Improving Emotional Intelligence

Improving Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is your ability to recognize emotions and emotional states in yourself and others. It is how well you know the difference between various feelings and use that information to guide your behavior. Emotional Quotient or EQ is a term used in the measure of emotional intelligence. It was first used in an article by Keith Beasley for the British Mensa magazine in 1987.

Emotional intelligence isn’t like ‘IQ’ intelligence. Where IQ stays fairly consistent throughout a persons life, EQ ebbs and flows. You may have times of high EQ when you are on top of you game or may suffer through times when you just can’t get it together. There may be situations in your life that are stressing you out or you may be going through emotionally rough times and not have the ability to maintain a higher EQ.

Emotional Intelligence is something that we have to work at to maintain. These are not meant to be a way for you to go out and point fingers at people saying they have a low EQ. However they are for you to look at yourself and see areas where you may need improvement. Reflect back on times when you’ve done these things and look at how you could improve. You don’t have the power to change the past but you can make a positive change for your own future.

Episode Breakdown

08:45 Getting into arguments and refusing to listen to other points of view.

It can be difficult for someone with a low EQ to understand the emotions of others. This causes them to get into arguments easily. They don’t understand why the other person doesn’t see their point of view. They think theirs is the only logical conclusion.

They “know” they are right and will defend their position. This can mean ignoring what others have to say. It’s even worse when the argument is about emotions or an emotional event. People with low EQ tend to be overly critical of others feelings.

While easiest, avoiding people who argue too much may not be possible. If you have authority assigning them difficult tasks to work alone helps reduce arguments. When dealing with an argumentative person start by addressing their concern. This doesn’t mean that you are going to act on it. Show that they are heard and that you are aware of the issue. Set a date or make a plan to work on it or meet to discuss it. Time tends to cool the heat in arguments. You are also taking an action, even if that action is to delay the conversation.

A key component of higher emotional intelligence is self-awareness. This means being able to recognize your own behaviors in the moment. Ask a trusted friend or mentor about your behavior and how it is interpreted. This will help you to see if your self assessment is accurate. It will also give you an insight into how others view your behavior. Avoid making excuses for your own behavior. It’s easy to become defensive when getting feedback. This doesn’t move you toward your goal. Practice taking yourself out of the situation and seeing how you would advise someone else.

20:55 Thinking others are too sensitive or easily offended.

Someone with low EQ will tend to make inappropriate jokes or tell them at inappropriate times. Appropriately used and understood humor can be useful in emotional situations. This is not trying to lighten a stressful situation with humor. Nor is it telling colorful jokes or roasting friends in a toast. It is an inability to understand the emotional tone of an event. These are times or jokes that most people find inappropriate. There’s even a “Too Soon” meme about people that do this. They are confused when others react negatively the jokes.

Those with low EQ have difficulty maintaining friendships. They tend to come off as abrasive and unfeeling. Close friendships require a sharing of emotions. This means sometimes being the emotional support. Other times it means you are the one needing support. This all requires compassion and the ability to understand the emotional needs of others.

You may have times where you have to deal with someone who doesn’t understand they are being inappropriate. The best approach is to pull them aside and tell them to stop. If at work you’ll usually have an employee handbook or basic HR stuff to back you up. If you are in a social setting you’ll have to explain why it’s inappropriate. Avoid being accusatory when telling them it’s not appropriate. You don’t want to put them on the defensive. They may want to argue with you about the appropriateness of the joke. If so use the strategies in the previous point. This works best if the person trusts you as socially knowledgeable. Provide an outlet for their jokes if necessary. This often happens at the bar when you’re friend has had too much to drink. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and emotional intelligence. People tend to say thing they normally would hold back.

Be aware of the gap between what you intend to say and what others interpret. People tend to underestimate the way others interpret their words and actions. This creates a gap between what you mean to say and what is understood. A common phrase people use is “If I can understand it, anyone can.” People struggling with something will feel they aren’t smart enough. So much communication is done over text that meanings can be lost. This is especially true when tone makes a difference. Think of joking verses sarcastic verses complaining tones and how the text may be the same. For less official things emoji can help convey tonality of a message. It can be difficult for even those with higher EQ to always know how their words are taken. A good strategy is to have some trusted people you can ask about how your were interpreted. Use their feedback to alter the way you say things.

39:25 Not having empathy or understanding of how others feel.

