How Emotions Affect Your Productivity

When we talk about productivity, we are quick to talk about things that help or hurt, like exercise, sleep, caffeine, our diets, work-tracking, goal-tracking, our morning routines, and the various quirky habits of highly successful people. While many of these topics can help us be more productive, they seem to all skirt around the very heart of the issue when it comes to productivity: Our emotions.

Our emotions are always present, and they influence our ability to focus and think rationally. We have to learn to become more aware of and manage how we’re feeling, or else our emotions can lead to bad habits like procrastination, perfectionism, and an inability to focus.

Procrastination

When Winona lands her dream job as the lead editor for a trendy, art-film theatre in New York City, she can’t wait to get started. She’s already filled out pages of ideas in her notebook. She has concepts for articles, projects, interviews, and new angles, but when she sits down at her desk on her first day of work, she can’t seem to get started. She flits from her blank Word document to Google News to her notebook, and then back to Google News again. She wants nothing more than to get started on something, but she can’t break her pattern. This example may seem counter-intuitive to procrastination. She’s not bored, and she’s not in over her head. In fact, she has exactly what she wants. So why can’t she just get to work?

EQ strategy: Take control of your self-talk. At the center of Winona’s procrastination is her self-talk. She’s so excited by this new opportunity that she can’t help but fear the worst. She’s anxious about the possibility of people finding out she’s a fraud and losing her dream job. Whenever she is about to begin writing, she starts to think about all the possibilities of failure. She thinks things like, “What if I can’t do this?” and “What if this doesn’t work out?” Then she hides using Google News, her email, or whatever distraction is at her disposal. Luckily, Winona takes her self-talk seriously. After a rough first day, she sits at home and reflects on her thought process that led her to procrastinate. To get herself back on track, she decides to rewrite her self-talk. Next time she starts to go down that negative self-talk path, she resolves to stop herself and repeat a simple, positive, and realistic statement instead: “One step at a time.” She even jots the statement down on a Post-it and sticks the Post-it to the side of her screen. This is exactly the reminder she needs to start writing each day.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a close cousin of procrastination. Instead of blocking the outset of a project, it can strike at any point in your work. One of the most common moments for perfectionism to interfere is near the close of a big project. You take a sales proposal as far as you can, but still, you can’t help but feel like there’s more you can do to make it better. You needlessly toil away at petty details, rephrasing the same sentences in different ways, afraid to send the proposal off to your coworker who is prepared to give you feedback anyway. Little do you consider the diminishing value of return. Using the time you could be using to get started on a new proposal, you instead work long hours to make minute improvements.  

EQ strategy: Get comfortable with failure. High EQ people overcome perfectionism by noticing their mindset and reframing their perspective. Instead of treating failure as a demotivator, they derive motivation from it. Feedback, after all, is an opportunity to learn. This doesn’t mean they turn in half-baked work. It means they pay attention to their process and begin to learn when they have shifted from a healthy concern for detail to over-the-top perfectionism.

Flow

Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote, “May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.” What he’s describing, a hundred years ago, is that universal feeling we get when we strike that perfect balance of focus. Time, distractions, and even hunger fade into the background and we are totally absorbed with the work in front of us. The psychologist, Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term flow to describe this state of mind. In his research he found that people who experience flow are happier with their work and five times as productive. The key to achieving flow lies partially in the task you’re working on and partially in the emotions you feel. The key is that the task can’t be too easy or too difficult, and correspondingly, you can’t be too anxious or too bored.

For our editor Winona, for example, she was too anxious about the task at hand (even though she was capable). Once she refined her self-talk and her approach, she was easily able to reign in her anxiety and dive into her writing.

EQ strategy: Self-reflect before each task. While we can’t necessarily control the difficulty of the tasks we face at work, we can look inward to listen for, spot, and manage our emotions. Each time you’re about to begin a new task, check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling. Not too enthused about the project? It might be too easy and therefore boring. If that’s the case, try to find a way to spice it up. If the task is something simple, like data entry, you may be able to devise a system or game to play with yourself to make it more interesting. For example, you might try to input data as accurately and quickly as possible and track yourself over time to see how you improve. Or if you feel anxious about a challenging project, try to get to the source of what makes you anxious. Is it a tight deadline or a task that you’ve never attempted. In that case, you might try to break it down into smaller components. The third possibility is that you are experiencing a strong emotion unrelated to your work. By taking the time to reflect for a moment, you can more readily set that emotion and situation aside for an evening call with your best friend. This will prevent it from welling up at work as you attempt to get into your task.

From Insights to Action. Now you know that barriers to outward focus require looking inward. Reframe your self-talk, shift your mindset, or take a pulse on how you’re feeling before you tackle that next task. You’ll be surprised how far these simple, daily EQ strategies will take you on your way to becoming happier and more productive.  

