Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence Part 3

February 24, 2022 by hw8w@virginia.edu

By John Schorling

Two recent Musings have been devoted to mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence (EI).  EI refers to the ability to understand and manage our own emotions, as well as to recognize and influence the emotions of those around us.   EI has been shown to be a powerful predictor of work performance, is an attribute of successful leaders, and can also be important in other settings.  There are four main components to EI: self-awareness; self-regulation; social awareness; and relationship management.  Relationship management is the topic of this column, and refers to using the awareness of our own emotions and those of others to optimally manage interactions.

There are a number of competencies that contribute to relationship management in Daniel Goleman’s model of Emotional Intelligence. All of these are grounded in self-awareness, of being aware of our present moment experience, as well as in paying attention to the experience of others.  The first competency is influence, having a positive impact on others. One of the primary ways we can do this is by listening without judgment.  Often when we seek to influence others, we just tell them what we think they should do, but this often just results in their resisting or pushing back.  This has been referred to as the righting reflex.  Noticing when this is happening can be helpful, and can be a signal that we are pushing too hard.   Steven Covey, who wrote the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, highlighted this as his fifth habit: “Seek first to understand, then be understood”.   In general, people are much more likely to consider other perspectives when they feel theirs have been understood first.

Managing conflict is another aspect of relationship management.  Many of us are conflict averse and may avoid conflict.  Noticing when this is the case is crucial, allowing us to acknowledge our own emotions without judgment, to center ourselves, and then to step in, to still address the conflict despite our discomfort.  Others may react to conflict by being more aggressive.  This often does not lead to successful resolution, as the other party may either respond more aggressively themselves or appear to acquiesce while actually not feeling that their concerns were addressed.  Again, paying attention to what we are feeling is important, noticing if conflict is resulting in feeling more aggressive so that we can center ourselves and respond in a more productive way.  Avoiding judgments, keeping an open mind, and listening to all sides are often key factors in resolving conflict.  This process has been referred to as moving from judgment to curiosity: “when in doubt, ask a question”.

Fostering teamwork is a third component of relationship management.  We can do this by finding shared meaning in what we are doing and allowing others to act without it having to be our way.  Noticing when thoughts are arising that things should only be done a certain way is a clue that our preconceived ideas of right and wrong have been activated.  Rather than reacting to them and telling others what to do, we can notice these judgments and let them go, being more open to how others might prefer to do things.  If we first agree on what we are trying to achieve, we can then give others the space to act more as they choose.

Being a coach and a mentor is also important to relationship management.  This involves listening to others and helping to guide them, being aware of when we may be promoting our own agenda rather than primarily caring about and supporting them.

Finally, inspiring others is important to being a successful leader.  Having a vision that resonates emotionally rather than just intellectually can help inspire others to work toward a shared goal.  People want to work on things together when they feel a sense of connection and purpose.  And, last but not least, emotionally intelligent leaders don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk.  They are mindful of their actions, and intentional in the choices that they make.

Filed Under: Monthly Musings