Managing relationships & EI

Emotional Intelligence or EI and managing relationships.

Managing relationships with others is the fourth pillar of Emotional Intelligence or EI.

Recall that emotional intelligence comprises four pillars: self-awareness, self-regulation, understanding others and managing relationships.

You could check out my “Emotional Intelligence is vital” post for more insight.

Do you really need other people?

“No person is an island, entire of itself; every person is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

Taken from John Donne’s Devotions (1624)

I’ve changed John Donne’s quote a little because of modern gender correctness. The 16th and 17th century world of John Donne was markedly different to our enlightened utopia. That aside, the basic truth of his statement is unaltered.

The answer to the question, “Do you really need other people?” is a definite yes.

Even if you don’t like other people, you do need them. Subsequently, because you need them you must also become more adept at managing relationships with them.

Your networks are everything

You must build solid and effective relationships with other people in all areas of your life and work. We all must create and successfully manage such strong personal and professional networks. You also need to be able to operate effectively as key elements in the networks of others.

When the first three pillars of emotional intelligence are firmly in place, you can then begin effectively managing relationships.

Your relationships define you

Your friendships, family connections and working relationships define you. Modern life is nigh on impossible without them.

Even if it were possible to live entirely alone and isolated, from my perspective at least, it would be a miserable and pointless life.

What defines a relationship?

We can most usefully talk about the word relationship here as either the way in which two or more people are connected, or the way in which two or more people or groups think about, feel about, interact with and behave toward each other. The first part of the two-part statement above defines a relationship’s connection component and the second part speaks to the quality or nature of the relationship.

An example:

For example, a residential landlord may be said to be in a relationship with a tenant due to the fact one rents the other a dwelling; this is a straightforward relationship description based on connection.

You might also describe the situation by saying the landlord and tenant have an uneasy relationship; because the tenant is always waiting until the very last minute to pay their rent. This speaks more to the quality aspect of the relationship. A low-quality one in this example.

Your capacity for managing relationships has its limits

Relationships can fall anywhere on a spectrum running from strong to weak.

You will also have a huge number of relationships in your life.

Some you will be aware of and actively managing and some you may be aware of but have no interest in managing. There may well be some you are aware of but have no ability or opportunity to manage and yet more of which you are simply unaware of at any level.

How exactly will this help me?

This article series is about practical emotional intelligence in the real world.

Going along to get along is a great mantra to keep in mind. Improved emotional intelligence levels and balance will be of great benefit for everyone.

I work mostly with organisational leaders & managers

Because I tend to work mostly with organisational leaders and managers, I focus my own EI efforts in that domain. I help organisational leaders and managers develop their EI skills and mindsets.

Being a more effective leader or manager is all about managing relationships well. Building solid sustainable relationships with other people, groups and organisations.

Your personal magic starts here

This is where your magic begins to happen because knowledge, as they say, is power.

You can, and must, apply your new EI managing relationships knowledge to any life/work domain you choose. No excuses, you are in control now. This frees you to shine.

Intention, specificity and focus

As you will have been working on your emotional intelligence, you will be more self-aware and better able to regulate yourself. Also, you will have a better understanding about what makes other people tick.

Now, you are ready to look at your relationship with the world in general and more specifically other people.

You can now begin to consciously and intentionally identify, investigate and then classify the relationships in your life. Subsequently, you can redefine them if necessary or build upon them in new, interesting and beneficial ways.

When managing relationships, connection comes first

The connection always comes first. Better connections naturally lead to better relationships. Proactively managing relationships is eminently doable, because you have a surprising amount of control over who you connect with and which groups you associate yourself with.

You may not be able to choose your family and relations, but you can choose your own friends and associates.

There are always choices

Also, up to a practical financial and skill-based limit, you can choose where you work and often, who you associate with within that working environment.

You can choose who you wish to approach to initiate a potential new relationship and you can refuse some or all such approaches to you if you so desire.

Bear this in mind because it is important; you always have choices.

With no connection there cannot be a practical personal or business relationship.

Relationship quality follows close behind

If a relationship exists at all then it follows that the relationship has some sort of inherent quality which defines that relationship. This inherent quality can also determine the stability and durability of the relationship.

Any inherent qualities can be both positive and negative and can be symmetrical or asymmetrical within any relationship.

Some qualities can overpower others and take control of or even destroy a relationship if not managed and controlled.

A dysfunctional relationship example:

Suppose, for instance in a marriage, if one partner deeply mistrusts the other. This can lead to paranoia and stress.

The untrusted partner can become so upset with the suspicious atmosphere they seek external comfort and misbehave. They likely would not have misbehaved at all in a trusting environment. If this happens the mistrusting partner sees it as validation of their mistrust, and it has in fact become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

This is obviously not a high-quality relationship. Even if both parties split up and found other partners, one or both may inadvertently repeat the same negative behaviour with similar outcomes.

Unfortunately, managing relationships is always asymmetric

Any relationship is impacted by asymmetry. There can be unequal levels and intensities of high-quality and low-quality interactions.

However, it gets worse before it gets better, because whilst you had quite a bit of control over the connection, you can only ever have full control over one half of the quality; your own half.

This means you can always choose how you behave and respond, but you have no direct control over how the other party responds or reciprocates.

You can of course try to influence the other party or group but, if the situation is extremely bad the best thing to do may be to break the connection entirely and end the relationship.

Managing relationships is a deliberate & conscious creative act

The key things with managing relationships is that word managing.

You need to actively manage things. You need to manage the connections you make then you need to manage your contribution the quality of that connection.

Effectively managing relationships doesn’t happen entirely magically. Good situations need to remain good. Poor situations rarely fix themselves spontaneously.

Be proactive

The successful and effective management of a relationship is a deliberate and conscious act. Ideally this happens on both sides of the connection equation; these generally prove to be the better connections overall.

Communication, compromise, respect, trust, understanding, listening, compassion, etc… are all key elements of positive healthy relationships.

Always be checking in

You need to be constantly checking and monitoring to ensure these elements are front and centre. If they’re missing or disappearing, then action will need to be taken.

You must take charge and manage.

Bear in mind, if there are any issues, you may be the party causing the issues. Always be managing yourself first. Sort it out or break it off.

Creativity is also vital

I also used the word creative here. Creativity is an important component when managing relationships.

When things which have worked in the past stop working then you will need to get creative. Try something new. If it fails, try something else. Use your judgement here and don’t end up flogging a dead horse. Tenacity is a good trait, but stubbornness is not so good.

Relationships are not good when either party is too passive or too aggressive. Balance works best.

Is the EI puzzle complete now?

The four pillars are in place. You have all the tools required. However, your work has only just begun. Like the game of chess, the rules can be straightforward enough, but it can take at least one lifetime to get good at the game.

You’re more aware of emotional intelligence as both a concept and a practical learnable skill.

I recommend making EI and its development a priority in your life.

Your way forward with EI

Firstly, seek your own balance across the four EI pillars.

Then seek to raise your skill level in all the EI pillars equally and to as high a point as you can.

Life is not meant to be a spectator sport. Get involved in your own life and enjoy it to the max.

If you are not in control of your life, then someone else will be. Trust me, controlling it yourself is far better.

What next?

I hope you have enjoyed this article. If you have, please subscribe to either the blog or my newsletter to ensure you hear about subsequent articles and other useful and informative material.

In the meantime, you might also like to check out:

Emotional Intelligence is vital

Self-awareness and Emotional Intelligence

Self-regulation and Emotional Intelligence

Understanding others and EI

Understanding others & EI

Emotional Intelligence or EI and understanding others

Understanding others is the third pillar of emotional intelligence or EI.

Recall that emotional intelligence comprises four pillars: self-awareness, self-regulation, understanding others and managing relationships.

You could check out my “Emotional Intelligence is vital” post for more insight.

But everyone else is just like me, aren’t they?

We’re generally drawn to people who seem to be like us. We generally get on well with them. We’re used to communicating with people who “get” us and get our style. It comforts us to believe everyone is essentially a copy of us. If we stick to our style we generally do okay.

We like our comfort zones.

Emotional intelligence or EI and understanding others. Comfort zone versus everything else graphic

If you’re thinking this way, then you are way off base. Because, by only concentrating on similarities, you’re missing so many opportunities to connect with others and grow. The differences are where the treasure lies.

So then, your challenge, at this stage of your emotional intelligence enlightenment journey, lies in discovering exactly how different people really are and why it matters.

Understanding others and fully connecting with other people starts with understanding the differences.

Emotional intelligence or EI and understanding others. The differences make all the difference

Once you embrace the differences, you can look at bridging the gaps. You can look at successfully building and effectively managing your relationships with other people.