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmarteq.com/contact/

4 EQ Strategies to Improve Your Relationships

When it comes to failed relationships, some people can point to a single moment that ruined everything, but the vast majority can’t. Instead, their problems added up slowly over time, growing and growing until they morphed into something else entirely; something much more difficult to fix.

The good news is that by growing your awareness of these toxic tendencies and staying vigilant, you can intervene early and alter your relationship’s course—and live a happier more fulfilled life in the process. We’ve looked at four of the most harmful tendencies in relationships and then applied relevant EQ strategies to help you get your relationship back on track.

Tendency #1: Seeing your relationship’s glass half empty. The beginning of most relationships is one seen through rose-tinted glasses. All the excitement and passion cloud potential problems and annoyances. Then, as evidenced in countless romantic comedies, as time passes, we begin to notice little things that bother us—a trail of clutter, constant nail-biting, or staying up late playing online videogames. These things wear on us and begin to bug us to an almost all-consuming degree. The newfound disillusionment may even erode our ability to recognize all the good things our significant has to offer, the things we appreciated in the first place.  

EQ Strategy #1: Practice gratitude. The greatest catalyst for change in a relationship is complete acceptance of your partner as they are, without needing to judge or change them in any way.”      –Eckhart Tolle

Rather than trying to force someone to change or spending all our time dwelling on the things that person isn’t doing, practice being grateful. Consider their strengths, past kind deeds, and the things that make them unique. With apps and the internet, we can get caught up in the seemingly endless options of people to date and examples of other seemingly perfect couples. Instead of getting caught up in all the hypothetical “others,” take a good, close look at all the positives you already have. One study looking at relationships over time even found that couples who exaggerate the positive traits of one another, who see each other as even better than they might actually be, are far and away the most likely to maintain a healthy long-term relationship.

Tendency #2: Letting in contempt. “Contempt is the sulfuric acid of love.” Psychologist Dr. John Gottman.

Contempt is the single greatest predictor of failed marriages. The more we let contempt grow in our relationships, the more difficult it becomes to manage. Acting overly critical, defensive, mocking, or cold/quiet are all examples of ways that contempt may manifest in a relationship.

EQ Strategy #2: Have that uncomfortable conversation. Communication before contempt. Before our contempt gets the chance to grow and flower into something corrosive, we have to learn to communicate the little things that are on our mind. It may sometimes feel like over-communication will open doors we’d prefer to keep shut, but when we keep them shut too long, our contempt can grow and grow.

Tendency #3: Letting conflicts fail. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years at TalentSmartEQ, it’s that each time we mindlessly let our negative emotions dictate our actions, we are strengthening that bad habit by letting our brain get used to the easy way out. The same goes for couples: When conflicts aren’t seen all the way through, the negative emotions are left to fester. And worse yet, the failed approach to conflict is strengthened, becoming not only a bad moment, but also a bad habit.

EQ Strategy #3: Develop your approach to conflict as a couple. Researchers like Dr. Gottman can judge how poorly an entire conflict will unfold based on the first three minutes of a couple’s interaction. If we can learn to set a good tone in our conflicts from the get-go, they’re much more likely to be productive. To do so, we first have to learn to manage that influx of negative feelings at the outset of a conflict. Left unattended, these negative emotions can overwhelm us and seize hold of our ability to communicate effectively. It’s often our uncomfortable emotions that make us lash out, go quiet, or get defensive. One simple approach is to agree as a couple to step away from conflicts the moment they occur. Each person can then do some much-needed breathing, thinking, or talking it out with a friend before their unhealthy coping mechanisms have a chance to steamroll a necessary conversation. Then, both people can return to the conflict with a clearer head, better fit for being considerate and doing some real problem-solving.

Tendency #4: Dwelling on bad memories. Mentally returning to wrongdoings and tough times is a dangerous tendency. Instead of dwelling on past failures or tough times, it’s essential to learn to reframe past struggles as difficulties overcome together.

EQ Strategy #4: Grow and learn from failures together. Dr. Gottman wrote in an article that when especially happy couples “talk about the tough times they’ve had, they glorify the struggles they’ve been through, drawing strength from the adversity they weathered together.” This growth mentality toward failure turns bad memories into a bedrock of strength from which a couple can build and grow.  

From Insights to Action. So many of the relationship problems we face are the result of things left unsaid, unappreciated, or unchanged. This Valentine’s Day, maybe add a little gratitude and conversation to the chocolates or flowers you bring home this year and you may be surprised what a difference it can make.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmarteq.com/contact/

Do Extroverts Have Higher EQs Than Introverts?

When we picture someone with a high emotional intelligence (EQ), it’s not uncommon to picture the radically sociable salesperson who lights up rooms, gregariously takes on the center of attention, and sells successfully primarily by building relationships. 

