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Post No.: 0757eq


Fluffystealthkitten says:


The skills that contribute to social and emotional intelligence, like empathy and compassion, are often called ‘soft skills’ even though they’re usually the hardest things to bring in a high-pressured workplace. These skills are vital for effective leadership, teamwork and for employee retention. Without them, we risk burnout far sooner. Yet for many people, work isn’t a place to discuss or even consider anyone’s emotions – because it’s ‘just business’. Meow.


EQ stands for ‘emotional quotient’, but EQ also commonly stands for ‘emotional intelligence’, even though this is sometimes called EI! Anyways, emotions aren’t themselves irrational or dysfunctional unless the inappropriate emotion is expressed, we ruminate, it gets out of proportion or we get caught up in them – in fact it’d be irrational or wrong to not feel, say, a bit of disgust if one is considering committing wire fraud. So they’re useful.


Anger can motivate us to change something that isn’t right. Joy gives us feedback that all is fine. Surprise alerts us to question our preconceptions and could help us to discover opportunities. Even everyday anxiety (not anxiety disorders) and fear tell us to pay attention to concerns or stay clear of threats. Sadness can spurr us to seek comfort and bonding. Desire is appropriate when it drives us to do something healthy but not when it drives us to do something deleterious.


Reason ought to rule us. Yet emotions evolved for a reason! Emotions are also communication. People may try to manipulate you by claiming that you’re being overly sensitive – but if you’re being lied to or maltreated then you’re simply providing honest feedback!


When our emotions are inappropriate, they can lead to biases that misguide our decisions, like loss aversion, the sunk cost fallacy, conformity bias, impact bias, confirmation bias and attribution errors. Things like risk assessment decisions might require us to park aside our emotions. Yet not every question can be answered objectively and dispassionately. For instance science cannot tell us whether ‘negative liberty’ (freedom from external interference) or ‘positive liberty’ (external intervention to level the playing field) is most morally just? Science cannot even tell us what amount of risk is acceptable even if we can calculate a solid number – should a 20%, 21% or 20.294% risk be our limit? We can work out the objective number of deaths that something may cause, but how many deaths are acceptable until we should sensibly ban that activity? Some believe that we cannot place a price on liberty and a million deaths shouldn’t even lead to something being banned. Some others believe that all preventable deaths should be prevented.


So the level of risk – or risk appetite in business contexts – we select will depend on our subjective feelings. What level of risk, or volatility, to potential return will you seek – because higher risks normally come with higher potential returns, and lower risks normally come with lower potential returns? Our emotions break such decision deadlocks. Without emotions, humans arguably couldn’t be humane too.


There are maybe at least 27 categories of emotion, but rather than them all being separate islands, there can be smooth gradients of emotion between, say, awe and peacefulness, or horror and sadness. There are subcategories of emotion, like nervous versus amused laughter.


The 3 primary components of human emotion are – physiological (what happens in your body e.g. heart palpitations, sweating, shallower breathing, goosebumps, blushing, pupil dilation, butterflies in the stomach, muscle tension); mental (your conscious experience e.g. the subjective meanings, interpretations, the deliberation of action); and expressive (your actions and behaviour e.g. what happens to your face, voice, posture, touch). There’s a fair amount of universality in how people across different cultures perceive emotions in faces or words. It’s not perfect though, even between individuals in the same culture (e.g. if Walter writes, “My wife missed our 10-year anniversary” – more men will assume that Walter is feeling angry whilst more women will assume that he is feeling sad; due to different unconscious biases. Males are usually negatively judged for crying and females are usually negatively judged for expressing anger).


The 4 principles of EQ are – being aware of your own emotions, understanding other people’s emotional expressions, managing and expressing your own emotions in healthy and constructive ways, and using emotions wisely during social interactions.


IQ is important for success at work, but this world is a social one because no one ever makes it alone. Managers who are hired or promoted because of their IQ and work experience can be fired because they were deficient in EQ and other interpersonal or soft skills like persuasion, coordination or caring enough about their team. An organisation is by definition social and collaborative. Others might alternatively get in our way because they’re our competition for status in the workplace and need to be handled. So the better we are at recognising emotions and other soft skills, the better we can handle office politics. Schmoozing and skilful emotional manoeuvring can pay (for better and worse!) EQ is thus a key predictor of success, and we can train to strengthen our EQ – what we habitually do will eventually rewire our brains to make what we do easier to do again and again.


We need emotional intelligence to manage ourselves – such as the optimism or courage to give things that are scary a go, and the self-discipline to avoid temptations or to bounce back after a fall. We need it when we market to buyers and negotiate with sellers. Customers are more loyal to businesses that understand their emotional needs, so good customer service requires high EQ. Emotional intelligence includes knowing how we impact other people in order to bring out the best in them. ‘Energy vampires’ conversely drain the emotional energy out of those around them! High EQ is linked with calmness, a clarity of mind, more skilful communication, being better at defusing conflicts, having more satisfying relationships, and having a greater capacity to overcome challenges.


