Traditionally, the office is seen as a place where employees leave their emotions at the door. While it is now accepted that our emotions are part of who we are and that we cannot think or act without them, many organizations still expect employees to ignore their emotions at work.
Unexpected scenarios happen frequently, and this leads to one of the most common questions: "Are we born with the ability to make quick mental responses or can quick thinking be learned?"
For some people, emotional intelligence (EQ) conjures up misconceptions of excessively nice people hugging others and giving free rein to whatever feelings emerge. In reality, EQ offers valuable and powerful tools to help individuals become more effective in their careers, at home, and in all areas of their lives.
The power of EQ
For the learning professional, emotional intelligence offers a veritable gold mine of opportunities for personal growth and development. The beauty of EQ is its flexibility. Unlike IQ, which peaks in your late teens and remains constant throughout your life, you can increase your EQ regardless of your age or stage in life. Personal growth requires courage and perseverance to break out of comfortable and familiar patterns. You have to be able to face things about yourself that you may not like.
Since increasing EQ requires feedback from and interaction with others, you have to be willing to take risks and be vulnerable. To engage the help of others in your change process, you must develop a level of trust in your colleagues, as well as your clients. Sometimes this requires a leap of faith.
While admitting that you have some room for improvement is probably not too difficult, what you specifically need to improve and how to do so is not always easy to determine. You must accurately pinpoint the facets of your EQ that have been holding you back.
The study of EQ has provided tools to more accurately define those factors, as well as techniques to increase capabilities in those areas. Of the three major EQ models that are used by organizations today, the BarOn EQ-i is the first EQ tool to be endorsed by the American Psychological Association and is the most widely used tool in business for measuring EQ. It is also one of the most comprehensive tools available, offering 15 categories against which to measure one's EQ.
In my experience, most learning professionals have a solid grasp on what their strengths are, as well as the areas they could improve; taking the assessment tool would likely confirm what they already know. Since the scores are interrelated, improvement in one area of EQ will have the ripple effect of increasing proficiency in other areas. It is better to focus on one aspect of your EQ instead of overwhelming yourself by trying to improve a variety of areas.
Before you start down the path to self-improvement, you need to set clear goals. This requires determining what you will be like once you have implemented the changes that you are seeking.
Ask yourself some questions: How will I be able to measure whether or not I really have changed? How will others around me see the change? How will I feel, sound, and act differently from how I am perceived today? The more specific the goals are that you set, the better your chance to accurately measure the changes.
The other way to measure change is to complete one of the EQ assessment tools such as the BarOn EQ-i and then retake the evaluation in a year's time to see if any of the focus areas have changed.
Let's say you realize that you need to become more flexible and adaptable. Start by shaking up basic parts of your daily routine that don't require a drastic change. Take a different route to work. Go for coffee with a new co-worker. Take lunch at a different time. These simple adjustments will create a new awareness of other changes that you may like to make.
Next, try something more risky that causes you a bit of anxiety or even mild fear, and then reward yourself. Recognize and accept that trying something new always involves risks and sometimes failure; it is the price you pay for growth. Changing old ingrained patterns requires persistence and willpower. Over time, you develop new ways of doing things that will serve you better, and the old patterns of which you want to rid yourself will fade away.
To further gauge your progress, ask the people around you who are straightforward and honest to give feedback on whether they have noticed any changes. If you think that your co-workers would not be candid, ask them to respond anonymously in some manner. If you are delivering training sessions, incorporate open-ended questions regarding your EQ focus areas into the questionnaire, and watch if there is any change in the responses over time.
An excellent way to measure real change is to spend some time with people you know well but haven't seen in a long time. Some of the most satisfying feedback I ever received was from an old friend who said, "You have really changed."