, by using gaps in your understanding as a prompt to ask ‘childlike’ questions about the way that things are done, and to expose potential areas of improvement.
When you know yourself better, and feel more confident dealing with your emotions, you will be better equipped to understand and facilitate the emotions of others. When you deal with a colleague or customer who responds in a way you didn’t expect, try to put yourself in their shoes. What have they already been through today? How has your part in the interaction derailed their expectations? Are they acting in a way that suggests they could be feeling stressed, out of their depth, betrayed?
When this is the case, it is time to look both ways. Help your colleague along with similar EQ tools to those that you’ve been developing. If your employee feels inadequate, turn their tough task into a training opportunity. If they’re red in the face and ready to explode, suggest everyone takes a deep breath and counts to ten. And look at yourself: have you said something aggressive or defensive to provoke them because of your own emotional state?
Well, the computers have got it easy compared to us. But actually, a few mindfulness techniques and a concerted effort to take the time to improve your levels of empathy and self-knowledge, can put you in control sooner than you’d think. Check out this new visual guide for some great ideas on how to do so.
G. John Cole is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.