What this example really shows is a high EQ extrovert

On the opposite end of the spectrum, picture someone else: Also in sales, she is quieter, listens much more than she speaks, asks good questions, is passionate and knowledgeable about her product, and she has a really keen sense for how her clients feel, what motivates them, and what they look for in her product. In other words, she’s equally effective and equally emotionally intelligent to the high EQ extrovert. She’s a high EQ introvert. 

The danger in this misconception that a high EQ is about sociability is that it can lead a lot of introverts (and at least 30% of us are introverts) to try to be something they’re not—extroverts. As a result, they won’t fully leverage their strengths or natural tendencies, and they’ll likely be less successful and less fulfilled in the process.

EQ is about making the most of your personality. To help get introverts on the right track, we’ve put together a short list of four of the most common traits of introverts and how EQ can help introverts capitalize on their natural style.

Tendency #1: Being around other people drains an introvert’s energy. Unlike extroverts who tend to feel fueled by meeting new people and attending social events, introverts are more likely to leave parties and social events feeling drained. Instead, they rely on solitude for their energy.

EQ Strategy: Put together a plan before big social events. When faced with big social events, high EQ introverts plan accordingly. They’re sure to get solitude and rest before and after the event. And when it comes to the event itself, they may think through who they might like to seek out and talk with as well as a few talking points or back pocket questions to help set themselves at ease and be more effective in their interactions.

Tendency #2: Introverts have a small group of close friends. Whereas extroverts like to make friends everywhere, introverts tend to have a few very close friends and stick to them. 

EQ Strategy: Rely heavily on those few close friends. High EQ introverts may not have the widest net, but they make their friends count via quality time. They don’t isolate themselves. They stick to their close friends and turn to them for support, advice, feedback, laughter, or to talk things out. In sticking to their close friends, they ensure their social lives are just as rich, exciting, and complex as an extrovert’s.  

Tendency #3: Introverts are reflective and introspective. Introverts often like to spend their time examining their own life experiences, motivations, and interests. As a result, they are very likely to pursue individual hobbies and interests (like music, reading, or gaming) with great passion and independence. 

EQ Strategy: Let your self-awareness flourish. Instead of trying to force themselves to expand outward, high EQ introverts know how useful reflection can be when it comes to self-awareness. By thinking through their actions, reactions, and interactions, they come to understand themselves and the way they interact with others on a deep level. This is an invaluable skill when it comes to leadership and developing a greater sense of life satisfaction.

Tendency #4: Introverts are drawn to independent jobs. Introverts naturally like to work in roles where they’re granted autonomy and the freedom to get their work done on their own terms. 

EQ Strategy: Overcommunicate. High EQ introverts in independent jobs may appreciate what they have, but they also recognize the importance of communicating with their boss and the people around them to ensure they aren’t just working into the void. As a general rule of thumb for introverts, overcommunication is the guiding light. Only when they feel like they’re overcommunicating are they reaching that communication sweet spot from the perspective of others.

From Insights to Action. “Inside every head is a world.” –Cuban Proverb
Personality is a framework by which we can explore the infinitely complex world within our head. Personality extends far beyond introversion versus extroversion and includes things like being results-oriented, humble, systematic, firm, high-spirited, or even-keel. Make it your goal to learn about more of your own personality traits so that you can 1) Understand what makes you tick with more nuance, and 2) Act more congruently with your natural tendencies.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmarteq.com/contact/

Why You’re Getting More Awkward, And 6 Strategies to Get You Back On Track

There’s no shortage of evidence pointing to the fact that social skills are like a muscle—you use them or you lose them. One of the clearest ways to see this is to look at extreme examples of isolation: prisoners transitioning out of solitary confinement, soldiers returning from combat, and astronauts returning from a month in space. Interestingly, despite how different these experiences are, research shows that each of these groups experience similar socialization problems as they return. 

That’s because people, regardless of introversion or extroversion, are hardwired for socialization. It’s through communication that our ancestors learned to do things like plant a field full of edible plants or chase down a giant bison for food. And it’s because we are hardwired for communication that we suffer when we go too long without it. Studies even show that the negative emotional and physical effects of social isolation are comparable to those related to smoking, obesity, or a lack of exercise. 

Many of us are weakening our long-trained social muscles during the pandemic as our interactions dwindle and go virtual, but the good news is that social skills can be exercised, stretched, and honed back into shape. Here are six strategies you can use to strengthen your social muscle during the pandemic:

1. Know how serious social isolation is. Researcher Dr. Craig Haney extensively studied the impact of solitary confinement on prisoners, and found that those prisoners who rebound after solitary confinement are the ones who treat their confinement as a threat to their health and take steps to counteract it. You can adopt this same attitude and approach to your much less serious threat of isolation during the pandemic.

