How well do you handle your emotions at work?
Too many women and men read that question as a damnation of women who can’t control their emotions in the office. In fact, it’s more important that you learn to use your emotions intentionally at work, than merely control them. And in the ability to use their emotions, both women and men have a potential advantage.
We might even start with, “Do your emotions help you do your job better?” They do! Emotional Intelligence is one of the most important business and leadership assets you can develop, but emotional intelligence doesn’t always look as “emotional” as most people think. Often, it’s the more subtle emotional clues that give you the “intelligence” to decode a tricky interpersonal situation, read a negotiating partner or motivate challenging employees (and employees in challenging situations.)
How does understanding these emotional clues really help you? Here’s a short list:
- Reduce stress (yours and others’)
- Build win-win relationships
- Motivate yourself and others
- Communicate more effectively
- Give and receive constructive feedback
- Run meetings
- Handle difficult situations and people
I often hear people say that women are more emotionally intelligent than men. Any broad generalization like this is going to be easily proven wrong, but it’s true that women do tend to be good at empathy, social cues, collaboration. However, men tend to be better at managing difficult and stressful emotions in social situations, including not allowing too much emotional empathy keep them from taking needed action. So maybe a direct comparison is less useful than an assumption that we all have emotional intelligence and that we can all become better at using it. In fact, given how important EQ is for being a good leader (according to all the leadership gurus out there), if women had all the EQ they needed, wouldn’t we be better represented in leadership than we are?
As you can probably already tell, I’m a big believer in emotional intelligence as a coach and I see many opportunities for women to refine their natural emotional talent. I’m not talking about emotions like crazy-in-love or seeing-red-anger. I’m talking about the emotional clues that help you understand yourself and others better. Intelligence like this comes in handy when you’re trying to suss out things like:
- when people are buying into what you’re saying and when they’re holding back without saying so directly;
- when you’re genuinely excited and want to go for a new assignment and when you’re not interested but likely to do a poor job because you think you “should” do it even though you’re heart’s not in it; and
- how to tell what to say to keep a rocky working relationship from spiraling out of control.
So how do you start refining your emotional intelligence? Start by paying attention to your emotions and looking for the good information they’re bringing you. Become aware of how they guide you to make decisions and take actions more effectively. Stop pushing them away and start inviting them in for the gifts they bring along with them. If you’re struggling with too many negative emotions, practice detriggering, but keep paying attention to what the good – and bad – feelings are doing to help you. This isn’t a race won by the hare, it’s definitely a race where the tortoise has the advantage. Be patient.