Bright , 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.
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.
How 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.
Arrogant-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.
Yet, 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.
Understanding 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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