Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to be aware of, comprehend, manage, and effectively express one’s own feelings, as well as effectively interact with others and their emotions. We admire when athletes or celebrities show it, and scoff when they don’t.
It’s critical for us to get it right as well. According to Talent Smart (a provider of EQ assessments), 90 percent of high performers at work have high EQ. It’s likely true that many of the most memorable, resonating leaders you’ve ever had were high EQ leaders.
But talented leaders differentiate themselves from the crowd on EQ for a reason — it’s not an easy skill to build. But it can be done and I can help.
Each morning I spend just 5 minutes (or less) reviewing a powerful mnemonic that ups my daily EQ. You can run through this reminder while you’re in the shower, scarfing down eggs, or on your commute. Just review the F.R.A.M.E.that follows to get in a high-EQ frame of mind for the day.
Feelings won’t overrun thoughts.
Remind yourself, first and foremost, that you’ll be aware of your feelings and emotions and won’t let them influence your thoughts or corresponding words/actions.
As fellow Inc. columnist and author of EQ: Applied, Justin Bariso, says: “When you experience a negative situation, you may not have much control over your feelings. But by focusing on your thoughts, you can control your reaction to those feelings.”
This first step is as simple and as difficult as that, focusing on the thought versus the emotion and then controlling your reaction. Practice really can make perfect here. If you get used to controlling your reactions, it feels out of place when you’re not. Internal alarms go off, which can help you get back on course.
I had a particular co-worker who really pushed my buttons. I’d lose my temper a lot with him, but by practicing intentionally controlling my reactions, it soon came to feel foreign and unwelcome when I was about to lose it. It helped me cutoff unhelpful outbursts.
Read the room.
Those with the highest EQ are able to sense what people in the room are thinking, feeling, needing, and wanting to hear and see. Think of the opposite for a moment. When a leader barges ahead in a meeting without consideration for this, we quickly label him/her as out of touch, insensitive, clueless, or worse.
So repeat this several times: “Read…the…room today.” This will also help you to stay present in the moment. A study by Harvard psychologists showed our minds aren’t focused on what’s happening right in front of us an alarming 47 percent of the time.
Remind yourself to be transparent. Nothing’s more transparent than when you’re not, after all. We human beings tend to pick up on transgressions from straightforwardness.
Authentic behavior binds human beings to one another. When you display authentic behavior, being your genuine, real self, you draw others to you while reinforcing your self-identity. Everyone finds meaning in being real and being around others who are real. Enabling this feeling is emotionally intelligent — and just plain intelligent.
I found role-modeling authentic behavior encouraged others to bring their whole selves to work and created genuine connections and a sense of belongingness. I’m convinced this environment was the backbone to the highest performing organizations I ever ran.
What’s yours? Good, bad, melancholy, agitated? Whatever it is, it will affect how you show up at work and whether or not you wield EQ with high IQ. Your mood is, after all, how you’re feeling that morning. And we’ve already covered how what you’re feeling can override what you’re thinking and how you act.
You can’t just change the mood you’re in with a snap of your fingers, but you can recognize it, name it, and then be aware of its potential for derailing a high-EQ day. Whenever I catch myself starting the day in a sour mood, I tell myself, “It’s OK that I feel this way (for now), but it’s not OK to make someone else feel this way.”
Engage to understand.
If you have to, write “Engage to understand” at the top of every meeting agenda or at the top of your day’s calendar. Use these three words as a reminder to listen to others (without merely waiting for your turn to talk), to withhold judgment, to reflect, and to absorb, consider, and appreciate what’s being said.
Conduct inquiries not inquisitions. That is, seek to understand by being interested instead of peppering questions and serving as a gate others must get through.
Lots of habits aren’t worth the time it takes to forge them. But five minutes a day for high-EQ yields sky-high returns, and a return to a deeply connected workplace.