Career, Communication, Developing Others, Emotional Inteligence, Personal & Professional Development

The Things I Didnt Know(That I Didnt Know)

3Bright , Smart , Educated , Articulate, Confident  and Intelligent (IQ). Have any of these attributes been used to describe you? I’m pretty sure they have. And whether  you might have developed any of these traits throughout  all your years of schooling  or your gene pool, these should make you pretty awesome or augur well for your success. After all, aren’t these the traits we admire in others or  believe could  place us in pretty good stead, to achieve success in whatever  our sphere of endeavor? Perhaps or Perhaps Not.

Why Not? Simply because, none of these attributes,  not even your IQ,  means that  you are, or will be  emotionally intelligent.  According to Wikipedia, Emotional Intelligence or (EI or EQ) speaks  to one’s ability to identify, assess and control the emotions of one’s self, of others and groups. Therefore , we can logically conclude that emotional intelligence is  a currency  in heavy demand – a skill/competence/trait  that each individual must have to be successful in the dynamic environments in  which we live, work or play.

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The importance of EQ as a trait/skill today  is  evidenced in:

  • The emphasis  organizations place on soft skills training and development  to minimize conflict in the workplace, build synergy among team members and equip managers and  leaders  to effectively execute their roles.
  • The popularity of team work, customer service, interpersonal and communication skills as  measures of performance during the appraisal process.
  • The many self-help  books written and sold on personal and professional development, leadership and management ,and last but not least-
  • The frequency with which friends, pastors, counselors are called upon to provide guidance  on  simple and complex issues that people encounter, whether they be married, single or dating.

imagesCALDSRT3How then,  is all of this related to the title of this post-What I  Didn’t Know (That I Didn’t Know). You see, I always knew I was intelligent.  I had been told this all my life, long before I even truly  understood what it meant . What I didn’t know is that, being intelligent  did not guarantee  or equate to  being emotionally intelligent. Far from it. Sure I had read about the concept (haven’t you?), heard it banded  about leaders and managers in conferences  and meetings,  but I still didn’t get it . In fact, a brief review of my earlier post will provide some insights on some of my earlier challenges.

The first hint I got,  about my emotional intelligence quotient  came quite  unintentionally. I had participated in a  leadership development workshop along with the  other members of the management team at my former company.  The facilitator for the session had  asked us not to sit with  our  friends, or the persons on our work teams. Instead, we were to  sit with person(s)  with whom we didn’t often interact. So, I resisted the urge to go sit with my  familiar faces, and sat with a member of our executive management team. In one of the activities we did, we were asked to reflect on ourselves, and identify the experiences that had shaped our lives and personalities. After which, we were to share our reflections with our  learning partner. It was an activity designed to help participants understand more about themselves,  and also help them to understand each other and the many ways we were all similar. For often times, we see and relate to our colleagues on the basis  of what they do (job title) or  in terms of working relationships . So in the true spirit of learning and active participation, I completed the exercise and we shared . This went well. But what got me , was when she  shared with me that she now understood  me a little differently . When I enquired what she meant, she related that she had always thought me to be arrogant.

untitled5Arrogant-oh how  I dislike the word, let alone to have it be used  to describe me. I knew I was very self confident, extroverted, assertive (some say too bold)  and far from shy, but I couldn’t process arrogance. My childhood experiences, years spent participating in student leadership and  advocacy  plus natural genetic disposition  had shaped me in that way.  I basically figured  that, if I had an opinion that was relevant to any issue or a matter at hand-then I would express it. As long as I was respectful  in my conduct and language, I would say what I  wanted to . Looking back at that 20+year old young professional, I  now shake my head and smile wryly. But at that time, I still didn’t get it.  Nonetheless,  my learning partner and I, had worked together for over 5 years in different roles, and I was keen on understanding why she thought I was  arrogant.

So back to the story, by the time she was finished sharing with – I began to mull over her perception and perhaps the perceptions that other persons might hold of me. After all , we have all heard the saying-“perception  is reality”. I wondered about that perception( hers and others) (real or imagined) and how it had or could have impacted my relationships. You might be wondering  why  this opinion shared should have mattered so much to me, given that, some people  sometimes have varying motives when they share their opinions. Maybe it was her position in the organization that made me notice or care,  or  just the context (I was in learning mode) in which our conversation played out.  Maybe all of the above , but one thing was for sure, I left that workshop thinking about it.

images-2Yet, that was not my AHA moment . My AHA  moment came later through a another leadership development program. Only then, did I fully learn about  EQ , and  the importance of understanding  one’s self, goals, responses, intentions and behaviors, as well as  that of others. I remember being overwhelmed by  varied emotions (Yup- I cry, especially when  deeply affected by something) as I went through the session. And  invariably, that previous encounter in which my  learning partner had shared  her perception of me being arrogant came to mind. Here, I finally realized and have known ever since that- people’s opinions, views and experiences of us may differ from the perspectives and belief we have of ourselves. Their perceptions are not necessarily wrong or right. For in my case, my  disagreement with her  earlier perception  of me being  arrogant did not change her  opinion. No, it was  through her having an opportunity to understand more about me,  my upbringing and  other factors that  had shaped my life, that she shifted her thinking. And this is a critical element of EQ- that ability to value other people’s perspectives, recognize their feelings and find ways to coexist or work together seamlessly.  Armed with this new knowledge and  deeper appreciation of EQ, I  have been better able to process and understand and manage my emotions, behaviors and that of  others. And truly my life has never been the same since.

imagesCARX1UQLUnderstanding EQ and applying it to everyday living requires continuous effort. It  requires self assessment and introspection and will challenge you to think differently about the things you thought true about yourself, thereby leading to greater self awareness and self management. It will also provide you with insights as to how others might be experiencing you- which again may be different from what you intend or even how you see yourself . This will enable you to  hone your social awareness and social skills and help you to adjust accordingly. So referring  back to the my earlier experience, I could then understand that, my  confidence and assertiveness could be mistaken for arrogance and I would need to be carefully balance  manage myself  to ensure personal effectiveness.

Hence my biggest takeaways and learning’s about EQ are:

  • Know Thyself:  You have to be constantly aware of  your emotions,  behaviors , intentions, strengths and weakness .
  • Manage Thyself: Emotions are habits  and  we are what we repeatedly do. Our  inability to adjust our  habits to ensure they reflect our true intentions- comes at our own peril.
  • Master yourself: Learning new emotions, unlearning old behaviors  along with managing one’s emotions  is hard  but necessary. For that is  only way we can truly control our lives.

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