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Self-Awareness and Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

The term emotional intelligence (or EQ, Emotional Quotient) is thrown loosely around like confetti at a holiday parade. Yet, very few people understand why it's so critical. With emotional intelligence in big demand at the workplace, our expectations are even higher for business owners, managers, and leaders.

What many do not realize is that emotional intelligence develops in childhood (or not). The good news is that, unlike IQ, that doesn't change, EQ can be learned, but it requires knowledge, skills, and lots of practice.

Estimate reading time: 4 minutes

A leader teaching a course online

Some of the questions I hear in my emotional intelligence training are:

  • "Why am I so emotional? I just want to do my job."
  • "Why do my co-workers react so easily? Their emotional sensitivity disrupts our productivity."
  • "I just want my employees to stop the workplace drama and do their jobs!"
  • Or an employee can have the opposite challenge, "Why can't I express my feelings without getting angry? I just blow up."
  • "Why can't my co-worker stop being so defensive?"
  • "What's up with my manager; they're such a micromanager!"

How Emotional Intelligence Is Learned

From very young, we are taught (or not) how to understand, express and manage our emotions appropriately. Depending on how you were parented, you may have been taught to hide and suppress “negative” emotions. For instance, boys tend to be taught not to cry or to buck up because emotions appear weak; for girls, it’s okay to cry, yet, if they get angry, they should suppress anger, or they won't be liked. Generalizations, yes, but nonetheless, are still prevalent.

On the other hand, we readily embrace positive emotions. Happiness, peacefulness, and excitement are all types of emotions that everyone wants to experience. Given a choice, many might want to only feel positive emotions.

Example of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Yet, there are times when we may even suppress good emotions, even though we really don't want to. For instance, you just found out you are getting a promotion with a huge pay increase. Lucky you! You want to express the emotions that go along with this great news. Unfortunately, your co-worker just got told they need to buckle down or their job is on the line.

Allowing yourself to express all those great feelings in front of someone who has just received bad news isn't the right timing. Your co-worker would most likely view sharing your promotion as a lack of caring and compassion. So, instead, you temper your excited emotions. This is called social intelligence.

For an in-depth look at ways to increase emotional intelligence in the workplace, check out our article: "27 Best Ways to Raise Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace."

A Costco worker busy restocking in COVID-19

Emotional Intelligence - EQ at Work

Yes, it’s socially acceptable not to flaunt good news in the midst of someone who has just experienced a great loss. However, it is vital for you to celebrate your success. Granted, the timing isn’t right, but, once your co-worker is no longer around, there is no reason not to embrace your emotions. This is self-compassion. Don’t flee your happy feelings; hold that joy until later! Their hardship does not invalidate your positive experience.

The same is true when we experience negative emotions. Suppressing them and not dealing with them is unhealthy. Ignoring uncomfortable or unpleasant emotions can cause us to become numb and emotionally unresponsive. Using our example above, let’s assume your co-worker suppressed their emotions.

They don’t allow themselves to feel the threat of failing and possibly losing their job. Instead, they push them down and bottle them up. Perhaps, they just put try harder. Months go by, and then something good happens. Rather than allow themselves to feel joy and happiness, their responses are lackluster with few emotions tied to them. Whenever we repress negative emotions, we also repress the ability to experience the positive!

This is one reason why it’s important to allow ourselves to feel both positive and slower, heavier emotions, such as disgust or sadness.

Related reading: "What Is Emotional Intelligence?"

Successful Asian team celebrating their new product launch.

Why Social Intelligence at Work Is Important

Emotional intelligence is about feeling whatever we're feeling, regulating our emotions, and then expressing them in healthy ways. If we can't self-regulate, chances are that our relationships in the workplace are going to be strained.

Every day, we interact with co-workers and bosses who come from a wide assortment of backgrounds. Each of us has diverse mindsets and differing attitudes toward emotions. Some think there is no place for emotions in the workplace. Others know that is an impossibility and seek an emotional balance.

In addition to navigating emotions, we're also confronted by generational differences, varying work styles, and a wide spectrum of personalities, some more difficult than others. What could be more vital than effectively responding to diversity?

How Does Self-Regulation Equal Social Intelligence?

It is essential to keep in mind that negative emotions aren't bad. Viewing negative emotions as bad is not only a travesty but doesn't allow us to be human.

However, that's only what we’ve been taught along with socially acceptable norms, which often cause us to ignore or suppress our feelings. Instead, look at emotions like positive and negative charges like in electricity— emotions give us vitality and motivate us.

Being able to regulate our emotions and work through negative feelings helps us grow emotionally and create more room for the positive. At work, emotional regulation creates individuals that interact on a team with resilience. They work through their conflicts maturely and support others while seeking to understand differences.

Plus, higher EQ helps us develop a sense of inner peace within ourselves. When we are at peace, we tend to have less stress, lead happier lives, and achieve greater success. Productivity rises, and employee burnout quickly becomes a thing of the past!

In order to accomplish this emotional balance, we must be willing to identify and acknowledge all of our emotions and feelings and be open to exploring them. Each emotion has a purpose and is necessary to guide us to return to our True North.

Heartmanity can help you grow a thriving culture and emotionally intelligent teams. Email us at support@heartmanity for further details to learn greater emotional intelligence as a leader or team!

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Jennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence CoachJennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence Coach
Jennifer is the Heartmanity founder and an emotional intelligence expert. She has two decades of EQ experience and is the author of emotional intelligence training and courses. As an emotional fitness coach, Jennifer teaches EQ skills, brain science hacks, and a comprehensive approach that gets results. She is happily married and the mother of three incredible grown children.

Posted in Business and Leadership, Emotional Intelligence

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