Have you said, or heard someone else say, “Well, that’s just me”, or “That’s Frank, we all know how he is”, or something similar to explain or justify poor, ineffective, or disrespectful behavior? It is a simple explanation, an easy justification, and an extremely limiting belief in our ability to be more than our natural tendencies. Essentially it is a deflection from taking ownership of our actions. We have the ability to learn and grow, it is a matter of if we see our ability to effectively manage ourselves, and our relationships with others, as an important priority or not.
In his work and writings Daniel Goleman shined a light on the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI) in the 90’s. Today, books, articles, assessments and training sessions abound on the subject. It is a hot topic in discussions around culture and leadership. While it is often touched upon, it is not as frequently taken on as a true development journey.
I use the word journey because, in my opinion, it is not something we complete or achieve. It is an ongoing process of working towards being the best version of ourselves every day. EI focuses on four areas: Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness and Social Management. Essentially it is about developing a deep and meaningful understanding of ourselves and how to manage ourselves effectively, as well as understanding others and managing our relationships productively.
This leads to a very high level of confidence that we can effectively manage ourselves in most situations, and have a lot fewer “I wish I hadn’t said or done that” moments. Likewise, we can experience having more moments where we find we are positively impacting those we interact with, and have positive and effective relationships blooming in all areas of our life.
Because we grow to understand our tendencies, our strengths and weaknesses (which can be situational), and our growth opportunities, we find there is little that catches us off guard in regards to our feelings, responses and reactions. We grow in our abilities to consciously choose our responses and our actions, and to be thoughtful and intentional in our interactions. We feel well prepared and able to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively.
We have the ability to choose how we show up, rather than trying to figure out how an interaction went so astray, or to find justifications for poor or ineffective behavior such as:
“Well, I was stressed out so that’s why I acted that way.”
“He or she made me so mad…”
“That’s just me, I get loud and they shouldn’t take it personally”
“I had to get my point across, that is why i kept cutting everyone else off”
Here is the power of EI. All of the above statements can be true for any of us, as our initial feelings or reactions. With EI we learn to recognize and manage those feelings, understand them, and then choose proactive, productive, and effective responses and actions as opposed to just reacting based on initial feelings or emotions. We know that we have a choice, and that we must own our feelings and actions, rather than find excuses for them. We understand and truly believe that no one and nothing else is responsible for our choices and actions except ourselves.
For any of us in a leadership role, and I would argue we are all leaders in our life, it is essential that we recognize the impact we have both on the trajectory of our own life, as well as the impact we have on the lives of those we touch. If I focus on being the best “Linda” I can be, that has obvious benefits for me, but it also helps me bring my best self to all the roles in my life and all the people I touch. For those who are employed as leaders, I heard someone speaking at a training session over 10 years ago say (roughly) the following :
“When you accept money from an organization, purportedly to be a leader, you give up the right to be ignorant about the impact you have on others.” Wow. It struck me so much I wrote it down (although I failed to write down the person’s name who said it!) and have kept it all these years. I believe this to be true in every facet of our lives.
Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This is so true.
Effective, meaningful and healthy relationships matter for all of us. We can control how we show up and impact those around us, and thus can experience great success and balance in our relationships and our life. The EI journey is not an easy one, or one with a final destination. It is an on-going commitment that ebbs and flows throughout our lives and provides us with the ability to hit fewer bumps along the way, as well as effectively help and connect with others that may be traveling with or alongside us.