How High is Your Emotional Intelligence?

If ever a year (in reality, more than a year) tested our Emotional Intelligence (EI), this year was it. EI rests on being aware of emotions and how they play out in your life and that of others.  Having a high EI improves our communication and strengthens our relationships and the result is we are more successful.

The four main components of EI are:

  1. Self-Awareness,
  2. Self-Management,
  3. Social Awareness, and
  4. Relationship Skills. 

Responsible Decision Making, which results from these four, is sometime included as a fifth component, and you may find Empathy and Motivation included as well.

Self-Awareness means you know who and how you are. In addition to your library Mission, you have a personal purpose and know your core values. You recognize when you are having an emotional reaction to something said or seen and are aware of (and still learning about) your implicit biases.

Self-Management rests on self-awareness. What do you do when you recognize your negative emotions are engaged? Those who self-manage change their mindset to avoid what might turn into a confrontation or prevent a morning mishap from influencing the rest of the day.

Social Awareness means you can identify the emotions of others. You recognize when they are angry or upset.  As a result, you can be empathetic and keep emotions from boiling over. When in a group, you know how to “read a room.”

Relationship Skills are key to your success.  Librarianship is a relationship business.  If we don’t build relationships, we are out of business. You can’t build relationships without having the first three components of EI. We must always be looking for ways to connect, collaborate and create. Good relationships with students, teachers and administrators are required to achieve our Mission and Vision.

With these components in mind, John R. Stoker in Emotional Intelligence Begins with Self-Awareness poses ten question to assess the level of your EI and how to raise it where needed.

  1. What part of my behavior do I not see? Since it’s impossible to answer this alone, Stoker suggests you ask someone you trust. Be open to what they tell you (remember, it’s feedback – not criticism) using your self-awareness skills.
  2. Do you know who or what sets you off? Some people automatically cause our bodies to stiffen as we prepare for emotional combat.  Who does that to you?  More importantly, “Why?” The answer will help to anticipate and moderate your reaction.
  3. Are your relationships growing and deepening, or are they diminishing and contracting? If your relationships aren’t growing, you are losing support for your program. What is the cause? You may need to reach out again to others to figure this out.  
  4. Do people seek you out as a sounding board or for advice and support?  This is a good indicator that speaks to your relationship building skills as well as your social awareness and empathy. Do they come back for more?
  5. Do people volunteer to give you feedback? It takes a high degree of trust to offer feedback when not asked for it. Stoker notes this shows you are approachable.
  6. Do you seek feedback from others on what you could do to improve? Asking what you can do better increases your chance of getting honest, if possibly uncomfortable, feedback. Just as you help others, remember this is necessary if you are to improve. It also is an opportunity to build relationships.
  7. Do you express appreciation to others?  Thank-you’s are always good.  Even better is to let someone know you saw and admired something they did. Did a teacher manage a difficult situation with a student?  Let them know you learned something from it.
  8. Do you let your past history dictate how you treat others? Similar to #2, this is a reminder to keep an open mind. Use the past as a learning tool, not a prediction tool. A negative anticipation will guarantee a negative result.
  9. Are your interactions with others yielding the results that you want? How have you interacted with other?  You can’t change them, but if you identify your challenges with EI and make needed shifts, your dealings with them will improve.
  10. What similar situations repeatedly show up?  You are the common factor in all your interactions. Start with Self-Awareness and move through the other components of EI to see how you and your reactions have contributed to those situations.

As Leo Tolstoy said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Emotional Intelligence is a soft skill, but it can quickly make a bigger difference than all the hard knowledge you bring to your job. 

Take My Advice – Maybe

Are you up to your eyeballs in guidance and recommendations? Have you had days where if one more well-meaning person gives you one more suggestion you might scream? Or are you frustrated because no matter how much expert advice you read or receive, you’re still exhausted and overwhelmed?

This is because no matter how good the advice, if it doesn’t fit with who you are, it won’t work. Even the experts offering guidance have days when they struggle to handle what is on their plates. Nobody is immune to this. There are days when I have trouble deciding what comes first. It is often accompanied by not finding things where I thought I put them, physically or digitally. I wonder how am I supposed to help librarians with time management, if I can’t do it. It reminds me of an old saying, “Take my advice. I’m not using it.” 

When I get to that place, I take a breath and remind myself everything will get done; it always does. I go away from my desk, or, better yet, take a walk. Physically removing myself from my office, I can get my brain functioning again and see what needs doing first. I return to my computer with a plan, and all falls into place.

That’s me. Does it sound like you? If it doesn’t, it won’t work for you. No matter where we look, there is no magic pill of advice you can put into action.

LaRae Quy says in The Most Common Well-Being Advice That Doesn’t Work, self-help “is hard work that must be done by you.” She discusses four common recommendations that are most often offered, explaining why they don’t work, and what you can do about it.

  1. Develop Good Morning Habits – All too often, this is the suggestion of the rich and famous who profit from being prominent this way. You may not be a morning person. You already have a morning routine. Quy notes the last thing you need is to add one more thing to your busy morning. Unless… it works for you. If journaling puts you in a positive frame of mind, do it. If not, don’t. That should be your guideline for anything you add to your life. And accept the fact that life happens and some days you can’t get to the things that work. Don’t beat yourself up for the days when you can’t get to your new well-being habit.
  • Digital Detox – It doesn’t take a genius to realize we are tied to our devices, and they overwhelm us. Realistically, most of us cannot cut out these connections. The smart way to handle the digital tsunami according to Quy is to set boundaries. If the thought of a digital detox adds to your stress, consider taking control by stepping away for a short time. Instead of trying getting rid of devices for set periods of time, Quy suggests every 20 minutes look at something that’s 20 feet away. The change in eye-focus and blink rate is restorative.
  • Deep breaths –Quy calls this her “favorite piece of bad advice.” Unless you’ve got the time to do this for an extended period, it probably won’t provide a sense of well-being. When you are stressed, your emotional brain is in control, the flight/freeze, fright part. Your thinking brain needs time to catch up, which is why the recommendation to take the deep breaths. However, Quy says it won’t work unless you also acknowledge the underlying emotion that caused the panic. Take a moment to notice what you’re feeling (anger, embarrassment, worry, fear, etc) in whatever way works for you. Then your thinking brain can step in an work it’s magic.
  • Declutter Your Workspace – The belief is the clutter confuses your brain and keeps you from being organized. The reality is, it depends on you. Only you know if seeing a cluttered workspace distracts and upsets you or if it doesn’t bother you at all. If it makes you anxious, declutter. If it energizes you or doesn’t bother you, leave it alone.

The bottom line is, you need to take care of yourself, but the best way to do that is to learn what works for you. You can read advice columns—and, hopefully, this blog – but use if for ideas that resonate with who and how you are. And remember, some days nothing works. On those days – I recommend chocolate.