Everyone else is not like you

Commit this to memory:

“Everyone else is not like you”

Remember it because it’s important.

Everyone else is not like you.

As we’ve noted, some of them may seem similar in many ways, but they are not you and therefore are not like you.

Going about the business of understanding others using this specific statement as a foundation will help you get a genuine handle on what makes other people tick. It will also open the doorway to far greater benefits.

Emotional intelligence or EI and understanding others. Everyone else is not like you.

I’ll say it again for extra emphasis. Everyone else is not like you.

How does that help my understanding of others?

As a consequence of this, you will no doubt have some questions. How exactly do they think, behave and feel differently? In what specific ways are they different from you and me? Come to that, how are you and I different? Are there any similarities at all?

When you get down to it, other people can be confusing and strange. It’s hard enough to try and figure out what makes us tick. Once other people get involved in any part of our lives and work, it can get very messy and complicated.

Emotional intelligence or EI and understanding others. "Other people do my head in".

Life would be technically easier without other people, but it would be a lonely and essentially pointless existence. We need other people and generally we like other people, so it makes sense to try and understand as much as possible.

Above all, remember that everyone is as unique in their way as you are in yours.

Treat them as unique and you will do well.

How exactly do people differ?

How long is a piece of string?

Emotional intelligence or EI and understanding others. How long is a piece of string?

I’m afraid I can’t offer a better answer than this.

A quick thought experiment will assist here.

Think of any one attribute you may possess. For instance, do you believe you have a well-developed sense of humour? Likewise, consider the humour level of all the people you know. Place them on a scale running from “no sense of humour at all” to “funniest person on Earth.” Where are they placed? Where are you?

Emotional intelligence or EI and understanding others. The humour spectrum for example.

Now, imagine all the people on Earth placed on this line. Make the imaginary line long enough everyone would find a place to stand. Because we cannot realistically do this, we tend to lump people together into sub-categories of our own design.

It’s all about your perspective

You might see yourself in the very funny category and see someone else you know as being in the totally unfunny category. However, someone else might place you in a category of their choosing such as “idiotic clown” or “buffoon” perhaps. It’s all very subjective.

Emotional intelligence or EI and understanding others. Perspective matters as in "I'm funny" versus "He's an idiot."

Consequently, psychologists, sociologists and many other “ologists” try to make more scientifically rigorous objective categories and classifications. They do this to improve everyone’s understanding. However, whilst these systems are very useful to create a scientific lingua franca, or common-language, for differentiating people, they are not always easy or intuitive.

To sum up, the frameworks used are often highly subjective and confusion reigns.

So, how can you get the knowledge you need to begin understanding others?

So, do you really have to know everything about everyone in order to make sense of the world?

There is good news. Although each one of us is truly unique, we can still be usefully categorised and bundled in quite general ways. Don’t think of this as “pigeonholing” people. Think of it rather purposefully generalising.

Emotional intelligence or EI and understanding others. We're generalising NOT pigeonholing here.

For example, here is one classic and well-used distinction. Psychologically introverted people versus psychologically extroverted people. People can be usefully placed at some point on the spectrum between introvert and extrovert. Such information can be used to inform the style and even content of your interactions with them, as well as their interaction styles with others. Why not look these two terms up on line – there’s a ton of information out there.

Broad-brush is useful

Emotional intelligence or EI and understanding others. Each puzzle piece helps build a bigger better picture.

These broad-brush definitions, classifications and spectra are not truly accurate, but they are incredibly useful ways to inform our own thoughts about and behaviour toward the other person.

Emotional intelligence or EI and understanding others. A bigger better picture emerges.

They represent a good starting point for quickly developing a mutually beneficial relationship.

What about creating your own broad criteria? Go for it. You can classify people in ways which suit you best. Don’t tell anyone what they are of course, as they might get upset, but go ahead and use them to help you on your way.

Practice and study

With a little study and practice you can become very adept at recognising where other people lie on these broad category spectra. At this point you can adapt your communication and behaviour styles to get the best from any encounter with them. You can also begin to analyse interactions they have with others.

Achieving this level of skill and adaptability puts you in a great position as a connector with, and influencer of, other people.

Further reading

I recommend the book “Gifts Differing” by Isabel Briggs Myers. Although this is a book about the Myers Briggs Type Instrument, it does provide a great introduction into the concept of identifying useful common traits and their potential meaning when relating to other people.

The very best tactic of all for understanding others

This single tactic gives you the biggest and most useful results of all.

Be a people watcher. Be a conscientious and dedicated student of human nature.

Emotional intelligence or EI and understanding others. Be a people-watcher and study well.

Warning! Please don’t be an out and out stalker or a voyeur. These activities are quite rightly illegal. I’m talking about observing people as part of your everyday life and during normal interactions with them.

Look, learn & compare

Learn to look at people and how they interact with others and the world in general. Observe how the behave, communicate, look, listen and demonstrate emotion for example.

Make mental notes to subsequently compare this information with other types of people you observe, and with yourself too.

Pick any attribute you like and run the same thought experiment which we did earlier for the sense of humour classification.

Emotional intelligence or EI and understanding others. Run plenty of thought experiments.

As a result, you can now create your own useful categories and sub-categories as required.

Use the information as it builds up and subsequently form an opinion or model of that person in your own mind.

Now what can I do with these models?

This is where the fun starts.

For example, consider these two hypothetical scenarios:

The encounter with X

You meet person X at a business networking event. Because they smile genuinely as they introduce themselves and enthusiastically shake your hand, you like them immediately. They are very personable and touch you on the arm a lot as they talk. Because they mostly chatter about themselves and their own business interests, they do mention a lot of interesting and quite detailed information on other local businesses too. They also seem to know a lot of the other business people at the event.

In addition to the feeling that you like them, in just five minutes or so you have also been able to gather a great deal of potentially useful business information.

Emotional intelligence or EI and understanding others. Person x is likeable, funny and well-connected.

If you were later asked to describe this person in one sentence you might say, “X is a likeable, funny, tactile, outgoing type who appears well-connected, likes details but doesn’t ask many questions about me.” Through observation and classification, you created a new and potentially very useful understanding of this person.

The encounter with Y

You are now introduced to person Y at the same party when the event host took you over to them. The host mentioned person Y would make a great contact. Because Y seems reserved and doesn’t really smile at all, plus they have a very limp handshake, you aren’t instantly engaged.

You then find yourself having to lead the conversation which is not really your thing. They continue to answer your mostly business-related questions briefly and with little enthusiasm. Y did perk up a bit when they mentioned the enjoyable drive to the event, but you don’t like driving so that died a death. The only mildly interesting information you discover is that they run a local business with which you might well have some professional synergy.

The problem for you is the conversation feels too one-sided and too slow. It’s like pulling teeth. You bail out as gracefully as possible and look for X again. You aren’t personally drawn to Y at all despite the potentially good business connection.

Emotional intelligence or EI and understanding others. Person Y is a cold-fish, boring but with a good business.

If you were later asked to describe this person in one sentence you might say, “Y is a cold-fish who happens to run an interesting business.” You might well feel you haven’t really gained much from the encounter.

So, what can I do with all this?

This kind of assessment and information can be very useful. For instance, it will go a long way to helping you effectively adapt your communication style and behaviour.

In the scenarios, person X is more like you than person Y. Person X made it easy for you to engage. You easily saw benefits of staying connected with person X.

Person Y was hard to talk with because they were very unlike you. You felt you had nothing in common so missed a lot of opportunities to engage and connect.

There are clues everywhere

Observe the vital differences. The other person will always provide the clues you need. However, it is up to you to search for the clues.

Emotional intelligence or EI and understanding others. Look hard for clues - they are all around you.

Person Y wasn’t interested in discussing business of any sort. They might be bored by business talk – hence the lack engagement. Person Y brightened up when talking about their drive to the event. As a developing student of human nature, this should have been a big clue. For instance, what is it about the drive they liked? Was it their love of cars? Their love of nature or scenery perhaps? A chance to catch up on an audio-book? A chance to get away from other people or their family perhaps? Or, something else entirely?

The point is, when you’re genuinely interested in finding out more about the other person’s world, even if you aren’t a part of it, there will be a connection. The conversation can then flow. You may well learn a thing or two in the process. This new form of connection could well lead to beneficial outcomes for both parties.

When you are adept at adapting, you’ll get the best out of any future encounters with people like X & Y.

Understanding others and their maps of the world

“I like to treat everyone else the way I like to be treated.”

