Five Ways to Use Your Emotional Intelligence at Work
Five Ways to Use Your Emotional Intelligence at Work

No matter what you do or where you work, your job probably involves some stressors.

Maybe you have too much to do and not enough time. Maybe you’re faced with information overload or, on the flip side, a whole lot of ambiguity.

Stressors like these can test even the most emotionally resilient among us. To help you rise to the challenge, here are five emotionally intelligent practices you could use to make the most of your innate strengths and thrive in a demanding environment.

  1. Be a team player: Use your strengths while leaving space for others to contribute.

    Striking a balance between competing and cooperating is truly beneficial on the job. But in stressful situations, many of us elevate our personal defenses and look out for number one. This reaction can set up a vicious cycle where people are afraid to express their feelings, leading to lowered trust. Eventually, teamwork is undermined and tension increases.

    One way to break this cycle is to take the first step and focus on the other person. Ask what that person thinks, feels and wants in the situation. Use listening skills and ask questions to make sure you understand what they’re saying.

    Once you know the other person’s perspective, express your own thoughts, feelings and wants (leaving your ideas out is not helpful in the long run). Aim for a balance between your views and those of your coworkers — that way everyone can contribute to solutions and accomplishments.

    You may be surprised at your ability to influence a more harmonious atmosphere by setting an example and changing the dynamics of one-on-one and team relationships.

  2. Understand conflict dynamics: Know your triggers, and let tension surface — then manage it wisely.

    People often fear and avoid conflict. But avoiding conflict can keep you from solving your most pressing concerns. A good rule of thumb is to focus on the problem, not the personality.

    When disagreements come up, the key to improving your experience lies in your willingness and ability to express yourself in a clear, supportive and honest way — and to encourage others to do the same.

    Another vital skill as a professional is to graciously receive information from others about how your actions impact them. A healthy exchange about what gaps exist between the way things are and the way they ought to be does not have to be personally threatening when both parties learn to handle it with caring concern.

  3. Engage in self-reflection: Use positive self-talk and reframe negative situations.

    Managing your own moods is one of the most important abilities to develop for your professional life. And the first step to better understanding yourself and your moods is realizing you see the world through your own unique lens. So, in turn, your experiences reflect your expectations and judgments.

    Take small steps to engage in self-reflection. Try writing in a journal to notice patterns, talk to a friend or seek coaching or counseling. All of these options can help you examine the internal sources of your difficulties. In the process, you may become less critical of yourself and others.

    Practicing positive self-talk and learning how to step back and consider alternative ways of viewing situations are important skills in maintaining resilience and managing your moods. Listen to the tapes you play in your head each day. If you’re giving yourself negative messages, make an effort to reframe them and cast them in a more positive light.

    For example, if your internal messages are, I’m tired, I’m anxious or I’m not good at this, change them to, I’m energized by this challenge, I’ve done something like this before and can do it again or I can get help and improve. The good news is you can rewire your brain through positive messages.

  4. Strengthen relationships: Use empathy to cultivate rapport.

    Many of us tend to think of communication as information giving. But one-way communication doesn’t get you very far in nurturing relationships. Empathy, on the other hand, benefits both parties and can go a long way in building connections.

    Trying to see things from another person’s point of view takes you beyond making assumptions and gives you a better understanding of that person’s perspective, leading to a stronger bond.

    To develop empathy, start by being curious and approaching others with a genuine desire to learn more. Ask questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no. Pay attention to the answers you get and listen for deeper meaning. Then check your own perceptions of their statements and concerns by asking whether you’ve got it right.

    Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and express your own thoughts, too. Opening yourself up will set the stage for encouraging others to do the same, which can help take your relationships to a deeper level and increase your capacity for empathy.

  5. Practice self-care: Balance work and recreation, and stay present in everyday life.

    Are you able to set aside your work issues enough to enjoy your personal life? Ask yourself whether your time away from work is satisfying. If the answer is no or if you find yourself constantly checking email or dwelling on work, it may be time to examine your work-life balance.

    Start by creating a vision for your life and relationships apart from work. Are you making time for the people and activities you care about? Is your health suffering from too many hours of work or constant worrying about issues at the office? Do you feel satisfied with the amount and quality of time you spend with your friends and family? Identify the things that are most important to you and determine how you will make room in your life for them.

    Last but not least, be present in the moment. Doing this is another way to take care of yourself at work and in other areas of your life. The simple practice of pausing to take a few deep breaths when you feel anxious can be a helpful technique for becoming calmer, more centered and more aware of your surroundings. Try this just before entering an important meeting to increase your confidence.

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Author Bonnie Hovel

Bonnie Hovel

Guest writer Bonnie Hovel, a licensed social worker, is owner and principal consultant at GroupWyse, an organizational development firm dedicated to helping people find significance in their lives and their work. She provides practical coaching and training to leadership and teams, inspiring and guiding her clients toward achieving their goals.

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