8 Habits of Highly Adaptable People

Adaptable people have a way of making everything look easy: They’re calm while everyone else is overwhelmed, they’re quick to embrace change and make the most of it, and when the stakes run high, they always seem to rise to the occasion.

Research from the University of London confirms that much of what we see in adaptable people is true: they really do handle their stress more effectively, make less mistakes in their work, and outperform their coworkers.

Being adaptable isn’t an unreachable trait that you’re either born with or not. Many of the behaviors that make someone “adaptable” are closely tied to the personal competence side of emotional intelligence (EQ). By practicing the right EQ strategies and developing better habits, you can teach yourself to respond more nimbly to the all the curveballs the world throws. To help get you started, we did some digging to uncover the key behaviors that emotionally intelligent people engage in that make them so adaptable. Here are eight of the best.

They label their emotions in real time. Uncertainty, fear of change, frustration, and anxiety are often treated as “enemies” of adaptability. When you think about it though, adaptable people experience the same emotions as everyone else—that’s human nature. The difference is in how they process these emotions. One of the healthiest and most practical ways to stay on top of negative emotions, and one adaptable people live by, is to learn to recognize and label your emotions in real time. Research shows that people who are skilled at labeling their emotions are more flexible in their management of negative emotions, better at handling fear and anxiety, and less likely to have angry outbursts. All the calm and cool that we see in adaptable people begins when they first experience their emotions and acknowledge them with intention.

They don’t suppress their emotions. They drill deeper. Rather than shove their emotions down, adaptable people acknowledge their emotions as indicative of something bigger and drill deeper to learn more. Leaving an emotion alone “until it goes away” is like the famous study where psychologists told people not to think about a white bear—it will actually make you think incessantly about that emotion (or white bear). Emotions are valuable information that can cue us into our tendencies and perspectives. Exploring your emotions as they arrive comes with an added bonus: those emotions end up taking less of your time and get out of your way in the long run.

They practice self-care. When the world gets overwhelming and fickle, adaptable people are sure to create as much stability as possible in their personal lives. They practice physical, psychological, social, and spiritual self-care. Things like a healthy diet, exercise, good sleep habits, prayer, meditation, or some time to reflect all go a long way to bring more positive emotions into your life. They also bring a sense of internal peace among all the external chaos.

They’re open and curious about the world. In times of stress and change, it’s all too easy to get bogged down by negative possibilities. One of the best ways to prevent negative “what-ifs” from bringing you down is to consider all the possibilities for learning and growth in the face of a challenge. Adaptable people stay as open and curious as possible because they know that “differences” and “change” can often be powerful catalysts for improvement and growth.

They act fast…Failure is the best way to learn. Adaptable people know, perhaps better than anyone, that to weather the storms of change you have to be prepared to act fast and fail. In a famous spaghetti experiment, researchers pitted teams of kindergarteners against teams of MBA students in a spaghetti tower building contest. While the MBA students plotted out their approach, assigned roles, and talked strategy, the kindergarteners got to work putting spaghetti together until their tower fell then adjusting their approach. Time and again, kindergarteners won, building taller towers than the MBA students. The difference was simply that they jumped to action and learned from their mistakes as they went.

…But they’re also sure to set aside time for reflection. One of the biggest differences between adults and children is our ability to think critically and reflect. So, while we there’s a nice lesson to be had from children, adaptable people also take the time to get more intentional after the fact. They carve out time each day to reflect and learn from the work they’ve done. Setting aside time, even as little as fifteen or thirty minutes, can help you learn and grow faster. It’s often the difference between “working hard” and “working smart.”

They get out of their comfort zone. Adaptable people always seem calm under pressure because they put themselves out there all the time. By leaning into their discomfort constantly, they train themselves to feel okay with failure and mistakes. Now they can get on with working through them.

They’re resilient. What we mean by resilient is “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” We don’t mean that they suppress their emotions or grind through them at the expense of self-care and relationships. The big picture keeps you flexible in the face of change because day-to-day stumbles don’t loom quite so large compared to your end goal.