Have you ever heard or used this expression? I’m sure we all have at some point in our lives. The thing is, laudable and generous as it sounds, it is wrong and can be very unhelpful when dealing with others.

Because we’re now agreed upon everyone being different a more effective statement would be, “I like to treat everyone else the way they most like to be treated.” A subtle but hugely important verbal and mindset distinction. It’s a great way for understanding others.

Maps of the world

Emotional intelligence or EI and understanding others. Two people with differing maps of the world - both are right from their own perspective.

We all have a mental representation of the world as we think it is. This is our map of the world. Others, for example, choose to hold a rigid and inflexible map whilst others attempt to add to theirs and develop new representations through learning and new experiences. Once again, we are all so different in so many varied ways.

Treating people in the way they like to be treated, and communicating with them in their preferred communication style, will create huge levels of engagement. That is to say, it will lead to you understanding their maps of their world. This knowledge allows an ever-deeper level of connection.

Continual practice leads toward eventual mastery

Even if you don’t like other people very much, because you understand what makes them who they are, you can greatly elevate yourself as a person, a communicator and a leader.

Emotional intelligence or EI and understanding others. To get from novice to mastery takes practice and more practice.

Take the time and expend the effort to learn about understanding others as much as you possibly can. Because, by becoming a people expert, you’ll make the study of others a constant and habitual part of who you are.

This activity can be both fun and addictive. Enjoy it. Use it every minute of every day.

This will be critical as you move to the fourth EI pillar which is managing relationships with others.

What next?

I hope you have enjoyed this article. Subscribe to either the blog or my newsletter to ensure you hear about subsequent articles and other useful and informative material.

In the meantime, you might also like to check out:

Emotional Intelligence is vital

Self-awareness & Emotional Intelligence

Self-regulation & Emotional Intelligence

Relationship: The art and practice

Self-regulation & Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence or EI & self-regulation

What is self-regulation?

Self-regulation is the second pillar of emotional intelligence or EI. Hopefully, you’ll recall that emotional intelligence comprises four pillars: self-awareness, self-regulation, understanding others and managing relationships. You could check out my “Emotional Intelligence is vital” post for more insight.

Regulation, in the sense we will use it, means the control of a system or process such that it remains at a desired level or rate. For you, self-regulation literally means how you control yourself in your current situation. You can either ramp specific efforts up or down or you can try to maintain your effort at a specific level or rate.

Self-regulation? Who cares?

Self-regulation - a smiley face and traffic lights

You should care!

We’ve already looked at self-awareness, but self-awareness is only your starting point. Your new awareness enables you to decide if it’s beneficial, neutral or even harmful to you.

You can then decide to take some form of action. For instance, you can improve on beneficial areas. In similar fashion, neutral areas can be ignored or improved upon as desired. Likewise, any negative or harmful areas can be reduced or even eliminated entirely. The last one may take time and hard work, but the investment of effort is essential for growth.

The self-regulation workflow

If you know me well, you’ll know I love a good workflow or process.

The Emotional Intelligence self-regulation workflow. This is monitoring, awareness, decision, action and feedback.

These are the steps then. We become aware of something, we decide to act in some way then we take the action we decided upon. Sounds simple when put like that doesn’t it?

If it is so simple, why aren’t you easily and consistently completing your self-development goals and taking yourself to your absolute best? If you’re like most people, you often know what to do but you either can’t start it or you can’t sustain it.

Why the inaction?

Newsflash! Humans are lazy creatures. Left to our own devices we tend toward laziness, like it or not, it’s true. Some people aren’t as lazy as others for sure, but we’re all lazy creatures at heart. We’ve evolved to be lazy. We think and act in lazy ways.

Self-regulation. Figure in a hammock on a tropical beach thinking "Work? What work?"

We all have lazy thoughts and impulses. Wouldn’t you rather stay in bed for that extra five minutes? Why not leave going to the gym until tomorrow or better yet, next week? That decorating can wait until after the holidays can’t it? One last biscuit then I’m all over that diet?

We humans are even lazy in the way we think (or don’t think) sometimes. Deep thinking takes deep effort. Life is busy enough, am I right?

If you’re honest with yourself, don’t you often or always go with whatever instant solution or idea pops straight into your head? You rely on stereotypes and the automatic repetition of previous good solutions whenever you can. This approach generally gets you through your day and with minimal effort.

It is worse than you think too. Because humans like us are also prone to many biases, when we use automatic thinking, we can make many mistakes. This doesn’t always help you in your self-regulation and improvement journey.

Further reading

To go much deeper here, I can recommend you read the fascinating book, “Thinking, Fast & Slow” by Daniel Kahneman.

You’re up against your own status quo?

You are conditioned by evolution to conserve energy because energy was historically hard to come by. It still is in certain parts of the world. Sure, times and circumstances have changed for many of us and the modern world we inhabit expects us to be dynamic and energetic all the time. The problem is your mental and physical wiring is largely geared for laziness and economy wherever and whenever possible.

Self-regulation. Auto option is easy and the manual option is hard

Much of your behaviour and thought is automatic because automation uses less energy than concentration and focused thinking. Consequently, to want to carry out such work and burn the required energy, there must be a big trade-off in terms of reward versus effort. The benefits must heavily outweigh the much preferred and lazy status quo.

What gives?

Self-regulation. There's a barrier between Decision and action.

Most of the time you don’t, won’t or can’t create a compelling enough reason to act. You can often decide what you want to do but you often struggle to get started and do it. If you do start, we often struggle to keep going. The problem happens at the decision-action boundary.

What about the wonders of willpower?

Self-regulation. Stick figure holding a trophy with the words Will Power on it.

Willpower is often seen as the separator of the achiever from the non-achiever. As a result, it can be viewed as the almost magical difference between the person who can control themselves and the person who cannot. Above all, willpower is the super-power with which you can smash through the decision/action barrier, right?

Not so much in reality.

If you are brutally honest with yourself (more EI self-awareness in action), you don’t really know what willpower is do you? You cannot really point to it or identify it in any meaningful way, can you? You believe you know when you have it or not, and you are certain we know its effects, but you struggle to define it clearly.

Why is willpower not enough?

In very simplistic psychological terms, willpower is the ability to delay gratification in the short-term to meet longer-term desirable goals.

Self-regulation. Two choices - now or later. Later is ticked.

Here’s the problem. Because it takes great effort, concentration and energy to maintain willpower you can become tired. In addition, willpower relies on cool or logical thinking and the avoidance of hot or emotional reactions. Consequently, unwanted or non-useful thoughts must be overridden, which similarly takes effort.

Willpower can therefore be derailed by various internal, emotional, physical and external effects. It’s a resource which can be replenished or restored, but its capacity and sustainability between recharges is limited. Willpower can and does run out on you, often when you need it most.

So, can you rely on willpower alone for self-regulation? It’s risky at best.

You therefore need to be ever vigilant and on your guard. However, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be easily distracted by the next new shiny object to come into your field of awareness. My various failed attempts at dieting and hitting the gym certainly attest to this. My willpower often proves weak and simply not up to the task when I need it the most. How’s yours?

A better self-regulation strategy

Here’s another wonderful workflow because workflows work:

Self-regulation. Another workflow - this one is identify target, identify barriers, mitigate barriers and hit target

The more workflows there are the happier I am. This is a simple step process which will help you preserve your precious willpower for other duties.

First work out your self-regulation target & barriers

Because of your constant monitoring, you’ve become aware of an issue. Consequently, you’ve decided to act on it, which is great. You’ve tried to go from “identify target” straight to “hit the target.” This is how most people attempt it, and therefore most people fail to hit their targets consistently.

Self-regulation. This workflow only shows identify target going to hit target with a sad face due to failure

However, before you dive in and act, consider these additional strategy steps:

Self-regulation. ID barriers and Mitigate barriers back in the workflow

Identify some potential barriers and excuse generators. Now you can look to reduce and/or mitigate them. You might also even eliminate them entirely at this stage.

How do you best achieve this wonderful strategy? You create deliberate habits to take the stress off your poor long-suffering and generally inadequate willpower.

Now deliberately automate your self-regulation plan

You must apply your willpower on a task by task basis, because too many tasks take too much willpower. Willpower which tends to run out anyway. It’s a finite resource. Once one thing flops over and you eat the metaphorical cookie. Meanwhile, the rest of the card house comes tumbling down after it and you are doomed to start again.

To compound our misery and inadequacy we humans are also cognitively miserly. You like low-energy automatic thinking. Applying willpower takes focus, concentration and energy. You won’t generally like to concentrate and focus for long if you don’t have absolutely to.

