Working with Wisdom

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By Rehnuma Karim, Ph.D

Act Accordingly Picture yourself in one of two situations, 

Scenario 01

You find yourself supervising a team. One of the team members is teasing and blaming another member for not completing a task in front of others. However, you have decided to ignore the situation without consideration of the teased employee’s feelings.

Scenario 02

You received an email from an angry colleague regarding how you handled a certain scenario. Upon reading the email, you are immediately aggravated. In response, you send a very aggressive email in response.

These types of episodes can cause stress at the workplace reducing the overall productivity of one’s organization. The course of events in these scenarios could have been handled in a better manner through effective management of one’s emotional and social skills. The team member at the meeting should not be belittling his colleague. As a supervisor, you should be noting these disruptions and avoid being passive.
Throughout various situations in our everyday life, we often act and speak without giving the matter a second thought or making an effort to understand the social environment around us. A lack of understanding one’s self, as well as others, creates situations that become a speed breaker towards our strive for optimum success.
There is a saying by Aristotle, “Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way – that’s not easy”. This concept applies when we put ourselves in the position of an observer. As a participant in the given situation that demands us to take hold of our emotions and act decisively, we often do not put ourselves in the other’s shoe.
This is where the emergent concept of “Emotional Intelligence” (EI) plays a big role. In 1990, two psychologists, John Mayer and Peter Salovey, pioneered the idea of emotional intelligence. It was later researched and popularized by the psychologist, Daniel Goldman, in his book titled, “Emotional Intelligence”. According to Goldman, “Emotional intelligence can be defined as the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.” An underlying ability in emotional intelligence fundamentals is to required in order to proficiently understand emotional competence in areas such as customer service or teamwork.

A lack of understanding one’s self, as well as others, creates situations that become a speed breaker towards our strive for optimum success.

The impact of EI has become one of the most compelling topics in the world of business – particularly in the areas of leadership and employee development. Worldwide, today’s companies routinely look through the lens of EI in hiring, promoting and contributing to the growth of employees. It was found that Intelligence Quotient (IQ) counts for only 20% of one’s success while the 80% is due to emotional intelligence and the surrounding environment.
I have witnessed many people with high IQ flounder in the real world where one has to deal with people, whereas, individuals with modest IQs are doing surprisingly well. In the real world CEO’s are hired for their intellect and business expertise and often fired for the lack of EI. Studies also showed that around 90% of top performers in the workplace have high emotional intelligence.

Amidst all the commotion around us, we hardly take the time to make the conscious effort to improve and shape ourselves for success. Change can only happen when one understands one’s strength and weaknesses.

Why is this concept of EI suddenly becoming a buzz word? The Harvard Business Review hailed EI as “a groundbreaking, paradigm-shattering idea” shaping the business atmosphere of today as most businesses give credit to the success of their organizations to effective relationship building and motivating work environment. Even the famous Herzberg’s Two-factor Model emphasized how human behavior plays an important role to an organization’s success. The two-factor model highlights the significance of “motivation” and “hygiene factors” that influences a person to either feel satisfied or dissatisfied in their workplace. The motivation factor is comprised of a sense of achievement, opportunity for advancement and growth, and responsibility. While the hygiene factor among many other factors includes relationships with peers and bosses, work conditions and supervision. The entirety of this dynamic has to do with the positive or negative emotional state of those in charge or those who are peers. There can be no doubt that even in this model – the attributes of self-awareness and relationship building are present contributing to how one perceives his/her work life. Observing the rate of heart attacks and other stress-related physical and psychological problems around us, it is high time to pay attention to heighten our emotional intelligence for a balanced and productive life.

Know Thyself

The question that remains is how one would measure their level of emotional intelligence?

The following are signs of low EI:
1. Continuously performing poorly at work
2. Being judgmental and criticizing others whenever you get a chance
3. Losing temper over minor issues
4. Not handling disagreements well
5. You cannot lead or work in a team
6. Lacking empathy
7. Not taking responsibility for your own mistakes and pushing the blame onto others
8. Afraid of trying anything new
9. You let all the negativity affect your performance
10. Giving up too easily in the face of adversity
11. Engaging in pointless arguments
12. You hold others to the same high expectations you hold for yourself
If you identify some of these elements in you, you need to pause and re-evaluate yourself; as Socrates wisely quoted, “Know Thyself”. Amidst all the commotion around us, we hardly take the time to make the conscious effort to improve and shape ourselves for success. Change can only happen when one understands one’s strength and weaknesses.

The Emotional Factor
In order to transform into a better version of ourselves we need to understand the domains of emotional intelligence suggested by Steven Stein in his book, “EQ Edge” and also discussed by Goldman (1996). Working on the following domains will allow one to evolve as a professional:

1. Self-awareness
the ability to recognize and understand personal moods, emotions and drives, as well as their effects on others.
2. Self-regulation
the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods, the propensity to suspend judgment and to think before acting.
3. Internal motivation
the passion for working for internal reasons, that go beyond money and status, which are external rewards such as an inner vision of what is important in life. This entails a joy in taking on a task, and curiosity in learning; a flow that comes with being immersed in an activity.
4. Empathy
the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people; a skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions.
5. Social skills
the proficiency in managing relationships and building networks, and an ability to find common ground and build rapport.

emotional-intelligence-03-03The Smart Strategy
So what do you do if you recognized yourself being challenged in the domains mentioned? Here are few among many strategies that help:
1. Avoid assumptions
Instead of being judgmental or making assumptions based on hearsay. All the sadness and drama we create in our lives spring out from the assumptions which impact our performance and interpersonal relationships.
2. Express Eloquence
This is one of the four Toltec words of wisdom. Those with weak emotional intelligence often underestimate what a negative impact their words and actions have on others.
The following is an example of what those with low emotional intelligence may say and how it’s actually heard –
What you say: “If I can understand it, anyone can.”
What others hear: “You’re not smart enough to get this.”
Regardless of what you intend to mean, think about how your words are going to impact others and whether that’s how you want to them to feel.
3. Press pause
Having high emotional intelligence means making choices about how you respond to situations rather than having a knee-jerk reaction. For example, you might hastily shoot down other people’s ideas before they could complete their thoughts or react, instantaneously replying to an email or acting out in anger. You need to start to take pauses before reacting; taking this time to listen to one’s self and others.
4. The other shoe
You develop empathy by putting yourself in another’s position. A key component of EI is empathy. Think how you would feel if you were at the receiving end or you were going through the crisis as the others are. This practice will give you a whole new perspective influencing your attitude a d behavior towards others.
5. Mental scale
Don’t take things personally and try to weigh in the positives instead of the negatives in your life. We are in control of our mind and we can control our emotions. We often make assumptions that everything is about ourselves which is far from the reality. This is a maximum expression of selfishness where we feel offended and can react to create conflict in our lives.
As the Toltecs use to say, “your mind is a dream where a thousand people talk at the same time and nobody understands each other.” Strengthening your emotional intelligence takes commitment, discipline, and a genuine belief in its value. Consequently, it can help us understand the world around us along with understanding ourselves. With time and practice, we find that the results we achieve far outweigh the effort it took to get there. We can eliminate the static in our lives by practicing the management of destructive emotions, empathy, and self-awareness; an action which is becoming an essential leadership tool.

emotional-intelligence-02Rehnuma Karim is an Assistant Professor at the State University of New York at the school of Health and Human Development. She is also the Founder and President of “Heroes for All”, a Non-profit aimed to build the potential of youth force through research, programs, workshop, and community engagement.


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