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Considering what is going on in the world of work right now I think we could all do with a moment to take stock of our career journey thus far and focus on our professional brand. There was never a better time for a little self-discovery and/or self-expansion in order to remain an asset to the workforce in a time of economic downturn.
No matter the difficulties you are facing right now making your professional brand a priority, and spending time on discovering who you are professionally will be a personal investment you won’t regret. The job market has significantly shifted and so must we. I believe this requires tapping into the power of emotional intelligence (EI) and refining your soft skills so that you not only survive but can learn to thrive through economic hardship.
In this FIVE part series I would like to highlight a range of techniques that can help you to build a self-management practice based on the 5 pillars of Emotional Intelligence:
- Empathy and
- Social skills (social awareness).
We will begin with self-awareness, but before we do that let’s revisit and define EI.
Emotional Intelligence is when a person can recognize their own and others emotions and use this information to guide their thinking and actions. It’s managing your emotions rather than being managed by them. I personally like to think of it as emotional monitoring and observing, this includes tapping into your intuition or ‘gut feelings’. It’s in-the-moment analysis of how your emotions are interacting with your environment.
As we learn to successfully navigate and manage our emotional states it allows us to remain agile and flexible in the workplace. It’s something you can start today and will have positive long term effects well into the future.
Developing your EI boosts emotional confidence, whilst building resilience and grit in times of uncertainty. No company wants to lose employees that possess such qualities, especially when they are needed the most.
The COVID pandemic and current climate has left many of us feeling a range of unpleasant emotions that can be all encompassing. As Dr Joan Rosenberg said in her TED Talk, what we feel emotionally is felt in the body first; she explains this as bio-chemical waves. As I’m sure you can relate, we don’t usually want to feel and ride those unpleasant emotional waves, therefore our first point of defence might be avoidance, self-preservation or even resistance. When we feel threatened or in emotional pain we can adopt avoidance methods in order to detach from its full intensity. This may look like over eating, drinking alcohol, or placing the blame on someone else. In our attempt to avoid the emotional overwhelm we might also become fixated on what we can’t control like how other people are behaving or thinking instead of how ‘we’ are acting. This fixation keeps us in an emotional holding pattern and a state of cyclic stress. This is why being self-aware and knowing when we are using these tactics can help us to break-through onto more constructive and helpful paths of thinking, feeling and most importantly behaving.
I view self-awareness as seeing, hearing, feeling, and validating who we are from the inside. When it is mastered it looks like in the moment accurate assessment and evaluation of one’s own thoughts and feelings as well as how they impact or interact with our environment. Self-awareness can lead to positive shifts in our personality, temperament, and behaviour which allows us to build resilience and emotional flexibility in the workplace and in life. I am a great believer that when we come to accept we can’t change a situation (like this pandemic/working from home) we are pushed into changing ourselves. Changing ourselves for the better requires the aforementioned development of Emotional Intelligence and the best place to start in the process is by adopting greater self-awareness techniques or strategies.
My Top 3 Self-awareness Practice Techniques
Adopt the ‘Observer’ Character
Ever wanted to test out your acting ability? Well now is your chance. We have many different versions of ourselves that can be likened to characters. Sometimes in the world of psychology they are called archetypes, you might be familiar with some and be less aware of others. Some examples might be the ‘helper’, the ‘Creative’ the ‘mother’, the ‘child’ and so on. A creative and useful way to begin to be more self-aware on a regular basis is to develop the ‘Observer’ character within you. We all have one, it’s that ‘care taker’, ‘guide’ or ‘wise’ part of ourselves. The observer quality can be called upon when you need to check in with your current state, it’s a version of you that steps back and objectively observes how you think, act and feel in any given moment. You can start to develop the observer in a few different ways but I have two examples I personally find most effective (these require a little imagination):
- Imagine the observer character like a part of you that steps out of your body and hangs out next to you. The observer almost magically watches over you. Imagine you are watching yourself in a situation where you are upset or angry and you want to change how you react. When you tap into the observer skills, you adopt an objective view where you can really see, hear and feel what is going on in that moment. This should allow you to choose how you will respond to the situation rather than react without any thought.
- Alternatively you might like to imagine there is always blue sky above you and each thought or feeling you have are the clouds that float by. You can imagine these clouds come and go, because it’s important to remember not all your thoughts are true or helpful. Maybe in that moment you can let some of them go. This can be both an observational and mindful activity to calm and ground you.
These techniques are all about stepping back and observing our thoughts and emotions rather than allowing them to take hold. By adopting the ‘observer’ we can align what we feel on the inside with how we choose to act on the outside. It’s a powerful method in the workplace that allows you to communicate effectively on a more consistent basis.
Daily reflection and feedback
- Although this can be time consuming, journaling or making note of your experiences and what you observe about yourself can have a huge impact. I spent most of my 20’s learning about counselling and coaching, many of the activities in the courses were about reflection. I had to write what seemed like endless essays and journal entries about how I felt, how I was acting at work, or in my personal life in order to gain insight and develop my self-understanding (self-awareness). These activities made me so confident in my abilities to analyse who I was in different situations and how I can change how I respond and behave in my life. I highly recommend taking time out to reflect and if possible write down what you are learning about yourself in various situations.
- Another way to do this is to take note of the feedback you get from people. At work you may have quite direct feedback, other times it’s more indirect. For example a manager in your 1:1 meeting tells you something about your performance that’s direct and easy to understand but on another occasion a colleague turns their body away when you are speaking about something which is less direct. Both are forms of feedback, the latter is harder to read but again self-awareness is noticing how we are behaving and the next step is noticing how we are effecting or impacting people or the environment around us. For example maybe you were saying something that made your colleague uncomfortable or maybe they were disagreeing with what you were saying. The key thing in these kinds of situations is that you are not responsible for how anyone else feels, however you can take the non-verbal feedback and later reflect “could I have approached that different?” “What could I do differently next time?”
Get to know your strengths, values, character traits and more
- Ok, my final technique in the TOP 3! Another super impactful way to build self-awareness is by getting to know your personality, your work preferences, your values, skills, attributes and more. This can simply be done by taking note of performance reviews, doing personality tests, skills analysis or questionnaires.
Try some of these free and paid options to get you started:
Happy exploring, and enjoy the journey towards greater SELF-AWARENESS
Dr Joan Rosenberg