Your willpower needs help in the form of deliberately created effective habits.

Create deliberate habits

Self-regulation. The complete workflow with a happy face at end

So, to reduce the amount of willpower you need to get the job done, I recommend creating as many deliberate and ingrained habits as you can. Habits can certainly help you regulate your thoughts, emotions and behaviours.

Deliberate habits are your barrier mitigations. Deliberate habits are the ultimate automatic process; both good and bad. Keep the willpower because you’ll always need it. Break things into small chunks and mitigate them one chunk at a time.

Further reading

This is only a brief article so, for deeper information and some great advice on effective habits, I can recommend you read the books, “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg and “Nudge” by Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein.

Make self-regulation easier to do and harder not to do

The real trick is in making self-regulation both easy to do and extremely hard not to do. What I mean by this is all about manipulating your environment to produce or install in yourself the actions, thoughts, emotions and behaviours which you do want.

It might be easier to use an example:

Self-regulation. Stick figures on a treadmill and lifting weights

The gym and I

I’m in an ongoing battle with my lazy self over my physical fitness. I go regularly, but I am always keen to talk myself out of it. I know that starting very early in the morning works best for me, but I am very good at making excuses not to go. There are always more enjoyable things to do.

The most important trick for me is to first begin to manipulate my environment to make it harder for me to create excuses. I set two or three alarm clocks at five-minute alarm gaps. The alarms are tuned with my most hated radio station. I place them physically out of reach so I must get up to turn them off.

I also set out my gym bag and all my bits and bobs ready to go by the front door. Plus, my gym clothes are laid out right next to the bed. Moreover, I’ll even check the driveway route for my car is clear. No easy excuses.

There are so many options

If I find I am still struggle in the future there are options. For instance, I could build in additional accountability measures . Perhaps buddy up with someone for example. I could introduce a personal fine system (given to charity) or some other unpleasant penalty for not achieving my targets . For instance, something like washing my car would do the trick for me. The potential options are many and varied.

I’m outsourcing my self-regulation. I’m making it easier to do the right thing.

Now let willpower work its real self-regulation magic for you

Self-regulation. Stick man superhero with a cape with Will Power written on chest

You will take the pressure from willpower because you will have created effective automatic habits and manipulated your environment. Because of this, the good news is you will now have more of that great resource available to you.

Use it whenever you need an extra motivational push or shove.

That early morning “kick in the arse” to get those tired legs out of bed and into the training gear. The extra push to knuckle down and hit that deadline. The restraint to hold your temper when every fibre in your being is screaming to yell at the jerk in front of you.

Willpower can now show you its real super-power.

Some last thoughts on self-regulation and EI

In conclusion, knowing something is only half the battle. Taking some effective action based upon the knowledge is the next key step.

No action = no results.

Self-regulation. No action = no results

In short, if you can’t, don’t or won’t dig deep and take full responsibility for your own actions, you will always have problems. Because, if you don’t control what you do or need to do based on your own self-awareness and feedback, someone or something else will take control for you.

Trust me, you won’t enjoy having no control.

Understand what you need to do. Decide to do it. Set up suitable conditions to enable you to create a habit for doing it and penalties when you don’t. With patience and practice you’ll only need to use your willpower where it can do the its best work.

Is any of this easy? Absolutely not. Is it even possible? Yes, it is! If I can do it, then anyone can do it. Many other people prove this every day. Prove to yourself you can do it and go ahead and do whatever it is you need to do.

As a result, people will notice the changes in your ability to get the important things done. Your emotional intelligence and your self-regulation level will get higher and higher as a result.

Self-regulation. No excuses

The next post in this series will look at the third EI pillar which is understanding others.

I hope you have enjoyed this article. If you have, please subscribe to either the blog or my newsletter to ensure you hear about subsequent articles and other useful and informative material.

In the meantime, you might also like to check out:

Emotional Intelligence is vital

Self-awareness and Emotional Intelligence

Understanding others and how to do it

Relationship: The art and practice

Self-awareness & Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence or EI and self-regulation is of great imprtance to you

What is self-awareness?

Self-awareness, or awareness of self if you prefer, is the first pillar of emotional intelligence. Self-awareness really is the key to everything in Emotional Intelligence terms.

Hopefully, you’ll recall that emotional intelligence comprises four pillars: self-awareness, self-regulation, understanding others and managing relationships. You could check out my “Emotional Intelligence is vital” post for more insight.

You’ve got to honestly get to know yourself first then be willing to work with that knowledge.

At its most fundamental level, self-awareness means being aware of yourself. Which means you become aware of the existence of an entity or presence which is identifiable, by you, as you. The idea that you are a distinct and unique being when compared to all the other beings around you. I’m going nowhere near this philosophical rabbit-hole here. However, feel free to explore it yourself if you like that sort of thing.

A more practical definition is the conscious knowledge of your own thoughts, feelings and behaviours. For instance, developing more self-awareness requires intentional monitoring. In other words, this means monitoring of one’s current self and the practical application of work and adaptation to produce a desired and different future self. This is generally known as self-development.

Why is self-awareness so important to your self-development?

You’ve got to make a start start from somewhere known. In other words, if you don’t know where you are starting from how can you plot an effective course from there to anywhere else?

A deep and honest appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses takes real courage. However, the knowledge you’ll gain from your efforts at self-awareness will pay huge dividends. I’m serious, because it can literally transform your life.

Assuming you have decided to develop yourself, it’s time to get your mental hands dirty. Get right down deep early and begin to look at your inner self in a radical new way. This is scary stuff by the way. Seriously, it’s very scary, especially if you haven’t done it before.

Why is self-awareness so scary?

Self-awareness shines a light on things we may prefer to keep in the dark. Because of this, we tend to hide ourselves from ourselves using sophisticated internal narratives which even we come to regard as absolute truth. These are nothing more than rationalisations. They are not truths but rather personal mental constructs. We have created the constructs to help make sense of our own confusing inner worlds. We then combine them with our experience of the external world to create a complete narrative. The technical term is confabulation; not lies as such but modified versions of reality we come to believe as truths. We now use these constructs to form beliefs and hold values about both our inner world and the outer world. These are not always accurate or helpful.

Why do we tell ourselves these inaccurate stories?

When we formed these narratives they would have been, or at least believed them to have been, highly beneficial and useful. As our lives move on, they may well stay useful but often become simply neutral; being neither useful or non-useful. Problems can arise when these narratives become non-useful to us. They can even become detrimental and harmful to us. We either decide or are forced to choose to make changes. Above all, we must confront, understand, let go and replace beliefs and ideas. This is what self-awareness means in terms of emotional intelligence. When we decide to do this ourselves, with or without help, this is called self-development and, believe me, it is scary.

Ways to get under the hood

Assuming you have chosen to become more self-aware to make changes you must now get started. You can follow several pathways to make progress. By the way, I don’t believe many people ever gets to total self-awareness because it is so hard to achieve. Total self-awareness is the realm of the buddhas and other enlightened beings. I’ve never gotten close. I therefore always treat the process of my own self-awareness as a work in progress. In other words, I’m simply enjoying the journey of discovery.

The key to it all is feedback. Internal feedback is generally known as self-reflection. External feedback is generally known as … well, external feedback. I can’t think of a better term for it.

They are both useful to you but become most useful when combined.

Seeking high-quality feedback is key

Completely solo self-discovery might be possible, but I struggle to picture someone making genuine and sustainable progress in isolation. We all need feedback to understand progress. Increasing self-awareness by seeking feedback Doing this is easier working either directly with other people or using resources created by others who possess the knowledge and skills we seek.

I will briefly discuss four areas here which will help you seek feedback and self-reflect:

  • The Johari Window
  • Psychometric tools and instruments
  • Coaching and/or mentoring
  • Mindfulness

The Johari Window

One interesting model for getting you started on your self-awareness journey is to look at something called the Johari Window. The model was devised by American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham back in 1955. The name chosen simply derives from a combination of their names. The model essentially states we have four symbolic or metaphorical areas within us. These impact on our interactions with the wider world. I’ll leave you to look on-line for more detailed information about the Johari Window model. It is fascinating and very well-documented, so I will not waste your time by reproducing unnecessary material here.

  1. An “open” area of which we are aware, but of which others are also aware.
  2. A “hidden” area of which we are aware, but of which others are not aware.
  3. An “unknown” area of which we are unaware, but of which others are also unaware.
  4. A “blind” area of which we are unaware, but of which others are aware

Actively exploring this model as a formal exercise is an interesting and informative activity. It’s good for both individuals and groups. Why not try it out? In addition, consider working with a coach or trusted friend and see what you can discover.