2. Use remote replacements. Prisoners who transitioned effectively out of solitary confinement went out of their way to replace what they lacked socially, like writing letters and journaling. Using remote options, like phones, Zoom, and Slack can help prevent your social muscle from fully degrading. For example, one of the biggest social holes in remote work is the loss of spontaneous interactions, like chatting with people before and after meetings, or stepping into a colleague’s office to catch up on each other’s personal lives. Manufacture some spontaneity in your remote work by collaborating with a coworker on a project using Zoom or spending some time after a one-on-one to chat about anything other than work. 

3. Get more in tune with how social isolation affects you. A weakened social muscle affects you in unexpected ways. You may feel hypersensitive to the things people say, more cautious, more self-consciousness, more judgmental, and more fearful of interacting than you would have in the past. Perhaps the scariest thing about losing your socialization muscle is that you can easily misinterpret your own emotional reactions. You may leave a Zoom call feeling anxious or angry and attribute that to yourself (guilt about the work you accomplish remotely) or the other person (they don’t respect my time or work). In reality, you’re feeling frustrated over your isolation and anxious because you’re out of practice. 

4. Recognize the ways remote replacements actually hurt you. The lag in videos, disconnection between body language and verbalization, and any other disturbances (even ones we don’t recognize in the moment) require a significant amount of mental energy as your brain attempts to close the gap between what you see and hear and what is really happening. The result is that you often leave calls feeling vaguely disturbed, irritable, and alienated. Knowing this can help you avoid misattributing the way you feel. It can also help you manage your energy and know when you need to step away from your computer to take a break.

5. Do favors for people and expect nothing in return. Doing small favors purely to make someone else feel good is an organic way to build a sense of connectedness and gratitude, even in the remote world.

6. Unplug. So many hours of your day that you devote to your device and your television are hours you’d otherwise be interacting with your family, friends, or roommates. The problem is so serious that one study conducted on children found that there was a direct connection between how many hours kids spent watching television per day and how likely they were to throw tantrums or demonstrate bad behavior in class. The reason? The kids who watched too much television were missing out on development of key social skills. Putting down your devices doesn’t just give you time to recharge from all your electronically expended energy; it literally gives you a chance to look up and connect, even if the people around you are fewer in number. 

From Insights to Action. Hypnotherapist Milton Erickson offers a useful story from his childhood about waking up after a night of snow. He would always rush outside and walk a zig-zagging path through the snow to school. As other kids woke up and walked to school, they would inevitably follow his steps. Even though his steps were inefficient, they were the easiest steps to follow through the snow because the path had already been trodden. This story works well as a metaphor for our habits. Once we’ve walked a certain pathway in our brain enough times, we are more and more likely to repeat that path, even if it isn’t the best one. The point is, as you work to pull yourself out of that feeling of isolation, remember that you’re naturally going to want to return to your old habits even if they aren’t the best ones for you. Put these strategies into action to forge positive social and emotional habits while we continue to work at a distance.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmarteq.com/contact/

One Key Strategy High EQ People Use To Grow Their Self-Awareness

When we talk about emotional intelligence (EQ), we are often talking about someone’s ability to recognize and understand their own emotions. This ability is called self-awareness, and it’s the foundation of EQ. Once you’ve built your self-awareness you can also begin to better manage yourself and your interactions with other people. 

Without a doubt, one of the fastest and most effective ways to improve your self-awareness is to learn how to name your emotions more specifically and accurately. Studies show that people who label their emotions precisely are…

  1. More flexible in their management of negative emotions. 
  2. Less likely to have angry outbursts and better at handling fear and anxiety.
  3. Less likely to use alcohol for emotional coping.

The strategies below will help you learn to label your emotions and develop your self-awareness.

1. Learn the basic families of emotions. There are seven broad categories of emotions that show on someone’s face: anger, happiness, sadness, contempt, surprise, fear, and disgust. These seven are your starting point to search for inside yourself. For intense emotions, naming them acts as a kind of “pause” button slowing your physical reaction to the feeling and bringing the emotion into the realm of rational thought where you can begin to process what you’re feeling and why. This first step can save you from angry outbursts or retracting in silence when confronted.

2. Expand your emotional vocabulary. When you take context into account, the number of emotions we experience is limitless. We don’t quite experience the exact same kind of happiness, anger, or fear. It’s through the understanding the subtle varieties that you begin to really develop self-awareness. Check out this emotions list, which takes into account words for emotions that only exist in other languages. It’s full of words like “toska,” a vague sense of restlessness, “abbiocco,” a sleepy feeling after a big meal, and “umpty,” a feeling of everything being too much and all in the wrong way. By expanding your emotional vocabulary, you’re really getting to know your range of tendencies and triggers. Careful reflection on these emotions will help you access big picture questions about your values, beliefs, and intentions.

