How do we learn emotional intelligence? Can we change our basic nature just by willing it to happen?
Here is my response to one of my clients who was so sick and tired of feeling like a bully boss and not sure what to do. Let me know your thoughts too.
Dear Dr. Sylvia,
I have been labeled. Yup, I’m considered a big fat (well, not fat, just big) bully at work. Why? Because when someone doesn’t get their tasks finished in a reasonable time, I yell. Well, not really tell, I just get very determined and short. I talk in monosyllables and my cold icy stares set people to tremble, even in the hottest weather.
I’ve read the books, including yours, and truth be told, none of them really help me make the necessary changes. What’s in the way of becoming emotionally intelligent and showing the results in my behavior?
Not only do I need to know, HR is also looking for the answers.
Not Smart Enough
Learning a new skill, including emotional intelligence cannot be done by mere cognitive understanding. You can’t read and take a test and think you have it nailed. It’s no different from learning to play the piano. Just listening to Beethoven won’t get you there. You need to engage your “muscle memory.”
Ah, now we’re on to something.
Just reading a book, mine or any other, and then memorizing a set of facts or rules, nope, won’t make the real changes you desire.
What you need is more intense, like role play, case discussions, and feedback.
In our Total Leadership Connections program, there is a section of time where an individual needs to tell a colleague a truth that hasn’t been told, one that sits like stale and rotting food that has not been recycled.
The set up is to have someone play the annoying person while you tell your truth. Looks easy on paper. That is until the two sit in the middle of the room and begin to talk. Most individuals begin to sweat. The feedback from peers can be astounding. There is no escaping the realness of confronting tough issues.
The good is that, just like playing the piano, the practice goes right into the body and mind. Then, when back in “the real world” talking with the real person, the memory of sitting in that fishbowl and being held accountable comes rushing back.
You can practice in front of a mirror, you can practice with a friend, you can practice with a coach. The key word here is, practice. Once you get your muscle memory going you will begin to make positive changes.
I will be talking about this in my upcoming webinar “The 3 C’s of Leadership” coming in a few weeks. There will be some exercises you can do to and remember, practicing emotional intelligence makes perfect (or at least good enough). Hope you can join me.