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Get to know yourself: Improve your life by improving your emotions

Here’s the hard, honest truth: Our emotions are within our own control, but we have to put in the work to actually control them.

What if you could manage your own emotions and positively impact the emotions of others?

The idea sounds great in theory, but it’s not easy to actually put into practice. Our emotions are like an embedded fiber into who we are. More often than not, we operate as though our emotions are something beyond our personal control, but that is a lie we’ve allowed ourselves to believe. Maybe we believe it because it makes it easier to accept how we operate, instead of putting in the hard work to make the necessary adjustments and improvements.

Here’s the hard, honest truth: Our emotions are within our own control, but we have to put in the work to actually control them. The only way to control our emotions is to first understand our emotions — where they come from and the impact they have on others. When we understand and harness our emotions, we can transform our personal and professional lives.

Emotional intelligence: A four-part system

The industry calls it emotional intelligence, but in its simplest form it really comes down to the ability to identify and manage individual behavior and the impact those behaviors have on others. Emotional intelligence creates an environment that fosters collaboration and teamwork, by building sustainable, authentic relationships.

I would safely assume that collaborative environments that value each individual is an environment we all want to be apart of. But how exactly do we make it happen?

Incorporating emotional intelligence hinges on you alone, so make the time to invest in yourself. You can start by evaluating the four parts of emotional intelligence. See where you measure up, and then tackle specific elements that you can begin to improve upon.

Self-Awareness

Are you able to accurately perceive your own emotions in the moment and understand your emotional tendencies across situations? Self-awareness hinges on the ability to understand your own reactions, responses and behaviors.

Start by making the time to notice how you emotionally react in certain situations. Do you personally shutdown in high stress situations? Do frustrations and challenges cause you to emotionally explode?

Taking the time to analyze your emotional response is the foundational element of emotional intelligence. It’s not easy, but it’s essential to face the reality of who you are and how you respond in various scenarios. That evaluation will allow you to better understand your emotional triggers, and the who’s and what’s that push your buttons.

Self-awareness requires a great deal of self-reflection, but it doesn’t have to happen in a vacuum. Consider seeking out feedback from those you trust. Ask others how they perceive your emotional responses and behaviors. The perception of others may surprise you, providing great clarity than you could offer yourself.

Self-Management

How well do you manage and direct the behavior of your emotions as your environment changes? It’s certainly not easy, but emotional adaptability is important. Self-management gives you the ability check your emotions before you respond.

One of the most effective ways to manage your emotions is to avoid making assumptions. Be intentional about asking questions. Not everyone communicates well, and more often than not, the words we say are not the words we feel. Instead of making an assumption based on the words someone says, ask more questions. Those questions, and the answers you gain, will help you better understand those around you.

Taking the time to pause, breath, relax and count to 10 before responding is another essential element of self-management. That brief moment of pause allows you to mentally recharge and proactively control your response, rather than operating from a reactive state.

In high stress situations, you will likely need more than a 10-second pause. You may need to sleep before you speak — giving yourself the time to decompress and adjust your emotions before responding. Give yourself the time you need to process your thoughts and feelings, and confidently communicate that need to others.

A simple response of, “I hear what you are saying, but I need more time to think about this. Can we talk tomorrow?”, is all you need to deliver in the moment. It may feel uncomfortable, but your peers will respect your intentionality to think first and react second.

Social Awareness

Are you able to accurately recognize the emotions of others and understand what is really going on with them, beyond what can be seen on the surface? Understanding your own emotions is one hurdle, but understanding the emotions of others is completely different. Social awareness requires intentionality, being fully present and being mindful of the needs of those around you.

The best place you can start to improve social awareness is to limit your distractions. Your conversations with others include more than the words being exchanged. Social awareness requires listening, evaluating body language and asking questions. Doing those things well are nearly impossible when we try to talk, text and email simultaneously.

Relationship Management

Are you able to use your emotional awareness and evaluate the emotions of others to manage interactions successfully? The relationship management aspect of emotional intelligence cannot happen without first mastering self-awareness, self-management and social awareness. But once you master those three elements, it’s time to tackle relationship management.

Excelling at relationship management requires the ability to fully embrace the emotions of others. By aligning your intent with the impact you have on others, you can create an environment where emotions are both seen and heard, and those around you feel welcomed, acknowledged and respected.

Emotional intelligence: Where do you measure up?

Learning about the elements that contribute to emotional intelligence is step one, but now what? Look back on the four dimensions of emotional intelligence and see which areas you can begin to improve upon for yourself. But don’t stop there. Share the value emotional intelligence can bring with others. Your environment cannot improve if you are the only person actively focusing on emotional intelligence.

Consider building out a program for emotional intelligence in your workplace. Have the discussion about emotional intelligence with your leadership team, and encourage leadership to develop an emotional intelligence program for employees. The best way to bring this program to life is to demonstrate the value it brings to the company at large. Organizations who invest in emotional intelligence see improved communication and experience better employee engagement. Those improvements lead to longer-lasting customer relationships and stronger company results.

If a full program is unrealistic for your organization to implement, discuss the idea of bringing in a third-party consultant who can support (or lead) the emotional intelligence employee training process.

Wherever you are on the emotional intelligence journey, each of us has room to make improvements. Evaluate your own emotions, commit to improving three specific areas, intentionally practice those behaviors and then measure your progress.

Change will not happen overnight because our emotional reactions are deeply rooted into our behaviors, but change can occur with practice and intentionality.

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