3. Practice on books and movies. Movies, poems, and novels offer layered emotional expressions: a specific emotion felt by a specific person during a specific experience in a specific context. As you watch movies and read books, focus deeper into a notable emotion to try to understand each of these layers. When a character shows fear, for example, try to better identify and understand what type of fear. Are they “apprehensive?” Are they “bristling with fear?” Apprehension might come from a sense of self-doubt while “bristling” is much more physical and likely the result of an immediate threat or triggered from a past trauma. You don’t need to worry about finding the right answer. What you are doing is building an important skill – awareness and your ability to analyze emotions as they happen. This practice will not only help you break down your own emotions, but it will also help you build social awareness, or your ability to recognize and understand the emotions and tendencies of others. 

From Insights to Action. Remember that when we are first in the grips of an emotion, it is at its most powerful. This moment of saturated feeling is when we are the most prone to act entirely based on how we feel. Being reactive can lead to poor decisions and regret. Try to slow yourself down, label that big picture emotion family, and give yourself time to process things more logically and with more nuance.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact/. 

Nine Communication Mistakes You Might Be Making

No matter how smart, talented, or experienced you are, there are communication mistakes that can change the way people see you. At TalentSmart, stories shared with us in our training programs and coaching work suggest poor communication habits can even hold you back from reaching your full potential.  Here are nine common communication blunders that hold people back. Take a close look at each of these mistakes to see where you might be missing the mark: 

Letting your emotions dictate what you say.

“Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it.” -Vincent van Gogh

When you react to your emotions in the moment, you are more likely to say something impulsive, half-baked, or not true to your values and beliefs. You can’t learn to prevent your emotions from happening (nor would you want to), but with a bit of practice you can teach yourself to slow down, recognize your emotions as they come, and prevent your emotions from hijacking your words. In fact, the very foundation of emotional intelligence (EQ) is your ability to recognize, understand, and manage your emotions so that you can work and live with them, instead of around or against them.

Using language of uncertainty. Small turns of phrase can make a big difference when you communicate. Over-using phrases like “I think” instead of “I believe,” or “I might” instead of “I will,” can detract from your core message. Similarly, ticks in our communication—such as saying “like” or “uhm” too often—can make you sound unsure of yourself. 

Saying too much. “Wise people speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” –Plato

When it comes to consuming information these days, people have access to way more content than they could ever want or need. To keep people engaged in what you have to say, you have to make every word count. At its worst, saying too much can sound like a spoken stream of consciousness, jumping topics at random and never getting to your point.

Saying too little. We listen to our own thoughts constantly. So much so, we tend to think that people have access to our thoughts. They don’t. The result is you can easily leave gaps between your intentions and what you say. Another way you could be saying too little is by holding back important feelings that you can’t muster the courage to bring up.

Thinking you already communicated. A Stanford study found that people naturally overestimate how well other people understand what they say and what they mean. Because of this tendency, it’s especially important to slow down and really get your ideas across to others. The way people respond in body language, questions, and comments can tell you a lot about how your message is coming across—or if it is coming across at all for that matter.

Not connecting on a personal level. Communication is a two-way street, and read from the script delivery cuts your audience out of the message. Whether you’re communicating with one person or an auditorium full of people, why does what you have to say matter to them?

Trying too hard to persuade. People are by nature reactive, and they shut down if you barrage them with critical comments and opinions. You’re better off sharing key ideas, interesting stories, and examples, then letting your audience connect the dots.

Getting your tone wrong. If you’re interviewing for a job, it’s important to demonstrate how passionate and excited you are about the work you will be doing. If you’re giving a lecture, it’s probably a good idea to demonstrate a high degree of passion about your topic. If you’re a doctor, you need to convey professionalism, a sense of calm, and trustworthiness. When tone misaligns with message, communication breaks down.

A weak close. People naturally pay extra attention to how you finish. Research shows that people remember your closing better than other parts of your message, and even attribute more value to it than the rest of what you said. Whether it’s a presentation, making a sale, or finishing up an interview, people will pay an inordinate amount of attention to how you close the conversation. Try to make it memorable, whether that means adding a nice personal touch in a one-on-one or a dramatic last story to cap off your presentation. 

From Insights to Action. Do you know which communication blunders you make? Post this list at your work station and try to spot as many as you can in your conversations and emails. Instead of seeing each slip-up as a “problem,” make them your targets to correct in the coming year.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact/. 

The Value of EQ Feedback

Tai is known around his office as a “people person” and is a well-liked sales manager. His interpersonal skills are energetic and fun, and he’s incredibly empathetic and supportive to his team. During his end-of-year reviews, his director always comments on his emotional intelligence as a strength. But when it comes to Tai’s team’s sales performance this year, he’s starting to fall a bit short compared to the other managers around him. His team’s numbers aren’t keeping up and he doesn’t know why. He feels like he’s always hearing how important EQ is, but now it’s failing him.

Tai is falling prey to a common misconception about EQ: he thinks it can be boiled down to likability, social skills, and empathy. In reality, EQ is made up of a broader set of competencies. While Tai and his director both see how well-liked he is and attribute this to a high EQ, Tai’s EQ is actually imbalanced in a way that’s hurting his performance.

