By: Holly Brochmann
You’re probably familiar with the term “people skills.” It’s a handy attribute both in life and in the workplace, in our industry especially. Generally, it means getting along with, relating to, and talking to people with ease – an outgoing personality vs. one that is more reserved or introverted.
A fancier term for people skills is emotional intelligence, often referred to as EQ. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as recognize and influence the emotions of those around you. The Harvard Business Review writes that emotional intelligence has evolved into a must-have skill, is a strong predictor of performance, and that the majority of managers value EQ over IQ.
If you want to boost your EQ or sharpen your people skills, it is my belief that you must first focus on one person in particular – yourself. This may come across as a self-centered suggestion, but it is anything but. Self-awareness is a primary element of emotional intelligence and is the gateway to nurturing other relationship management skills such as empathy. It also happens to be one of my personal favorite characteristics. Unfortunately, it’s somewhat scarce. Researchers have found that although 95% of people think they’re self-aware, only 10 to 15% actually are.
Like any skill or talent, self-awareness comes easiest to those with a natural ability. But it can be developed and cultivated, and it is possible for an individual to raise their self-awareness along with their EQ overall if they recognize its value in the workplace and are committed to daily improvement practices.
Google is full of articles with tips on how to enhance self-awareness, with meditation and journaling as common suggestions. But if you are like me, it’s unrealistic to adapt these practices into your daily routine. At least at first. So try the following three mindfulness strategies instead:
1. Pay more attention. Notice your response to others, and their response to you. What bothers you the most about people? What behaviors or actions are most likely to trigger your emotions, both positive and negative? What qualities do you find yourself drawn to in associates, coworkers and friends?
2. Be curious. Ask questions of yourself and explore how and why you respond the way that you do in certain situations. Be curious about others as well – instead of jumping to conclusions, try asking yourself – how would I have responded if I were in their shoes? What is going on in their lives that might have influenced their response?
3. Identify your emotional strengths and weaknesses. Take a personality test, or better yet, ask trusted individuals who know you well to give you a list. If some of their responses surprise you, then that’s a good indicator your self-awareness could use a boost.
Warby Parker co-founder and co-CEO Neil Blumenthal said, “A workplace that encourages self-awareness is an environment where the most productive, curious, and innovative people thrive.” I wholeheartedly agree. What do YOU think?