“What can trigger you to have a bad day?“
That’s the question I asked the participants of Elevate, the high impact leadership development programme for women.
The training session was on Emotional Intelligence, a key leadership skill.
“Stress with my kids,” replied one woman.
“People. A bad interaction with someone,” said another lady.
“My emotions,” replied the third one.
“One of my team members reacting badly to something I said,” said the woman who manages a big team.
“Some family-related crisis,” answered another.
Stress related to people, unpleasant interactionare, difficult conversations are part of life, and happenall the time.
If we do not know how to manage the emotions they stir inside us, if we do not know how to stay grounded, they can destabilise us for the rest of the day. We will think, try not to think, push our feelings aside, analyse, rationalise, try to forget, and yet we will be affected, our energy level will drop, as a result, we won’t be able to be as productive, resourceful and creative, or zen.
That’s where Emotional Intelligence comes in handy.
Emotional Intelligence, first and foremost, is your ability to identify and manage your emotions as they arise.
We all need it, so that, no matter what happens at work or in our personal lives, we can stay calm, composed and continue with our tasks and goals.
Having a high EQ is especially paramount if you manage a team. It sets apart good managers from average ones, and inspiring leaders from poor ones.
In these uneasy, uncertainty-filled, remote work days, we alll expect empathy from the leaders and managers. However you cannot give your team members genuine empathy without being self-compassionate.
Equally important is that if you are not self-aware and know your own emotions, it’s hard for you to read others, or read the room.
Last but not least, Emotional Intelligence is the foundation of executive presence and leadership gravitas, the person’s ability to stay calm, composed and engaged on a rational level, no matter what comes your way.
So how does one develop a higher level of Emotional Intelligence?
As many of you know, Emotional Intelligence is one of my specialties. Over the last 15 years I have tested dozens of tools — to help myself and my clients manage emotions and find ways to feel peaceful and confident no matter what happens externally.
The most effective tool out there by far is the 3 steps of Mindful Self-Compassion. Since I began practicing it 8 years ago, it transformed my life and relationships. A growing number of my clients practice it regularly, too, with spectacular results.
With this tool, you will learn how to find inner peace even in the middle of a storm, metaphorically speaking. How to exude leadership presence during a presentation or delivering a workshop.
The 3 steps were developed by Dr Kristin Neff and Chris Germer, and it is the foundational EQ method to use if you want to manage stress and emotions, be a better manager and leader, navigate complex life situations with ease, and enjoy positive relationships.
The society conditions us from early age to be in our heads most of the time, and not to listen to our body, our emotions and intution. To raise our Emotional Intelligence, we need to get out of our heads, become aware of our emotions and then manage them with acceptance and kindness, so they don’t block us or drive our life and work.
Here is the breakdown of the 3 steps:
1) Close your eyes and scan your body for any physical sensations. (A fun fact: did you know that your emotions express themselves through your body and not your heads?)
Pay special attention to your face, neck, chest and abdomen areas.
Once you find the most intense sensation, ask yourself “If this sensation had a voice, what would it say?”
Do your best to name the emotion behind the sensation.
Breathe into it, fully accepting it.
2) Now normalise your emotion(s) i.e. tell yourself why it’s normal for you to be feeling this way right now:
Complete the sentence “It is completely normal that I am feeling … given that ….. (fill in the blanks).”
Now imagine how others under similar circumstances would feel the way you’re feeling:
“Most people in my shoes would probably feel the way I feel.”
3) Take another deep breath and ask yourself from the bottom of your heart:
What would be loving to me right now?
How can I be kind to myself at this very moment?
What would make me feel better?
or if you are in the meeting, turn the question into a statement:
“May I be kind to myself this very minute.”
This step is all about changing your intent into being kind towards yourself vs harsh, critical, judgemental or unforgiving.
As I mentioned before, these 3 steps are the key part of the Emotional Intelligence work.
If you want your EQ to go up and for you to always feel calm and composed, the 3 steps need to become your new habit — ie you’ve got to get out of thinking and headspace, go into your body, scan your body and do the 3 steps regularly. I recommend 7 times per day.
You will see a HUGE difference in how you feel: less stress, more calm and satisfaction, and more confident in meetings.
Your family and close colleagues will notice a change, too, after some time, if you practice the steps consistently.