Psychometric tools and instruments

You could also examine some of, or all if your budget will stretch that far, the many psychometric personality and psychological profiling tools out there. Popular ones include MBTI, DiSC, Insights, MTQ48, EQi2.0 and many more. I won’t bore you with the details, but a quick online search will reveal a substantial and ever-growing list.

You may well have encountered such tools. They have their uses and can prove very incisive in some cases. There are many distinct types. Quite a number are aimed at highly specific aspects of personality or behaviour. Many are genuinely fantastic. I’m a fan and qualified user of several high-quality psychometric instruments. When used well and appropriately they are great for improving self-awareness. Not all the options out there are good of course, so caveat emptor or buyer beware. Do your research and ask your own network for feedback and advice. The results provided should be interpreted carefully and in context. I recommend seeking out a trained and or licenced practitioner to get the best value from your experience.

Once again, consider working with a coach or trusted friend and see what you can discover.

Coaching and/or mentoring

I have mentioned coaching several times now and I must admit to some bias here because I am a professional coach and I work with many people on just this kind of personal journey. People sometimes worry about the cost of employing a skilled professional coach, but the transformational returns often far outweigh any financial investment. The experience is often life changing and I would highly recommend it.

You can also be coached or mentored by a trusted friend or colleague. Someone who has been on a similar journey. You could buddy up with someone and take the discovery journey together. I believe the journey toward self-awareness itself is the most important thing so begin it as soon as you can and do it in the way which suits you best.

Start with the why and the how will look after itself.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a simple meditation-based practice. I’m a huge fan. It yields a variety of mental, physical and emotional benefits; Many of these are now scientifically shown as highly effective. Mindfulness meditations typically consists of focusing full attention on something. For instance, simply observing your breathing, thoughts and experiences as they appear. Thoughts are transient, and thoughts are not the person. Energy flows where the attention goes so, by removing attention from unwanted thoughts they become of no importance. This means you have more control than you may have thought. Mindfulness is all about awareness, observing without criticism and learning to be compassionate with yourself.

With practice, mindfulness allows you to differentiate between wholesome and unwholesome thought patterns. The mindfulness practitioner then has many options available for either letting thoughts go entirely or modifying them into more wholesome forms.

Mindfulness takes time

Over time, mindfulness practice can bring about long-term changes in self-awareness, mood, happiness levels and overall mental and physical wellbeing. Studies have shown mindfulness can prevent the onset of depression and positively affects the brain patterns underlying day-to-day conditions such as anxiety, stress, depression and reactive emotions so that if they do arise, they dissipate more easily. Memory, creativity, reaction times and even productivity can all improve. Mindfulness practice creates wholesome thought processes. This improving or ameliorates any number of emotional attitudes, mental states and mind/body relationships.

Isn’t mindfulness just mystical nonsense?

Neuro-scientists have highlighted and proved the brain’s ability to alter its structure and internal connectivity in adaptive response to repeated conditioning: known as neural plasticity. We are familiar with the idea that effectively and repeatedly practising any activity, such as a musical instrument, leads to more and more skill with that instrument. In addition, running repeated thought processes over time will also alter the neural pathways to make that mode of thought easier and stronger; less commonly realised. Mindfulness takes positive advantage of this phenomenon because it seeks to strengthen wholesome thought patterns for the benefit of the mindfulness practitioner and those around them.

To practice mindfulness is to use the power of our minds. This gives us a deep, focused and non-judgemental view of ourselves. We then get live observational information about our own experience as it unfolds. It’s self-awareness on steroids.

Mindfulness is a gym for the mind and as such it opens a world of possibilities. As I said, I’m a huge fan of mindfulness. Seek a good introductory course. Read a good book for beginners. Above all, get practising. You could even attend a guided retreat if that is your thing.S

Other self-development resources for self-awareness

There are numerous books, courses, guides, videos, audios, apps and more besides, all designed to help you, or at least relieve you of your money, in your efforts to self-develop. The mighty Interweb has a seemingly infinite number of resources.

Choose carefully, do some research and only work with solid proven sources. Once again, a good coach or mentor can help with this. Whatever you do make sure you do something.

Although self-development is often an internal pursuit, it is not a theoretical or spectator-based activity. It requires action so act. Do something positive and you are on your way.

Some last thoughts on developing self-awareness

You are the centre of your universe. It all starts with you.

If you can’t, don’t or won’t dig deep and fully acknowledge and accept your true, warts and all, self then the rest of your life will be inauthentic and superficial at best. For instance, even if you learn to get on well with others, your lack of knowledge or ownership of your own core being will leave you with a sense of incompleteness and imbalance. In my experience others can sense this fundamental lack in you and they will treat you differently as a result.

Self-awareness takes courage

This search for true self-awareness takes courage, commitment and massive honesty. Of course, this doesn’t mean I’m suggesting you go and sit cross-legged on top of a mountain for years on end. I am suggesting you begin to identify your true strengths and weaknesses. Look for your true values and beliefs. Seek out your true desires and fears. Work with a coach, friend or trusted advisor if you need to. Seek honest feedback and accept it with gratitude because it works. Do whatever you need to do to learn more about the true you.

Above all, remember that self-reflection and high quality feedback are the keys to your EI success.

Is developing self-awareness easy?

Is it easy? Absolutely not. Is it even possible? Well, I’m still searching for my true self, so I can’t answer that one for you I’m afraid. I battle more than enough of my own demons to keep me busy on my search. I keep going because it is important to me. In truth, you may never find the absolute true you. However, if it’s important enough to you and if you try hard enough, you’ll find enough truth to start working wonders.

The next post in this series will look at self-regulation. Self-regulation is the second pillar of Emotional Intelligence pillar.

I hope you have enjoyed this article. If you have, please subscribe to either the blog or my newsletter to ensure you hear about subsequent articles and other useful and informative material.

In the meantime, you might also like to check out:

Emotional Intelligence is so important

Self-regulation and its importance to you

Understanding others and how to do it

Relationship: The art and practice

Emotional Intelligence is vital

Emotional Intelligence or EI is vital

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence or EI is a term used commonly in the business and professional world. You might also hear it called EQ or Emotional Quotient. Whatever the terms used, people are always banging on about it, aren’t they? You’ve probably heard them saying such things as, “You need more emotional intelligence” or “We need to hire for emotional intelligence.” It’s said with so much conviction you feel you must be the only one who doesn’t get it. Stress not. You’re not the only one. Far from it in fact. If they are honest, most people would admit they don’t get it. If you’re any sort of professional manager in any modern organisation, you’ll hear about it a lot. It therefore makes sense to get a good handle on it.

In relation to EI then, there are four types of people in the workplace. The ones who have high EI already often assume everyone else already understands it; they therefore feel no real need to explain it. There are the ones who don’t have it and couldn’t care less about anyone else anyway. Then there are the ones who do get EI and are keen to inform and help others and there are the ones who want to get it but don’t know where to start. This whirlwind tour article is for the last two types and especially the last type.

What is Emotional Intelligence anyway?

The definition of Emotional Intelligence we’ll use:

In a nutshell, I define having well-developed emotional intelligence as:

“Possessing a well-developed ability and willingness to closely and honestly monitor our internal emotional states and take full control of them and full responsibility for them. At the same time, we need an ability and willingness to monitor the emotional states of other people and to take full responsibility for carefully managing our relationships with those people.”

That’s it really. Were you expecting more? It is easy enough to define but takes a lot of effort to get right. So many people don’t get it right because they can’t be arsed to put the work in. It’s an ongoing commitment toward excellence.

One of the most important words in that definition is “willingness.” If you can’t be bothered with the work and effort, then please stop reading this right now and search elsewhere for the lazy route. There is no magic-bullet and no easy answer. EI is indeed a learnable skill; but the process of learning takes effort and commitment. You really do need to be motivated.

A down and dirty look at Emotional Intelligence

Again, the article is a whistle-stop tour of the four elements of EI and is designed to provide some awareness to get you started. I have produced four more articles to expand on each section.

Take emotional intelligence very seriously. Nurture it and develop it in yourself and others.

Why does Emotional Intelligence matter to you anyway?

Emotional intelligence is vital for everyone. It defines how well you know yourself and control yourself and it defines how well you get on with others. If you’re any sort of modern people manager or leader, you’ll be expected to possess an elevated level of emotional intelligence. You should ideally be constantly looking to improve it. You are also expected to identify and nurture EI in your staff and teams. The measure of your emotional intelligence level is known as your Emotional Quotient or EQ. This measure of EQ is now considered more important than the traditional measurement of intelligence or IQ.