From Insights to Action. Adaptable people are invaluable. They flow through their work, get your team out of a tight pinch, and spread a sense of calm and fun around the office. Apply as many of their strategies to your own life, as often as you can, and watch your adaptability begin to build! You will feel more calm and more equipped to rise to the challenges that come your way.   

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

3 Types of People High EQ Teams Rely On To Succeed

Picture a sales team that performs highly and gets along well, but they ruffle so many feathers in the process that they actually become more of a problem than a dream team. To succeed, they repeatedly create extensive last-minute work for other teams. They demand, for example, that the marketing team puts together a complex email campaign in two days right as the marketing team is trying to wrap up their new video series campaign. Or, when any of the sales team finalizes a massive sale on a Friday afternoon, they push hard to make the warehouse team ship the sale that afternoon to get it to count for month’s end—they do so despite the day’s shipping hours being over and despite the fact that the warehouse team has to stay late to get it done. To make matters worse, when celebrating their success the following week, they brag loudly and neglect to acknowledge all the support from the marketing team and the warehouse.

What this sales team lacks is the ability to manage their relationships with other teams. It’s not that sales teams more skilled at managing their external relationships wouldn’t push the warehouse or marketing teams to meet customer needs or tight deadlines. It’s that they would do so in a way that acknowledges the sacrifices those teams will make and in a way that strives to maintain a good relationship long-term (like providing a thank-you lunch for the marketing and warehouse teams and acknowledging their extra work in an email to leadership). 

External relationship management, one of the four core skills that makes up team emotional intelligence (team EQ), is essential to a team’s success no matter how high performing they are. At TalentSmartEQ, we’ve observed how teams skilled in external relationship management connect their efforts beyond the limited scope of their group, aligning their work with the goals of other teams and their organization as a whole. These high EQ teams gain greater visibility, wield more influence, and develop deeper, more positive relationships with other groups and people.

So how do you grow your team’s ability to manage their external relationships? Recent research from MIT highlighted how a team’s external communication can often be boiled down to several key “types” of people. Below we’ve detailed three of these “types” and how they help grow a team’s external relationship management. Pay close attention to these types to see how you fit the bill and to find out how you might better leverage the existing strengths of people on your team.

Ambassadors. Ambassadors tend to be outgoing and know a wide range of people across teams, departments, and levels of the organization. When your team needs help or is looking to get something unique accomplished, ambassadors know “just the right person.” Ambassadors not only know a lot of people and build important relationships, but they also understand the unspoken cultural rules of the organization and the big picture needs of the company. On a food science development team, the ambassador might be the scientist who constantly chats with the marketing team and therefore knows to connect your team’s pitch for a new plant-based bag of chips to your company’s selling goal of drawing in new types of consumers.

Scouts. To connect your team to the outside world, you don’t have to be an extrovert, you don’t need twenty years of experience, and you don’t need to be best friends with the CEO. Scouts are people who bring important outside knowledge back to your team. They attend conferences, read relevant new research, and spend time with specialists. Their passion for relevant subject matter allows them to constantly bring new information to your group to help the whole team stay relevant. On a beverage system engineering team, a scout might be the engineer who is highly engaged in academic research around electrical engineering. When new technologies or solutions emerge that could apply to beverage systems, this person shares that information with their team, keeping them ahead of the curve and competitive through time.

Coordinators. Coordinators usually don’t wield as much influence or know-how as ambassadors, and they usually don’t possess the specialty knowledge of a scout. And yes, the term “coordinator” is often in their job title. But, because of their role as a coordinator, they are in constant communication with other teams, departments, and clients. The coordinator is the external touchpoint for questions or favors—both incoming and outgoing. Coordinators also tend to be skilled at recognizing the ripple effect your team’s actions may have on another team. For instance, if a sales team pushes too hard on the marketing team or the warehouse, it’s the sales coordinator who understands the process best and can help push back to keep that sales team from over-asking or disrespecting the bigger process.

From Insights to Action. In what ways do you fit the description for one of these types? How about your teammates? Can you help them access these high team EQ behaviors? Get together and discuss these at a team meeting to make sure your group doesn’t overlook three easy ways to leverage team EQ by tapping into your teammates’ strengths.