To prevent our own emotions from becoming maladaptive, the soft skill required is emotion regulation. We can regulate our emotions by openly sharing them, reappraising situations to find the blessings in disguise, changing what we think about altogether to make ourselves feel happier, physically avoiding triggering sources, letting time pass, letting off steam (through exercise rather than destructive violence – acting out our anger will just reinforce this habit as the go-to behaviour, which may create more mess that needs to be dealt with), or doing more hobbies that give us joy as a distraction.


Suppression or repression is a form of emotion regulation too – but this strategy isn’t as generally helpful. As a leader, you might think you must always give your decisions in steely and unequivocal ways, but it’s okay to show some vulnerability by expressing that you’ve agonised to reach a tough decision if it was one because it’ll show that you at least didn’t take it lightly.


Many of those who work in highly emotional settings (like healthcare sector workers) try to adapt by suppressing their emotions while at work but, unless they’re sociopaths, this strategy is exhausting and may lead to burnout. Emotionally cold leaders are also less liked or trusted. We may think we’ve consciously repressed our feelings but its shadow will still hang over us on an unconscious level and these emotions might burst abruptly like a broken dam into our consciousness now and again. Stifled negative emotions from work can also resurface when at home. Yet we shouldn’t let emotions get out of paw either.


A healthier approach is accepting and even embracing your emotions for their value in prompting adaptive responses – for instance by channelling stress into passion, by shaping your environment to reduce the likelihood of being triggered by anxiety, or by expressing your negative emotions in constructive ways to improve your interpersonal interactions. You could also try positive self-talk (a simple, “I’ve got this” can sometimes be enough). Stern or negative self-talk (like telling yourself to, “Stop being a wimp”) isn’t as beneficial. Try getting friendly support from those who care for you and who you care about.


Try cognitive reappraisal – this involves changing the meaning one ascribes to a situation, even if one doesn’t or can’t change the situation objectively. Reappraisal is a strategy that produces more lasting effects than suppression. By reframing events, our own judgements about ourselves, others, the contexts and the implications of situations in an optimistic or growth-oriented way – whether in the midst or in anticipation of a strong emotional experience – we can manage our thoughts and feelings.


Perhaps something isn’t as bad as you think? Maybe it’s only temporary or won’t ultimately matter one day? (As we grow older, we gain more experience in realising that the things we thought would matter didn’t in the long run, like a scratch on one’s car door.) Did what happened speak more about the situation you were in rather than you? What have you learnt that you wouldn’t have? (Always ask for feedback from a decision-maker who didn’t give you the decision you wanted e.g. the interviewer after they didn’t offer you the job.)


Remember how you handled problems successfully in the past. Let the things you cannot control be. Write down the problem to offload it from your mind. Rename ‘need to do’ lists as ‘want to do’ lists. Reminiscing about a past fun time together or sharing a mutual joke with the person you’ve just been quarrelling with can undo belligerent sentiments. Mindfully accept any adverse feelings with self-compassion by not being too hard on yourself. (See Post No.: 0730 for some mindfulness practices you can try at work.) Ask for help or support inside and outside of work. Find the silver linings. Pay attention to your overall physical and mental health (e.g. diet, physical exercise, sleep) because you’ll then have a larger health bar to deal with life’s travails. Cultivate interests outside of work, including activities with good friends. There’s no one-size-fits-all but EQ can be trained, with practice!


We can complain about our work to our peers at work or partner at home but this’ll do little to alleviate those complaints unless they’re trivial – it’d be better to actually address the negative feelings we have and/or address the problems that are causing them, such as by notifying the right people who can and will do something about it. We can accept how we feel inside in kinder ways while seeking to correct an outside injustice – therefore acceptance here doesn’t mean accepting abuse or unhealthy work environments.


Then something should be done to improve the work environment. No player is bigger than a club, or no employee is bigger than an organisation – yet this shouldn’t mean that the complaints of any individual should be dismissed in order to protect the organisation’s public reputation.


And although it’s natural to focus on what’s wrong in the world – we need to also deliberately carve out a space for acknowledging and appreciating all the things that are going or have gone right. Provide positive feedback and encouragement for successes at work – reward desired behaviours to reinforce them. Your colleagues will feel more cared about, satisfied, motivated and resilient when things do go awry, and will wish to continue doing what’s securing them the good feedback. We feel closer and more committed to those who value us too. This doesn’t mean ignoring what’s bad and needs improvement but recognising also what’s good and well. So share, and get everyone to share, more positive and uplifting comments and stories at work.


Effective leadership is about empowerment – about developing others into leaders themselves. Effective business is about serving others – about fulfilling the needs and/or desires of customers. And all this requires having a decent EQ.


Meow. If you want to express how soft skills and social and emotional intelligence are vital to your job or line of business then please do via the Twitter comment button below.


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