Having a low EQ tends to make you not see the feelings and emotions of others. People don’t understand why friends and family are angry with them. Sometimes significant others play into this a little bit because they are angry. It’s the “You should know why I’m angry” game. The problem is that with a low EQ, they didn’t even know you were angry. Those with low EQ may not even know that coworkers are annoyed at them. This often leads to being called in for disciplinary conversations/actions. The offender doesn’t know that they’ve done anything wrong. They can even get frustrated that others expect them to know how they are feeling.

Due to this lack of understanding feelings people with low EQ also have low levels of empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. More than just being aware of others emotions. This is being able to experience with them the feelings they are having. Feeling happy when they are happy, sad when they are sad, etc. This makes it difficult for those with low EQ to see things from another persons perspective. They can’t understand the way others are feeling. So they are unable to put themselves in the other persons place.

You have to be explicit with your emotions and feelings when dealing with someone with low EQ. When dealing with someone you’ll have to overtly express yourself. They will not read into what you are saying. Don’t expect them to understand non-verbal cues either. Explain not only what you are feeling but also why you are feeling it. If they are trying to improve their EQ it will help them. Also this will appeal to their sense of logic. They may not understand why something causes an emotion but are more likely to accept it if explained. Use “I feel” statements sparingly. If used too often you’ll likely just be ignored as a “touchy feely” person. Try not to overload the person with emotional information.

If you find yourself having trouble empathizing with others, think how you would feel or act in their situation. You may not know their entire situation. Use the knowledge you do have to recreate it in your mind. In areas you don’t have details create them based on what you know about the situation. What would you do or say if you were them. This will guide you in understanding their motivations. It will also help to work toward a mutually beneficial solution to problems. Don’t dismiss how you feel either. You need to “wear both shoes”. Increasing EQ means being able to see from a situation from both sides. Sometimes the best way to empathize is to admit that you have no way of knowing how the person is feeling.

45:15 Refusing to accept responsibility for your mistakes.

It’s hard for those with low EQ to see how the way they handle emotions causes problems. Many times their instinct is to blame others when things go wrong. This can be blaming how others act for their own actions. The manipulative person might say, “You’re making me do this.” They see themselves as having no other choice. They perceive others as not understanding their unique situation. Ironically it is most often caused by them not understanding other’s situations. This can lead to a lot of defensiveness and argumentation.

They struggle with the difference between fault and responsibility. Fault has to do with the cause of the problem. This is the source of the problem, be it a person or process, etc. Fault is not always useful in resolving problems but can be useful in preventing them from happening again. Responsibility has to do with resolving or taking care of the problem. This is the person tasked with finding and implementing a solution. They may or may not be the cause of the problem. Sometimes the person at fault is also the one responsible for resolving the problem. A person with low EQ tends to focus on the fault aspect and not the resolution. This cripples them with a victim mentality, there’s nothing I can do about it. They can’t work toward a solution because they are so focused on the fault.

It can be difficult working or dealing with someone who doesn’t take responsibility for their own mistakes. Many times they don’t want to even admit there is a problem. “It’s working the way it’s supposed to work” even though that’s not how it needs to work. You may have to address it as if it’s not their fault but you need their help solving it. This strategy works well to get buy in on improvements as well. Sometimes things are just “magically” fixed. This happens when the person recognizes the problem but won’t admit to it. Something that was broken will just suddenly start working. This is a problem because the team doesn’t learn from the mistake. People like this have trouble learning and growing as a developer. There can be a bit of self-righteous know-it-all in them. They’ll ignore even the glaringly obvious signs they are at fault. Unfortunately it takes being called out or “thrown under the bus” sometimes before they will see their own faults. You have to be careful to not make them defensive. A lot of times this means complimenting one area and asking for improvement in another. “Would you like to see how to make this even better?” is a great way to start that conversation. You can also ask for their input on how to improve or solve the problem.

This can be one of the most difficult areas to work with on yourself. A lot of times it will not be your fault. Your app could be failing because of a service you are calling. You may be waiting on someone else to finish something so you can continue. There are lots of reasons why it may not be your fault. However, it may be your responsibility to deal with it. If you are getting errors from a service call then you have to handle them and the failover. Be prepared for when the other person does finish so you are already going as soon as they are done. This takes a lot of introspection to determine and understand.

Admitting mistakes is difficult. We don’t want to make ourselves look bad. Sometimes we don’t even want to admit to ourselves. But admitting and accepting fault for our failures is how we learn and grow. Don’t admit or accept fault that is not yours. You may be responsible for fixing it. But if you didn’t cause it don’t take on that blame.

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Tricks of the Trade

There are blame languages. Different people react to blame in different ways and you probably want to know how people do so before you find yourself in a situation where the assignment of blame is critical.

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