How can Tai better recognize his blind spots? Like athletes watching footage of themselves after a game, or novelists using beta readers before they publish, the fastest way to improve your EQ skills is to get feedback from an outside perspective.

One way is to simply ask people around you what behaviors they see are getting in your way. One person’s perspective may be biased, but a group of observations can help level out biases. For Tai, this might mean asking members of his team or his director. The problem with this approach is that the questions he asks, his relationship with each person, and the way he asks his questions will influence the responses he receives.

A second way to try to improve is to watch how other people succeed. For Tai, he could compare his approach to that of more successful sales managers to see what it is that they’re doing well. The problem with this approach is that what works for one manager with one group of people may not work for Tai with his group.

A third way to get at your tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses is to take an emotional intelligence self-assessment (link) which helps you break down specific elements of emotional intelligence compared other working professionals so that you can better see what you’re doing well and which EQ behaviors to improve. Often, by breaking emotional intelligence down into its parts, you begin to see areas that need your attention or that you hadn’t considered previously.

Perhaps the best way to gather feedback is through a 360 assessment which evaluates both the way you see yourself and the way everyone around you sees you. Your leaders, colleagues, and direct reports assess you on the same emotional intelligence behaviors that you rate yourself on. They also write up comments on your emotional intelligence based on their experience working with you. The results allow you to draw a direct comparison between your self-evaluation and the way others see you. This brings your blind spots to life with both data and specific examples from work. For Tai, he will discover through a 360 assessment that while he’s brilliant at connecting with people, his team doesn’t feel like he really understands their long-term goals or gives them the tough feedback they need to grow.

From Insights to Actions. The good news when it comes to emotional intelligence is that research has proven it’s a highly learnable skill. When you assess your EQ, you immediately begin to build your awareness of your tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses, which all offer a means by which to practice and improve. For a leader like Tai who already has the trust and respect of his team, this heightened self-awareness will set him up to excel as a well-balanced, high EQ leader.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmartEQ’s emotional intelligence products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at www.talentsmart.com/contact/.

How to Reflect on 2020 and Make Your Goals Stick in 2021

“Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.” -Audre Lorde, Poet

Reflection at the end of a year is as tumultuous as 2020 has been intimidating, but it’s through tough times that we learn the most about ourselves. Reflection is not about disingenuous silver linings, phony optimism, or cheesy “life hacks” to solve your problems. Reflection is about getting real with yourself and coming to understand your experiences for what they are—for better and for worse. This year take some time to honestly and seriously consider your experiences, so you can set more impactful resolutions that you are more likely to work at and maintain.

Consider Mónica who reflects on some of her most frequent challenges faced while working in 2020. The one thing that immediately sticks out to her (and to so many people this year) is distraction. She worked longer hours than ever, but she knows she spent some of them distracted. The problem, she realizes, isn’t so much her family, the news, or her phone; the problem is that she isn’t balancing her working life and her home life remotely. At work, she did everything in her power to concentrate so she could leave by six, drive home, and have dinner with her family. At home, she finds herself checking email and staying online even after dinner. The result is a steady stream of weariness, minimal time where she’s actually disconnected, and difficulty feeling “fully engaged” and present with her family at dinner. That’s her honest reflection.

Goal setting is the next step after reflection. Goals that stick are specific strategies or practices you can apply daily. The more specific and clear the behavior, the better. For Mónica, she knows that a sensible goal might be to work on restoring her sense of work-life balance. Rather than just writing down this big, vague goal and giving it a go, she needs to get precise so she can spot what to do differently. Otherwise, she will just fall back on old habits. She remembers how when she worked in a physical office, she would head out the door at six and rarely ever check email or do work once she was in the car and at home. To get more strategic with her goal, Mónica recreates the feeling of leaving her office at six. Each day at six, she will get up from her desk and go for a 30-minute walk before having dinner with her family. That’s a more impactful resolution.

Staying on track with your goals is the next easiest place to falter. Every year 80% of people give up on their resolutions entirely by Super Bowl Sunday and only about 5% succeed through the year. Why? Because creating new habits is surprisingly difficult. Below are three strategies to follow as you try to turn your goal into a habit that sticks by April, May, August or November.