Decision makers
Self-confident
Calm under pressure
Creative
Able to lead
Influential
And more

From an organisational perspective, emotionally intelligent people are seen as more influential, better team leaders, more politically astute, calmer under pressure, better decision makers, less stressed, more creative, more self-confident, more self-driven and more able to drive others. They see people with these attributes as the rising stars and the people with the most potential. You’d like some of this right? Absolutely. The answer is to become more emotionally intelligent.

The good news is that emotional intelligence can be learnt and developed by almost anyone. If you do this you will possess a remarkable set of transferable set of skills and mindsets. Elevating your EI levels will have a positive benefit throughout the whole of your life.

The effects of Emotional Intelligence in the workplace

Here’s the problem. Many of the professional people I encounter in my coaching and training work have a poor understanding of their own emotional intelligence levels. They also have a poor understanding of what is meant by Emotional Intelligence as a concept. This is a real concern as the negative effects can be highly detrimental and costly. Get it right however and the positive benefits are huge.

The organisational effects of low Emotional Intelligence

Managers and leaders with low levels of emotional intelligence tend to handle people poorly and have little understanding about other people. They tend to create high stress levels, high staff turnover rates, low productivity and low quality of output.  They can even create elevated levels in sickness and HR legal problems. At work, this costs you or your business real money. They generally, but unfortunately not always, do poorly themselves.

Managers with low Emotional Intelligence increase stress, increase staff turnover, lower productivity, lower quality, increase sickness and even cause legal issues.


The organisational effects of high Emotional Intelligence

Good managers and leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence tend to do the exact opposite. Such managers and leaders can make you or your business real money. They are generally more successful in their own right as well.

Managers with high Emotional Intelligence create harmony, increase craetivity, increase productivity, increase happiness and make more money

On a personal level a high level of emotional intelligence enables us to negotiate life with more ease and success. We understand ourselves well, we can curb our excesses and we can play to our strengths. We can build solid relationships and people both like us and want to be with us. Life is generally better with high emotional intelligence.

Life is usually more enjoyable and successful with high Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence in a nutshell

There are four main components or pillars to EI:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Understanding others
  • Managing relationships
The 4 pillars of emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-regulation, understanding others and managing relationships

That’s it, plain and simple. These four elements cover pretty much everything you do in your life and work regarding interpersonal interactions and self-development. All well and good but what can you do in the real world now you know this? What does this mean for you?

There is a lot of complex theory, ideas and downright nonsense flying about regarding emotional intelligence. I’ll make this information as plain and straightforward as I can and keep it on a practical level.

Self-awareness

Self-awareness is the first pillar of emotional intelligence

This is the first pillar of emotional intelligence and it is the key to it all. You are the centre of your universe. If you can’t, don’t or won’t dig deep and fully acknowledge and accept your true, warts and all, self then the rest of your life will be inauthentic at best. Even if you learn to get on well with others, your lack of knowledge or ownership of your own core being will leave you with a sense of incompleteness and imbalance. In my experience others can sense this fundamental lack in you and they will treat you differently as a result.

It can be scary diving into our self

This search for true self-awareness takes courage, commitment and massive honesty. I’m not suggesting you go and sit cross-legged on top of a mountain to meditate for years on end. I am suggesting you begin to identify your true strengths and weaknesses, your true values and beliefs and your true desires and fears. Work with a coach, friend or trusted adviser if you need to. Seek honest feedback and accept it with gratitude. Do whatever you need to do to learn more about the true you because it will allow you to move forward.

Is it easy? Absolutely not. Is it even possible? Well, I’m still searching for my true self, so I can’t answer that one for you I’m afraid. In truth, you may never find the absolute true you but if you try hard enough you will find enough truth to work wonders with.

Self-regulation

Self-regulation is the second pillar of emotional intelligence

The second pillar of emotional intelligence is the regulation of oneself. Once you begin to discover and uncover this true version of yourself, you will then begin to realise certain behaviours, thoughts and emotions which are somewhat less than helpful to both you and others. You may discover beneficial traits and thought processes which you might not have realised you had. In order to improve your emotional intelligence, you will now need to work on regulating or controlling any unhelpful attributes and ideally boosting your more helpful attributes.

There is always something to work on

Once again, this is easier said than done. Do you have a lack of focus or attention? How about procrastination? What about really needing to lose weight or get fitter? Are you a perfectionist? Maybe a little too passive-aggressive perhaps? Are you lonely? Perhaps you lose your temper easily? Do you need more assertiveness? What about your fear of conflict? How are you going to address these and any other issues you might have?

What really stops you doing what you know needs to be done? Is it time? Is it money? Or is really laziness? Perhaps it is all three or even none of the above. Only once you become aware of your deep true self, which we looked at in the previous section, can you work on the true core issues?

Understanding others

Understanding others and what makes them tick is the third pillar of emotional intelligence

The third emotional intelligence pillar is developing an understanding of others. When you get right down to it, other people can be confusing and strange. It can be hard enough to try and figure out what makes us tick but once other people get involved in any part of our lives and work, it can get very messy and complicated. Life would be technically easier without other people, but it would be a lonely and essentially pointless existence. We need other people and generally we like other people, so it makes sense to understand them.

The big problem is that everyone is as unique in their way as you are in yours.

There is always some good news

The good news is, although each one of us is truly unique, we can also be usefully categorised and bundled in quite general ways. These broad-brush definitions and classifications are not truly accurate, but they are incredibly useful ways to inform our own thoughts about and behaviour toward the other people we interact with. They could be said to be intentional and well-meant stereotypes. With a little study and practice you can become very adept at recognising these broad categories. At this point you can then adapt your communication and behaviour to get the best from any encounter with them.

Even if you don’t like other people very much, learning to understand what makes them who they are can greatly elevate you as a communicator and leader.

Managing relationships with others

Managing relationships is the fourth pillar of emotional intelligence

Managing relationships with others is the fourth pillar of emotional intelligence.

“No person is an island, entire of itself; every person is a piece of the continent.” John Donne said this, although I have changed the quote a little for reasons of gender correctness – the 16th and 17th century world of John Donne was markedly different too our enlightened utopia.

Relationships really do matter

The truth of his statement is unaltered. You need to build solid and effective relationships with other people in all areas of our lives and work. All of us need to develop strong personal and professional networks. We also need to be able to operate effectively as key elements in the networks of others.

When the first three pillars of emotional intelligence are firmly in place we can then begin to create and successfully manage such relationships and networks.

Our friendships, family connections and working relationships can define us. Modern life is nigh on impossible without them. Even if it were possible to live entirely alone and isolated, for myself at least, it would be a miserable and pointless life.

Begin at the beginning

The order the emotional intelligence elements are in place is the order in which to then develop them for best results. Firstly, make sure that every element is in place then try and balance them in terms of level. If you are poor at managing relationships for example and relatively happy with the other key elements, then start by developing your ability to manage relationships. Completeness and uniformity of ability is the first step.

Start with balance

Secondly, once the elements are in place and broadly level, you can begin to consider bringing the level of all four up to as high a level as you can without overdoing any one area.

After balance then raise overall levels

There will always be a tendency to lead and lag on elements in any such endeavour but don’t stick to your favourites or strong areas at the expense of others. Using the relationship element again, if you hate talking to new people or even talking to friends and colleagues, don’t let it hold you back. Do not simply become a very self-aware observer of others. Be brave and break through your barriers. Make connect with them somehow. Seek tuition, coaching or support and force (or regulate) yourself to get out there and do it anyway.

This is a basic introduction. It is a practical overview at best. There is always more to learn and absorb. Like life itself, developing emotional intelligence is a journey of discovery.

Next steps

Educate yourself

I’m going to be blunt here. Leaders are readers so educate yourself and become informed. Learn all you need to know about emotional intelligence and its implications. This applies to all your life.

Dare to be different

Life isn’t a spectator sport

Don’t wait to be spoon fed. Too many people do that so stand out from your crowd and get the knowledge. If printed books are not your thing then get audio book versions. If video is your thing then seek out the information on www.TED.com or YouTube. Go on a course or hire a coach. Whatever you do make sure you get the information you need.  You owe it to yourself and your staff to be the very best leader and manager you can be.

Resources

I recommend you start with the work of Daniel Goleman who popularised the rise of EI with his book Emotional Intelligence then seek out the myriad of associated online resources.

Learn, experiment and grow

Once you have the theoretical knowledge, start to experiment and grow. Begin to apply the knowledge practically in the real world. Make mistakes then reflect, learn and move on. Try new things out. Seek coaching and training and try them out again. Seek feedback. Increase your own emotional intelligence and help others do the same. The effort is worth it.

