3 ways to increase the emotional intelligence of credit union employees

One of the primary aims of credit union managers is to be sure their employees provide a great experience to each member who walks through the door or who places a phone call to the branch. While members have historically based decisions on economical factors, such as interest rates, they are now responding with more feeling and emotion than ever before when making purchasing decisions. And because emotions are contagious, the way employees interact with members affects how members perceive the quality of service they receive at their credit union.

This is where the emotional intelligence of credit union employees comes into play.

While it is important for employees to have the “book smarts” to know policies, procedures, and sales techniques, having emotional intelligence, or “emotional smarts,” is becoming increasingly important for them as well. Briefly, emotional intelligence refers to our ability to A) identify our feelings, B) identify others’ feelings, and C) respond accordingly. And why should credit unions care about the emotional intelligence of their employees? Studies show more and more that emotional intelligence is a critical success factor in the business world, and in particular, financial institutions.

So how can credit union employees, from frontline tellers to executives, bolster their emotional intelligence? Below are three practical ways in which emotional intelligence can be increased immediately.

  1. Develop Empathy

Being empathetic means we recognize and understand how others feel. Displaying empathy is important because when others perceive that we are empathetic, they in turn believe we are treating them with fairness and respect. When it comes to interactions with members and coworkers alike, credit union employees can develop empathy by:

– Listening to others (and resisting the urge to interrupt)

– Being slow to offer advice (sometimes listening, from the point above, is enough)

– Taking others’ points-of-view into account (the old “put yourself in their shoes” adage)

  1. Practice Emotional Literacy

Being emotionally literate helps us place the focus of our own feelings and emotions in the right place. We can practice being emotionally literate by expressing our thoughts (to ourselves – not audibly) in three word sentences. For example, if a member is taking too long during a transaction then you might be tempted to think to yourself (or possibly say aloud) “You are ridiculous!” However, this emotion will only serve to get you down and will likely make you less effective during that interaction. On the other hand, if you redirect this thought by saying to yourself “I feel impatient,” then you are more accurately getting to the root of the emotion and are better able to regulate that emotion. Try these tips to increase your emotional literacy:

– Express your feeling with a three-word sentence

– Use “I” instead of “You” (this allows you to own the feeling instead of placing it on another person)

– Use feeling words in your three-word sentence (for example, I feel tired, exhausted, frustrated, etc…)

– Remember that thoughts determine emotion

  1. Develop Emotional Control

Whereas empathy and emotional literacy are fairly specific, developing emotional control is a little more broad. In general, emotional control means taking action on those situations in which we have control. For example, if a credit union member is rude to you during an interaction, you cannot truly control their behavior. However, you can control your behavior. One element you have control over is your breathing…yes, your breathing. Try taking deep breaths as a way to calm your emotional response. You might also try forward thinking in an instance like this. Forward thinking is a technique where you simply think to yourself “How significant will ___be tomorrow…or next week?” Yes, the member may have been rude to you.  But does their rude behavior require an equally rude response? No. A rude response by you will only hurt the member’s perception of your credit union. Developing your emotional control will help lessen the impact of a situation like this. In order to develop more emotional control, try these tips:

– Breathe deeply for a few seconds (perhaps find an excuse to step away briefly so that you can do this)

– Take a break (walk around the outside of the branch if time and weather permits)

– Try forward thinking (How important will ___ be tomorrow?)

Developing emotional intelligence takes time and practice. And simply practicing the preceding three tips will not make you emotional intelligence experts after one day. However, try these tips and see if they can help positively impact your interactions with members and coworkers today.