  1. Make the new habit convenient. When something is easy, we do it more often. If there’s always a beer in the fridge, we are much more likely to drink one. Or, if our phone is beside our computer instead of across the room in a drawer, we’re much more likely to check it. For Mónica, walking after work is easy. She can just get up from her desk and walk out the door. If she chose something a bit more difficult, like going to the gym or phoning a friend to go with her, even these little extra steps can get in the way of forming a habit.
  • Substitute part of the old habit with something new. One of the best ways to change a habit is to replace part of the existing one. For example, if you finish your work each day and crack a beer, you might replace the beer with a lemonade or iced tea that’s waiting right there when you get home. A similar substitute works well because you don’t have to create a whole new habit. Mónica substituted her old driving commute with a walking commute.
  • Piggyback your habit onto an existing habit. Our brains tend to respond well to piggybacking because it doesn’t require an entire overhaul of what we were doing before. Instead, you just train your brain to associate your new habit with an existing one. For people who want to use their phones less, they might just drop their phone in the same bowl as their keys then go about their day. For Mónica, stepping out her front door piggybacks off the existing habit of stepping away from her computer at six, and it is effective because she is physically away from her computer when an email comes through her phone. To be sure she’s not tempted when she returns, she can also turn her computer off, not just put it to sleep.

From Insights to Action. From now until January 1st 2021, reflect on that one nagging thing that’s been holding you back, even during this incredibly difficult year. You may be surprised what kinds of honest conclusions you reach and specific solutions you come up with. By choosing only one nagging thing, you’ll also be sure to stay focused and motivated in your effort to change. We’ll try our best to join you. Good luck to us all in the new year to come!

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact/.

Better EQ, Better Performance

In January of 2020, EQ had already topped LinkedIn’s Yearly Report on the Top 5 Most Desired Workplace Skills, and this was before workplace and life challenges faced us all when the pandemic struck. Organizational leaders with savvy insight doubled down on EQ making it an organization-wide priority to help give their employees the tools they need to face the unprecedented in a healthy, productive way.

When we connected with Reid Swanson, a certified EQ trainer at a major southern Californian medical center, he shared exactly this sentiment with us: “As we move to virtual trainings,” he said, “I have a smaller budget this year than what I’d budgeted previous years. But especially with everything going remote and with all the disruptions right now, EQ is one of the things that we especially need to keep emphasizing and making available.”

Swanson’s sentiment is one shared by many of our clients, both old and new, and to help show people why this is the case, we wanted to step back and highlight some of the most important ways that training people in EQ skills can benefit individuals, teams, and organizations:

Better EQ, Better You: EQ skills can radically alter your life. High EQ people perform better at work, make considerably more money, are more effective in their relationships, and they literally live happier, healthier lives.

Performance: At TalentSmart, we tested emotional intelligence alongside 33 other important workplace skills and found that EQ is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs. Of the millions of people we’ve studied at work, 90% of top performers are high in emotional intelligence. On the flip side, just 20% of bottom performers are high in emotional intelligence. High EQ people earn an average of $29,000 more per year than those with a low degree of EQ. The link between emotional intelligence and earnings is so direct that every point increase in EQ adds $1,300 to an annual salary. These findings hold true for people across industries, at all levels, in every region of the world.

Quality of life: EQ literally saves people’s lives. Negative emotions like stress, anxiety, and depression weaken the immune system. Because high EQ people more skillfully recognize and understand their own emotions, they’re more likely to recognize negative emotions and potential stressors. And because they are more skilled at managing negative emotions, they have healthy habits in place to deal with their negative feelings. One study looked at tension, fear, and anxiety in women over the course of twenty years and found that those less skilled at managing their emotions experienced higher levels of stress, and over the course of twenty years, they were twice as likely to develop breast cancer as those women more skilled at managing their emotions. EQ skills not only prevent stress-related disease, but they can also increase the speed of recovery from cancer and heart attacks. EQ skills have also been linked to happiness. People high in EQ know how to make the most of their positive emotions by doing things like savoring good moods, practicing gratitude, learning to view failure as an opportunity to grow, not letting small things interfere with big picture happiness, and learning to derive their happiness from within not without.

Better EQ, Better Team: The bulk of work at organizations is done by teams, and teams are made up of people with varying levels of EQ. This can present a problem on teams that don’t successfully work to improve their group’s emotional intelligence—they may stumble on politics, unnecessary bureaucracy, internal and external conflicts, and miscommunications. But, on high EQ teams, performance of the group can become seamless, full of good ideas and innovations, and can easily exceed the capabilities of any one person alone by playing to key strengths and weaknesses.

Team performance: Teams skilled in EQ are more successful at achieving their goals, problem-solving, and completing tasks quickly than less emotionally intelligent teams in healthcare, technology, and engineering professions.

Team dynamic. Because team EQ skills help teams overcome the complexity of interactions on a team level (between individuals, subgroups, and team-to-team communication), it has easily been linked to a number of team-level skills. Some of the most important include the ability to collaborate cross-functionallydevelop in-group trustestablish group cohesion, and manage stress as a team during emotionally charged situations

Better EQ, Better Organization: Building emotional intelligence into the organization from top to bottom gives everyone a universal framework and vocabulary with which to approach work, and it also improves the bottom line.

