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How many times have you found yourself trying to re-group in a conversation that took a different turn than you intended? How many times have you thought you were connecting with someone only to discover you weren’t actually on the same page? And how many times throughout the COVID-19 crisis have you responded to someone, only to find you misunderstood them completely?  

Uprooting Challenges and Opportunities through Crisis

As we cope with the adjustments to our personal and professional lives brought on by this crisis, it has brought to the surface some underlying challenges that were largely hidden before. The problems we’re now facing can’t exclusively be blamed by the coronavirus; instead revealing struggles that have been in place for a long time and are magnified given the stress of the current environment. Rather than get discouraged, we can use this time in a positive way to learn about ourselves and the ways we can interact with others more effectively.

For some people, working remotely is common, and many of us have learned to do it quite well. However, those who been pushed into remote work may be struggling to manage their time, looking for ways to keep things together at home while trying to work, and learning how to manage emotions while attuning ourselves to others more intently. The challenge in all of this, is that we have removed an important tool in communication, which is non-verbal behavior. As we now learn how to virtually read emotions—since being face-to-face is not an option—it is forcing us to dive headfirst into the area of self-regulation and emotional intelligence.

We gain helpful insights into ourselves and our style of relating to others through information found in the Birkman Signature report. As a Birkman Master Certified Professional, I also find the Birkman Guide Pages provide very helpful information about how we manage and process information. These insights allow me to relate Birkman behaviors to the Big Five personality traits and group them into insightful applications.

BIrkman Guide PagesBirkman Behavioral Compnents
Focus OrientationRestlessness
Process OrientationInsistence
Social OrientationSocial Energy, Self-Consciousness
Agreeableness OrientationAssertiveness, Incentives
Action OrientationPhysical Energy, Emotional Energy, Thought

Learn to Leverage all Four Aspects of EQ

While important in everyday life, the shift to working remotely has made the need to develop and improve our ability to read and respond to others becomes even more crucial.  Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, relates to the pathway between our emotional and rational brain that is flexible and responsive to change.  A definition of EQ from Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves that I find helpful is, “EQ is your ability to recognize and understand emotions, and your skill at using this awareness to manage yourself and your relationships with others.”  Talk about the perfect road map for managing ourselves and others remotely!  EQ combines the rational brain and the limbic system to create an ability to understand the emotions we’re feeling. Everything we experience enters through stimulus in the spinal cord into the brain. That stimulus travels across the brain to the limbic system where emotions are generated, which is why we “feel” things before our brain assigns meaning through the rational brain to what it is we are feeling. What many of us are feeling right now is a lack of control and a fear of what is to come.  That leads to our limbic system hijacking our rational brain and causing the neurotransmitters typically used in flight or fight behavior to be released.

Using Goleman’s model, with social distancing we have effectively been thrust into a world primarily focusing on Self Awareness, with our emotional/rational bias working overtime to regulate our emotions. Understanding our own behaviors, motivations, and expectations gives us insight into our own Self Awareness. What we need more than ever in working remotely is to move beyond our Self Awareness and give attention to Social Awareness (reading others’ emotional states), practicing Self-Control (giving ourselves insight about our own adaptability and resilience), and improving our Social Skills (reading others’ needs without being together).

Look at each of these below to gain practical suggestions for ways you can use each of these elements of the EQ model to relate more effectively with others.

To Improve Self Awareness:

  • Understand how you come across to others (Usual Behavior), think about your underlying expectations (Needs), as well as how to get them fulfilled.
  • Get to know yourself on a deeper level. Where do you go with facts? Do you let feelings drive your actions? How do you keep track of wins and losses that drive your progress through life?
  • Learn to actively manage your stress. Keep in mind that mild stress increases performance (eustress), but moderate stress decreases performance and the capacity to control your behavior (distress).
  • Be sure to listen to your body. Pay attention to stress, anxiousness, fearfulness, and feelings of being overwhelmed or discouraged.
  • Name your emotions, increase your emotional vocabulary, and connect your feelings to issues or situations. You’ll be more intentional when becoming self-aware.
  • Focus on more people-oriented activities instead of goal-oriented ones.

Ask others who you are close to and whom you trust for their insights on your strengths and weaknesses.  

To Increase Social Awareness:

  • Understand your own and others’ style to help you manage your behavioral assumptions, interpretations, and reactions to help you grow.
  • Recognize when others are experiencing life differently than you are by paying particular attention to cues and signals (such as tone and facial expressions) when using video conferencing.
  • Pay attention to social norms and how they change depending on the group you are with and the circumstances.
  • Learn how to “read the room,” even if the room is a virtual one.

To Improve Self-Control:

  • Learn how to stop a negative behavior or attitude that is not getting you the result you want. These negative behaviors can be demotivating.
  • Direct your energy into lowering the impact of negative consequences of your own reactions to situations and the influence other people have on us.
  • Practice positive self-talk to encourage yourself to remain productive.

To Refine Social Skills:

  • Build relationships with others without wanting something in return
  • Stand up for yourself without pushing others down
  • Make a difference in the community, doing things for others

How Will You Strengthen Your Emotional Intelligence Muscles?

As we lean in and take control of the challenges around us, we can learn to engage differently and embrace this developmental opportunity in new ways. I encourage you to look for ways to develop your emotional intelligence as you read the needs and emotions of the people you are engaging with from a distance. From coaching individuals to teams, new hires to long-standing executive employees, professional coaches worldwide use personality assessments to significantly impact performance. Robust assessments like The Birkman Method highlight visible behavior as well as the underlying motivators and personality needs that can help build emotional intelligence skills at an accelerated rate.

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