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The Foundation of Emotional Intelligence

Self Awareness is both foundational to Emotional Intelligence (EI) AND very difficult to achieve.  It’s easy for us to think about ourselves, but it’s not so easy for us to really reflect in such a way that we know who we are and how we are perceived by those around us.  As a matter of fact, some of the LEAST self aware people I’ve met think that they are very self aware.

Self awareness is particularly important in leading others and helping them work better together.  Although it can be challenging, you CAN become more self aware. Here are 3 ways to practice “Self Awareness.”

  1. Reflect. Stephen Covey had it right when he suggested we take time to Sharpen the Saw.  This can be really difficult when we are constantly in “Go” mode, and even when we take time to sit down, we start looking through our phones for the latest message or social media post.  However, if you want to become more self aware, then take the time to reflect.  Reflect on your week. What worked well and didn’t work so well?  Reflect on your relationships.  How have your interactions been with those you work with most every day?  What about your relationships with your family or friends? Do you feel anxious or at peace?  Reflection can even include personality assessments, value exercises or creating a vision for yourself.  You can do this while sitting in your favorite chair or couch or perhaps even taking a walk outside – even if it’s way colder than you want it to be! You may spend 5-10 minutes each day or an hour a week or more depending upon your life situation.  No guilt or shame about how little or how much time you take reflecting. Start small and see what happens!
  2. Ask.  In order to better understand yourself, it can be really helpful to ask for feedback from those who are closest to you.  Be sure these are people you can trust and who will be constructive rather than destructive in their feedback.  You want to ask people who both believe the best in you and are willing to help you understand yourself a little better.  Another option, particularly if you are presenting at a meeting or on a webinar, is to conduct a brief, anonymous survey that includes questions related to whether you met your intended presentation goals or learning objectives and how you were perceived by the audience.
  3. Observe. Pay attention to the non-verbal expressions that others make when you are leading or facilitating a meeting or making a presentation. Pay attention to the questions that people ask and the way that people ask the questions.  If you see lots of grumpy or confused faces, folks may not be understanding or connecting with what you are saying. However, if you see lots of eye contact, head nodding and smiles, the people around you are resonating with what you are saying.  Use this feedback to better understand yourself and how you are perceived by others.  Also, please realize, that sometimes the non-verbal expressions people make and the words they speak have absolutely nothing to do with you but everything to do with the kind of day that they are having. Try not to take everything personally or assume it is because of you!  I know that is easier said than done. 🙂

Although there are some people who believe that it is impossible to become more emotionally intelligent, I think we all have the capacity to learn and grow in many different ways, including becoming more self aware.

So, what about you?  What are you doing to gain more self awareness?

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Photo by Oscar Blair on Unsplash

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