Organizational performance: In a seminal case study at L’Oreal, salespeople hired for their emotional intelligence outsold their counterparts by about $90,000 per year for an organizational jump in sales of $2.6 million. L’Oreal’s high EQ salespeople were also 63% less likely to leave their job. TalentSmart training programs in EQ have led to a number of organizational improvements including:

  1. A 40% increase in engineers’ ability to deal with change at a Fortune 200 defense contractor.
  2. A 67% improvement in problem employees’ ability to prevent setbacks from influencing their work at a Fortune 50 telecommunications company.
  3. A 93% improvement in leaders’ ability to handle conflict at a Fortune 500 medical center.

Organizational benefits: When it comes to companies that people tend to work at, stay at, and even recommend to friends, we like to attribute this to “company culture” or “intangibles.” In reality, we are often referring to a company’s ability to build an environment of inclusivity and growth from top to bottom. EQ on the organizational level has been shown to help unify people toward a common mission, encourage prosocial behavior and organizational citizenship, and to make employees less resistant to change. These types of organization-wide benefits enable employees to find mentors, learn new skills, feel like a part of something bigger, and forge deeper, long-term relationships at work.

From Insights to Action. To read more about the benefits of EQ, EQ strategies for improvement, and more, go to www.talentsmart.com/. Or, to learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmartEQ’s emotional intelligence products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at www.talentsmart.com/contact/.

3 Research-Backed Ways that EQ Drives Sales Performance

Barry, takes a week-long sales trip to New York to visit clients. He bounces around the city doing client visits while also juggling his full weekly schedule—meetings with the home office, an existing high maintenance client with demanding last-minute requests, and a challenging new lead who researches online, asks tough questions, and shops as many simultaneous options as she can.

To succeed across this wide array of challenges and people, Barry needs an equally wide array of skills: He needs to be able to switch rapidly between clients and adjust his approach along the way. He needs to manage his stress through busy, high-stakes weeks. He also needs to communicate clearly, be persuasive, inspire clients, and respond flexibly to changing client demands.

To train salespeople like Barry in this array of “soft skills” takes significant time and resources for his organization. The good news is that all these sales skills, and many others, can be boosted simultaneously by practicing one skillset: emotional intelligence (EQ). Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions, and your skill at using this awareness to manage yourself and your relationships with others. Research shows that salespeople high in EQ outperform and outsell those low in EQ. Here are three research-backed reasons why EQ improves critical sales skills:

High EQ sales reps are better at interpersonal skills. To get through his week packed full of meetings and phone calls, Barry constantly relies on his interpersonal skills. He moves fluidly from a demanding client to a new lead to a long-time client who is affable, laid-back and just wants to catch up personally. Each client has their own needs, emotions, and style of communication, and it’s up to Barry to successfully create a positive outcome—whether that’s a sale, rapport-building, or even just inspiring some initial intrigue. In multiple studies on sales reps, high performers were found to be those who excelled at EQ. Like Barry, they read and manage emotions during client conversations, adapting their behavior to fit the situation and influence the buyer. The secret to their success lies in their ability to identify shared feelings between themselves and the buyer, then using these to move forward together.

High EQ sales reps are better at stress management. Leading up to his high stakes week of client visits, Barry is prone to feeling nervous and stressed. Instead of letting his nerves take over, he’s learned to remind himself of past successes. He tells himself that he often thrives under pressure. He just needs to be sure to stick to his usual self-care practices while on the road. He gets to sleep by 10:30, limits himself to just one coffee each morning, and sets aside an hour to exercise before dinner. It’s through his routine that he finds a positive rhythm and the energy to catch up on communications with the home office. This is thriving under pressure. Studies show that high EQ sales reps not only manage their stress more effectively, but they also report feeling less stressed than their low EQ counterparts. On top of that, high EQ people report feeling more positive emotions. This positivity, like Barry showed as he mentally prepared for his big week, is essential to sales reps as they navigate tough clients, tough weeks, and tough months.

High EQ sales reps are more adaptable and creative.When Barry sits down for dinner with a client hoping to close a big deal, the client almost immediately throws a big wrench in his plan. She shares that she’s going to wait three months for her new quarterly budget before she buys anything at all. Barry is upset and fears she won’t end up purchasing come three months from now. But, he recognizes that his future worries can interfere with this very moment. He takes a deep breath to set his worries aside, then asks her questions to learn more about her budget and how she intends to use it next quarter. This allows her to dream out loud and feel even more excited about the possibilities. By the time he leaves dinner, she has agreed to a substantially larger deal than before; he just needed to be patient. Where a low EQ sales rep might have pushed for early commitment in their fear of losing the sale, Barry was able to stay level-headed, see the bigger picture, and adapt his approach to meet the situation at hand.

From Insights to Action.How you sell matters. What your process is matters. But how your customers feel when they engage with you matters more.” –Tiffani Bova

Perhaps the most important finding in emotional intelligence research is that it is a highly flexible skill. With practice, people who measure low in EQ can work to improve a specific EQ skill within six months to a year.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact-us/.