Helpful Strategies to Increase Your Self-Awareness
Why is Emotional Intelligence quickly becoming one of the most important soft skills in the business world? And how can I cultivate my own emotional intelligence for success?
Emotional Intelligence Helps Build Relationships
In this series, we will cover the 5 areas of Emotional Intelligence (EQ), two strategies for developing each competency, and specific exercises/applications you can practice to increase your EQ.
Emotional intelligence represents an incredibly broad category, which requires plenty of time and effort to hone. Because of this, we will focus on one competency each week and recommend you focus on developing one skill at a time. In doing so, you will steadily build your individual EQ competencies, and bring it all together in no time!
This week’s article covers the importance of self-awareness, and how a high self-awareness forms the foundation of strong EQ.
Definition: Possessing the ability to understand your own moods and reactions; and how this affects everyone around you.
Understanding ourselves is perhaps the single-most important EQ skill we can possess, given that all the other areas build from a strong self-awareness. Here’s how to develop your self-awareness.
Strategy #1: Reflect on Your Own Emotions
In many ways, we are controlled by our emotions. Yet, we often remain blissfully unaware of their power over us, let alone how to control the outbursts that occur. However, the ability to control our reactions remains critically important in handling difficult or stressful situations.
Besides, if we don’t know how to understand or manage our moods through self-awareness, then how can we expect to influence others?
Putting it into Practice
To begin reflecting on emotions, first ask yourself how you’ve felt in certain situations when:
…someone cuts you off in traffic.
…a close friend tells you something you didn’t want to hear.
…a coworker complains about another person in their life.
…your boss criticizes your actions when you thought you had done the right thing.
Spend time connecting with each of these emotions as you feel them. Then, do your best to understand why you feel that way, and what kinds of situations elicit that emotion in you. After relating different situations to the same emotion, you’ll begin to see trends in your personal behavior and learn how to control it.
Strategy #2: Learn to Appreciate Criticism
In his article on How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence, Justin Bariso, Founder of Insight, maintains that “criticism is often rooted in truth.” And when faced with criticism, we can either:
…put our hurt feelings aside and attempt to learn from the criticism.
…let our anger and emotions take control, inhibiting us from actually benefitting from the situation, and often causing more harm than good.
Putting it Into Practice
The next time someone provides you with criticism, regardless of how they deliver it, and you notice yourself feeling defensive, try to prevent yourself from reacting as you normally do.
Instead, follow these simple steps to calm yourself down, reflect on the emotions you’ve gotten to know through Strategy #1, and respond with more compassion and purpose.
1. Pause & Breathe Deeply for 3 seconds – Even if we feel uncomfortable, people do not often notice thoughtful silences, which actually represent good conversation etiquette! And deep breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which allows you to curb your stress levels and think more clearly.
2. Set your emotions aside – Ask yourself “From what I am hearing, what feedback are they trying to give me, and how can I learn about myself from it?”
3. Thank them for providing constructive feedback – You can use this exact phrase or something similar to it, “I appreciate you sharing your concern and for providing that constructive criticism…” Then, as Step 4 states, finish it with a question.
4. Ask them a Clarification Question – If you think they are trying to give you feedback or criticism, simply ask them what they mean. This demonstrates that you have heard them and that you’re eager to listen and learn about yourself. In all likelihood, this will deescalate any situation. In fact, they will probably be more than happy to help.
From Their Perspective
If you follow these steps effectively, the whole process will look like this in the other person’s mind:
Before Step 1. “I just called Tom out after he clearly didn’t listen to my instructions last week. And he’s probably going to be upset.”
They will likely expect push back from you, as we often find ourselves feeling defensive when vulnerable.
After Steps 1-2. “Okay, he seems to be thinking about what I’m saying. Maybe he’s thinking of how to respond.”
In the “awkward” silence, they will be focused on what they said and may calm down just a bit, but will likely still expect pushback from you.
After Step 3. “Wow! I did not expect him to be appreciative of my criticism, but I’m glad to see that he knows what I’m trying to say.”
People like to feel appreciated. So, when you thank them for their comments, they will likely experience a feeling of pleasant surprise.
After Step 4. “This is great. Tom heard my concern, thanked me for pointing out where he fell short and is making an effort to improve by asking for my help.”
After you go through this process, your genuine desire to experience personal growth will become apparent. Furthermore, people want to contribute value to the lives of others. Hence, by asking for their help, you are making an advocate of them and improving the relationship together.
Start Building Your Self-Awareness
Understandably, using this strategy will feel slightly unnatural at first. Especially if the criticism is delivered in an unhealthy manner. In particular, people may criticize you by yelling, cursing, or acting with condescension. However, we cannot control how others share information. We can only control how we respond.
Self-awareness remains vital for those in the field of business relationship management (BRM), as BRMs focus on building meaningful relationships across the organization. Click here to learn more about BRM, and keep an eye out for next week’s article on How to Train Your Empathy for Deeper Connections.
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