I hope you have enjoyed this article. If you have, please subscribe to either the blog or my newsletter to ensure you hear about subsequent articles and other useful and informative material.

In the meantime, you might also like to check out:

Self-awareness and Emotional Intelligence

Self-regulation and its importance to you

Understanding others and how to do it

Relationship: The art and practice

Late is expensive

Man literally running late for a meeting

Excuses, excuses and more excuses for being late

So, you are a little late for a business meeting but it should be okay, right? It is only a few minutes and besides it was not really your fault was it? The traffic was worse than you expected, that last e-mail was important and the people you are meeting are normally laid back and friendly so they will probably cut you some slack. The meeting can start without you and you can quickly get up to speed, right?

Being late is totally excusable, right?

Don’t be so sure.

Business people are busy. We have to make rapid and often automatic decisions about the world in general and the people we interact with in order to stay sane and make sense of the world. Everybody does this.

We put great store in first impressions. You need to make your first impression a good one.

This is basic emotional intelligence at work. Understand yourself and regulate your behaviour in order to manage your relationships with others.

Being late never hurt anyone, did it?

You’ll find it does often hurt someone very near and dear. Being late hurts you.

It would be nice to suppose that first impressions are formed by a person analysing all parameters in any given situation then making a rational and intellectual front of brain decision about the meaning and next steps. Perhaps the process might follow this route: “My appointment is late so I will check the internet and determine if there are potential traffic problems. Perhaps a flat tyre or important family matter? I’m sure there will be a good reason for it and I will happily bide my time in order to find out what they have to offer me once they get here. I’m sure the other people here will reach the same conclusion.”

Yeah, right

It would be nice but in the real world it does not often happen like this at all.

All first impressions are formed in our old or reptile brain and a summary report gets sent higher only after being screened here first. First impressions happen fast and they have durability too. Whether good or bad, this summary report lodges in the reptile brain. It is hard to get it rewritten once it is in there.

The old reptile brain is not very sophisticated but it is there to protect us. It is the seat of the flight or fight response. It checks for danger or threats. Its mission is also to prevent us wasting time and resources and to stop us using up valuable higher processing functions when it feels we do not have to. It seeks threat triggers.

For people who value and respect their time meeting someone who has a different view of time is just such a trigger. Someone who is late is perceived as a threat. Someone who is late equates to someone who will likely waste valuable resources. The negative report gets sent; it carries a lot of weight and it endures. The reptile brain has a number of such triggers. Other people have them too so you need to work hard to create good first impressions yourself.

We all have our shortcuts

I am a busy man and I place great store in punctuality. Timeliness is a key measure in determining whether I will work with someone or not when I meet with them or interact with them for the first time. Time respect is one of my key values. I will do everything in my power to ensure I arrive at places ahead of time in order to prepare and provide a professional first impression. I expect others to do the same for me.

Lateness indicates a number of fundamental things to me: Lack of care for self and others, chaotic and disorganised, untrustworthy, disrespectful, unreliable and arrogant. The list could and does go on. I do not want to work with people who exhibit these traits no matter what they have to offer. This will cost them money and gain them a poor reputation. If you do this it will be costing you money. Would I refer you to others? Unlikely.

Am I right or wrong?

Am I actually right about that person? Perhaps not but it does not matter. I simply do not have the time to apply my neo-cortex or my patience to the issue. Am I cutting off my nose to spite my face? Maybe I am but my reptile brain has detected the threat and sent the report and that is what I have to go on. These are my perceptions and, as for all humans, perception is reality. I have to make fast decisions in order to be successful and I am not alone.

Now, we cannot help events which are truly out of our hands. You may be in mortal peril and unable to contact me. The trouble is I don’t know and I probably don’t care. Inform me of your time status. Better to have the meeting rescheduled than have you show up late. I can then do something more productive with my time. We have mobile phones now and you must at least have written my number down as part of your preparation.

Aggressive lateness

Some people use lateness as a power play. They feel it elevates their status in some way and therefore lowers mine. I tend to walk away from these people and leave them to it because there are plenty of business people out there who are both punctual and a genuine pleasure to deal with.

When I feel a person has respected my time I tend to respect them more.

We all know at least one person who is chronically late all the time. They would be late for their own funeral as the saying goes. They are probably beyond help. If this is you then you are probably beyond help too.

Is there hope for you?

If you are only late now and again there is hope. Get a grip and take control of your approach to time. Get coaching if it helps. At least get a good alarm clock. Even if it goes against your normal preference you must show others you can respect their time if not your own. If you do not it could cost you far more than you think.

You are sending behavioural messages all the time so send good ones whenever possible. What other poor first impressions might you be making? What do you look for when you meet someone for the first time and why?

To get the low-down on effective people management skills check out my Amazon author page http://viewauthor.at/AndrewDPope and see my full current range of no-nonsense business and self-development books. The list is growing all the time so watch this space.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

Assertiveness is what exactly?


Young woman with metaphorical strong arms drawn in representing assertiveness

What is assertiveness?

I have mentioned assertiveness quite a few times in recent articles. What is it and do you even need it?

Assertiveness is one of those things everyone has likely heard about but no-one can easily define. We are often told to be more assertive but what exactly does this mean? What are we supposed to do more of? How assertive are we right now? What are other people doing about it? It matters so let’s define it.

Assertiveness matters

Your level of assertiveness and comfort when being assertive can have a big effect on your overall management and leadership style. This stuff is important. It can affect the whole of your life if your assertiveness is too low.

There are many on-line self-evaluation questionnaires available. If you want to find out your current level of assertiveness or your preferred interpersonal or influencing style then feel free to try them out. As with most things in life, there can be good or bad and free or paid for; take your pick.

The influencing styles

There are four main classifications of influencing style of which assertiveness is but one:

  • Assertive
  • Passive
  • Hostile-aggressive
  • Manipulative-aggressive (aka passive-aggressive)

Passive is a type characterised by an “I must lose and you must win” attitude.

Hostile aggressive is an influencing style characterised by an “I must win and you must lose” mentality.

The last influencing style listed is termed manipulative-aggressive or passive-aggressive. This type is characterised by an “I must lose so you must lose” mindset.

All of these styles are on a continuum. This means we all exhibit the different traits in different degrees at various times in our lives. Categories are useful but in the real world people are not so easily defined. Over the long-term it is likely we will favour one style over the others. If you are not sure, ask your trusted colleagues. They will then be able to tell you what style they think you prefer and exhibit most. It may shock you.

What do we normally do?

By and large, most of us choose to adopt the passive stance whenever possible, especially at work. You know the old “anything for a quiet life” and “why rock the boat” approach. Does the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” sound familiar?

If you are going to be a better manager then you need to be as assertive as possible. You need to know what assertiveness is so I had better start by defining it.

Assertiveness defined

Assertiveness means completely clarity. It means openness about how one feels and what one needs. The assertive know how to achieve it fairly. This definition is agreeable for our purposes. Assertiveness  requires assertive communication skills, assertive body language and confidence. It requires the ability to communicate calmly without attacking or yielding unnecessarily to another person.

Assertive people know they have rights. Assertive people expect certain things. They expect fair things in their work. These rights and expectations come with a caveat. They come with a responsibility to accord other people the same rights and expectations. So this idea of assertiveness adheres to a win-win approach to life. Adopting an “I get what I want and you get what you want” approach then means everyone is happy.

Sounds simple so why are we not all doing more of it?

So what can you do about it?

We should be, because learning to be more assertive will help us to express our thoughts and feelings freely, speak up and defend ourselves, know and stand up for our rights, negotiate reasonably and control our emotions effectively during periods of interpersonal conflict. It also applies when we have to manage difficult people.

Assertively managing difficult personality types at work can be something of a nightmare for many line managers and supervisors. Some managers seem to have the amazing knack of effectively and confidently with the difficult personality types they encounter. If they can do it why can’t you?

Get the book and get more assertiveness into your life

To get the low-down on assertively and effectively managing these and many more difficult personality types why not check out one of my latest books “Assertively Managing Difficult People” by Andrew D. Pope.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

You might also like to read:

Hostile-Aggressive People At Work

Difficult People At Work – Part 2

Difficult People At Work – Part 3

Doormats Are An Ultra-Passive Problem

Doormat picture with words The Doormat on it to represent the passive doormatsThe Doormats

They are the constant pushover, the too eager to pleaser and the avoider of conflict at all costs. They are the passive doormats of the organisation. I’m sure we’ve all encountered at least one such passive person in our lives. So how can these people ever be a problem to anyone? They won’t say boo to a goose. Think again.

