Caring is central to the philosophy of the library program which seeks to make the library a warm, welcoming space for all. A library mirrors the personality of the librarian. If you want to create that space, you must always be welcoming. How well we manage our own emotions and how we perceive the emotions of others affect our success as librarians and the success of our programs. We need to be able to “read” the person we are talking with, so we know if they are paying attention, are truly interested, or are taking offense. That knowledge allows us to make adjustments in what we say so that our message is heard.
That is just one example of how Emotional Intelligence (EI) impacts us. Businesses today recognize that, more often than not, “soft skills” are more important than hard skills. It is far easier to train someone in the tasks and responsibilities associated with a job than it is to develop their relationship skills. And many corporations will hire someone with good soft skills over another candidate who has greater expertise.
In her article What Are Soft Skills? Alison Doyle explains that soft skills “the personal attributes, personality traits, inherent social cues, and communication abilities needed for success on the job. Soft skills characterize how a person interacts in his or her relationships with others.” The social cues and communication she speaks of are part of EI.
I knew a librarian with several years of experience who was proud of being a graduate of a pre-eminent library school. However, she didn’t particularly like students and did only what was required. By contrast, a clerk working in that library who was studying to be a librarian was genuinely interested in students and would extend herself to help them and teachers. As you can imagine, teachers and students gravitated towards the clerk, even though the librarian knew so much more.
The “higher” your EI, the more likely you are to be successful. But is there a way to raise you EI? I found an unlikely helpful source. A GQ article offered suggestions since many men today are feeling uncertain of the messages they are sending out into a post #metoo world, and it’s affecting their careers.
The GQ staff spoke with Daniel Tolson who proposed 10 Ways to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence. Here are his tips, followed by my ‘tweaks’ showing how this plays out in our world:
- Ask an honest, trusted friend or advisor to help you consider if your perceptions of yourself are realistic from a different perspective. The challenge here is for you to be able to state your perception of yourself and then having the courage to ask someone if it’s accurate.
- Practice self-restraint by listening first, pausing and then responding. Active listening is a difficult skill for many of us. The pause before answering will help you become more accustomed to listening better.
- Summarize frustrations you may experience and determine triggers. Frustrations are part of our lives, but if you allow these feelings too much room, you send off negative vibes which others pick up. Remember, the person you’re talking to has their own frustrations. Think, “We are all in this together. How can I help?”
- Define what motivates you and what you most enjoy doing with your time. A reminder again to write a Mission if you haven’t done so and read it daily if you have. You might even consider creating a vision board if visual cues help you to stay focused and inspired.
- Think on paper! Identify your comfort zones and define your obstacles in writing. In medicine, they say “an accurate diagnosis is 50% of the cure.” Those who journal find it as effective as meditation and perhaps more so as it can presents a direction to follow along with a deeper awareness of our thought processes.
- Be aware of the message your body language is communicating. Whatever you are thinking, your body is saying. Watch for crossed arms, pulling back and not making eye contact.
- Implement strategies to make an excellent first impression. Try walking into your library as though it were the first time. What does it say? What does your website say? What about your typical dress? Look for ways to send positive non-verbal messages.
- After a negative interaction or misunderstanding, accept responsibility and find ways to make amends. The faster you deal with it, the sooner it can be fixed.
- Allow others to take the lead role so you can learn from their leadership style. This is a great way to have an unknowing leader mentor you. Is your principal viewed as a leader? How does s/he communicate that? Is there a teacher who is regarded as a leader? Why and what can you learn from that?
- Whenever you experience stress, stop and ask yourself this question: “Knowing what I now know, what would I do differently?” Once you have the answer, resolve to make that change immediately. You will make errors in your EI judgment. When it happens, examine what led you down the wrong path. What would have been a better approach or reaction?
I know this list can seem daunting if it’s not something you’ve done, but look at the ideas on this list which you think could benefit you. Pick one or two that seem most helpful to you. Practice them for at least a week. Did your interactions with other improve? Slowly add additional tips and take note of the results. Better relationships and more connection – in and out of your library – is always a valuable thing.