When I get frustrated or overwhelmed at work, I describe it as "my brain going fuzzy". It feels as if my gray matter is sending a message that it's officially checking out. I find it hard to concentrate. I can get stuck in an ever-expanding loop of negative mental talk, and an inability to walk away from the progress of thought.
As I've learned more about EI, I've realized how much of one's EmotionaI Intelligence skills development is self-reliant. Truly, you must start with you. It's easy to look outward, but you've got to start by looking in. However, it's helpful to have a structure to work with, or simple activities that you can work on day-to-day, so you don't get lost in the emotional mire.
Here are a few things to add to your everyday efforts:
1. Use your words: Seriously, name what you're feeling, even if it's just for yourself. Occasionally, you may find that what you thought you were feeling isn't quite right. For example, you may think you're infuriated, when really you're hurt. Or you may feel challenged, but frightened. Whatever it is, put a name to it. We can often mistake one emotion for another, and clarity of feeling is important when working on EI skills.
Competency of EI addressed: Self-awareness.
2. Stop feeling like you can't step away: This might not always be an option, but take advantage of it as often as possible. When you feel tethered to your work area, it's easy to get trapped in a loop of thought, or build tension and anxiety that can get in your way. Get up, get away from your screen, and walk around a bit. If you find yourself in a difficult interpersonal moment, remember that it might help to shelve things for a later time. Stepping away can help both parties get perspective on the issue between them, and revisit it in calmer state of mind.
Competencies of EI addressed: Self-management, Relationship Management.
3. Do a visual check on those around you: It can be challenging to discern the emotional state of others without someone telling you in words. Work on your skills by doing a daily visual check-in with those around you. Observe your co-workers, and see if you can notice anything about their emotional state from their physicality. Perhaps a colleague looks slumped, upset, and fatigued; maybe you want to give them a little extra support today. Maybe your boss is rushing from office to office full of tension, or your team is bounding up to you, heads held high. Our bodies often communicate our internal life. Develop your ability to tune into the physicality of others.
Competency of EI addressed: Social-awareness.
4. Question your clarity: The more clear you are about your expectations of another person, the easier your interactions will be. This may include scheduling, workload, social obligations — whatever it is. When you're as specific as possible about what you expect, you not only avoid the frustration of confusion, but you give the other person the opportunity to counter your expectations with their own. For example:
Vague expectation, person 1: "Let's do this sometime this week."
Specific expectation, person 1: "Let's do this work this week. I've got Thursday afternoon and Friday morning available."
Counter expectation, person 2: "I'm booked then. Can we look at Monday morning?"
Differences in expectation can lead to a lot of interpersonal tension. Work on opening a dialogue about what's expected for and from all parties.
Competency of EI addressed: Relationship Management.