This article takes a brief look at one difficult personality type you may either meet in work or have to manage in work if they are part of your team. This is one type you might not think is even a problem at first.

The ultra-passive Doormats or the people who just can’t say no.

They reject no request in an effort to please anyone and everyone who asks them to do something. Does this make them somehow super-productive? Does this make them dream employees? No way!

The Doormats are normally so over-subscribed and over-committed they end up pleasing no one. Doormats essentially and effectively educate those around them to take advantage of them because they are so passive.

What goes around comes around

Co-workers are often expected to take up any slack in order to keep the organisation, department or team in good standing. The grumbling will start and you will have to manage the fallout. This is all hugely ironic because the situation is often the direct result of the same co-workers taking advantage of The Doormats in the first place; all leading to the current overwork meltdown situation.

If you have a Doormat for a boss then are you in for a super-rough ride. They will take on too many tasks for the team, most of which cannot possibly be achieved, then to add insult to injury they will be too weak to defend the team against complaints about poor performance. Nightmare!

Passive people people problems go on and on

There are numerous other problems waiting in the wings. Ultra-passive Doormats can be a bully magnets. They sometimes take on small but mission critical tasks without telling anyone until they drop the ball and the smelly stuff hits the rotating cooler. They may also quietly filter critical information, up or down, often with the best of intentions.

Good intentions pave the road to hell.

All this happens because the ultra-passive Doormats do not like conflict and do not want to upset anyone.

How do you deal with the passive people problem?

Assertively managing difficult personality types at work can be something of a nightmare for many line managers and supervisors. Some managers seem to have the amazing knack of effectively and confidently with the difficult personality types they encounter. If they can do it why can’t you?

To get the low-down on assertively and effectively managing these and many more difficult personality types why not check out one of my latest books “Assertively Managing Difficult People” by me Andrew D. Pope

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

You might also like the following related articles:

Passive-Aggressive People At Work

Hostile-Aggressive People At Work

Assertiveness Is What Exactly?

Passive-Aggressive People At Work

.two passive-aggressive people facing opposite directions

Passive-aggressive people at work

This article takes a brief look at three passive-aggressive (aka manipulative-aggressive) personality types you may either meet in work or have to manage in work if they are part of your team.

Passive-aggressive type 1 – The Countdown Kid

The Countdown Kid is a passive-aggressive type who is likely very near to retirement. However, they are not looking to go out gracefully with some class and dignity. No, they are looking to work their ticket. They will play the organisational system for all it is worth because they have an agenda.

At best they might be doing the barest minimum they can do to get by knowing you can apparently do little about it.

At worst they might be seeking to try and force the organisation into paying them redundancy, an early retirement deal or some other thing they feel is available and which will yield them more than mere retirement. They do not care who they have to annoy or disrupt to get it.

They are a common feature of many modern, especially large, organisations. In large part the organisations themselves have created the problems themselves. There are many opportunities for these people to play the system. Opportunities arise because of overly-complex HR policies and poorly thought out historically created employment packages. Add to this new rules and regulations in HR and employment law and it is clear to see the fertile ground such people confidently operate in.

Passive-aggressive type 2 – The Guilt Tripper

The Guilt Tripper is the person who never lets people forget. They never let them forget the bad treatment they believe they have had at the hands of bosses and workmates. They never let facts get in the way of a good story either. Although their moaning may have some small kernel of truth they will happily exaggerate and embellish. Take their stories with a big pinch of salt.

The Guilt Tripper blames everyone but themselves for their perceived misfortunes. They never miss an opportunity to tell people either because misery loves company. They will badger anyone unfortunate enough or daft enough to listen of their woe-filled tales.

If you do not give them a particular task or project they want they will moan on and on about how you “did the dirty on them” or “stitched them up” and generally held them back. Colleagues will get the same treatment if they are felt to have contributed to this heinous act.

They never seem to worry they might be wrong. They don’t acknowledge the reality of the situation because that would rock their world. Failure to succeed due to a simple lack of merit or some other valid reason holds no meaning for them. No, it was an unfair act directed specifically and callously at them and no one else.

Like other passive-aggressive types they are adept at recognising and pushing the emotional buttons of others. Guilt is a strong emotional button for most of us. They look for people who might either believe or support them. They also seek people who might easily cave in to their bullying passive-aggressive tactics. If you can smell the acrid stench of burning martyr it will likely be The Guilt Tripper.

Passive-aggressive type 3 – The Control Freak

The Control Freak is a perfectionist.  As such they are unwilling to and often almost incapable of delegating work to others. Even if they are capable of it they are often unwilling to do it. If The Control Freak does manage to delegate, or is forced to delegate, it makes little difference. They will simply try to micro-manage to such an extent they may as well have done it themselves anyway.

Because they seek so much control they will actively manipulate people and situations to gain that control. They are definitely passive-aggressive in nature and behaviour.

The Control Freak is consistently controlling with everyone they encounter. They cannot help themselves and will reveal their tendency despite any efforts to keep it hidden. The Control Freak is therefore relatively easy to identify. Their behaviour can be extremely domineering at times. The Control Freak could well have been placed in the hostile-aggressive section of my book.

Having The Control Freak on your team can be a motivational sink hole. Having The Control Freak as your boss can be even worse. Either way, morale can plummet.

What should you do about them?

The Countdown Kid, The Guilt Tripper and The Control Freak. Make no mistake, if these three are not properly controlled or dealt with, you will struggle. These passive-aggressive personality types and others like them, are dangerous. They are dangerous to your morale and mental well-being.  They are dangerous to the morale and mental well-being of your staff, teams and your departments.

Both the hostile-aggressive personalities, mentioned in the previous article, and the passive-aggressive personalities mentioned in this article, are bullies. Take a zero-tolerance approach to bullying. Assertively stamp it out. Either turn it around, neutralise it or eliminate it entirely. If you don’t then the toxic types, who use bullying as a weapon, will take control of your working world.

Assertively managing difficult personality types at work can be something of a nightmare for many line managers and supervisors. Some managers seem to have the amazing knack of effectively and confidently with the difficult personality types they encounter. If they can do it why can’t you?

To get the low-down on assertively and effectively managing these and many more difficult personality types why not check out one of my latest books “Assertively Managing Difficult People” by me Andrew D. Pope.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

You might also enjoy these related articles:

Hostile-Aggressive People At Work

Doormats Are An Ultra-Passive Problem

Assertiveness Is What Exactly?

Hostile-Aggressive People at Work

Hostile-aggressive man in office

The Hostile-Aggressive Worker

Hostile-aggressive people can be the bane of a manager’s existence. This article takes a brief look at three hostile-aggressive personality types you may either meet in work or have to manage in work if they are part of your team.

The Big Bad Bully

The Big Bad Bully uses various forms of hostile-aggressive behaviour and tactics in order to intimidate others into compliance or allegiance. They might use anger, open or covert threats of failure or reprisal, blackmail, ridicule, guilt and/or shame. They will essentially use whatever tactic they can to get what they want. The Big Bad Bully has no worries about arguing or embarrassing others to achieve their ends.

The Angry Diva

The Angry Diva is someone who wants to be the centre of attention all the time and always get what they want. The word Diva implies a female bias but it is just an expression. Men are just as likely to be Angry Divas as women. Whatever the gender, in their world it is all about them and woe betide anyone who thinks or says differently. Many organisations have people like this at different levels because dealing with them is hard. If you are really unfortunate they are sometimes even in charge.

The Know It All

The Know It All. There is nothing you or anyone else can tell The Know It All because, in their opinion they have seen it all and done it all. There is no room for personal growth in their world but plenty of scope for it in other people. The Know It All believes they can do or say no wrong but they will be extremely efficient and keen to point out where you and everyone else went wrong of course.

Make no mistake, if not properly controlled or dealt with, The Big Bad Bully, The Angry Diva and The Know It All are dangerous to the morale and mental well-being of both you and the staff on your team or in your department.

What can you do about it?

Managing difficult personality types at work can be something of a nightmare for many line managers and supervisors. Much of this comes down to fear of conflict because of a lack of confidence. Some managers seem to have the amazing knack of effectively, assertively and confidently with the difficult personality types they encounter. If they can do it why can’t you?

To get the low-down on assertively and effectively managing these types of hostile-aggressive people and many more difficult personality types why not check out “Assertively Managing Difficult People” by Andrew D. Pope.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

You might also enjoy these related articles:

Passive-Aggressive People At Work

Assertiveness Is What Exactly?

Doormats Are An Ultra-Passive Problem