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

How EQ Prevents Accidents and Increases Production

At Toyota manufacturing plants, a cord is placed in each assembly line for anyone to pull at any time to stop the line for safety, errors, or broken parts. The system is simple–anyone who observes something that seems “off” can and should pull the cord.

This system is an example of how fostering emotionally intelligent behavior can prevent accidents and improve production. The cord empowers assembly teams from bottom to top, sending the message that each team member’s eyes and ears matter. It also sends the message that everyone is equally responsible—if you have the power to pull the cord and you don’t, that’s as much on you as it is on your manager.

The cord is just one example of how being aware and pushing through to taking action, two core EQ skills, positively impacts manufacturing teams. Research shows that training manufacturing plant supervisors in EQ reduced lost-time accidents by 50% and increased production by 17%, compared to untrained supervisors who saw no difference in production. EQ touches on a number of competencies that drive success in manufacturing. Here are three examples:  

EQ increases accountability. Like the Toyota example, EQ gives people the tools they need to hold each other accountable and confront each other in a healthy way. For instance, if a team member is lingering in the break room when she’s needed on the floor, their team should feel comfortable calling her out. Teams operating with a high degree of EQ are not only more comfortable calling each other out, but they’re also more comfortable being called out. When the employee is called out for lingering too long, she doesn’t sweat it or take it too personally because she understands that it’s the way her team operates. Because accountability is a piece of the day-to-day work, people don’t fear it and respond irrationally the way they do on other teams.

EQ means better problem-solving. On manufacturing teams, problems are inevitable. Essential parts break, other groups hold your team up in the production line, and new technologies create unforeseen changes in the day-to-day work. The mark of a high EQ team is the ability to stay calm under pressure in order to focus on the things that they can control. When problems inevitably arise, a high EQ team will ask itself “What do we know that can make a difference?” They may need to liaison with the engineering team, speak with the team ahead of them in the line, or they may need to move to a different task entirely. Instead of letting their emotions take the wheel (causing unnecessary arguments, hasty decision-making, and impulsivity), a high EQ team recognizes and acknowledges their emotions then focuses on the problem at hand.

EQ leads to helping behavior. High EQ teams are able to see the bigger picture—their team as a piece of the organizational whole. That means lending a helping hand when they see another team is swamped is still part of their job to help the organization’s performance. It also means building rapport with other teams to improve interactions and asking for help themselves when needed.

From Insights to Action. Each of these examples show how emotional intelligence can help manufacturing teams avoid accidents and work more fluidly and effectively on a daily basis. That said, they’re also competencies that any team in any industry can learn from. Accountability, problem-solving, and lending a helping hand are important attributes for all teams across industries.

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/.

How to Build Organizational Buy-in for EQ

Convincing leaders, resource decision makers, or an entire organization to invest in emotional intelligence development (EQ) is a daunting yet worthwhile challenge.

When you succeed at getting buy-in across the organization, the results give your people and your organization a competitive advantage: Not only are high EQ employees happier, more engaged, and higher performing, but also a positive cumulative effect begins to take hold. As EQ becomes a living and breathing part of company culture, people operate from an emotionally intelligent framework. They develop a strong accountability for understanding and managing the range of emotions that surface and influence their interactions. They also use a common vocabulary around emotional intelligence that allows them to connect, make decisions, be more agile, foster inclusivity, build trust, and handle conflict (among other things).

At TalentSmartEQ, after more than twenty years of helping organizations build buy-in for EQ, we’ve implemented a vast assortment of approaches that work. Here are five of our best.

  • Tie EQ to your business needs. One of the best ways to avoid making EQ seem like just another “nice-to-have training” is to connect EQ directly to business needs your industry values. Our clients in hospitals offer a great example. Physicians, nurses, and hospital staff tend to be swamped, so you have to make a compelling case to convince them to take the time to train above and beyond their clinical skills. To get their buy-in, many hospitals turn to HCAHPS surveys—a hospital rating system conducted by patients that focuses largely on patient care. The surveys dictate a significant source of hospital funding, and of the survey’s 25 items, 16 can be boosted by developing EQ skills (items include things like careful listening, showing respect, and communicating clearly). By outlining the close connections between successful patient care and emotional intelligence skills, decision makers readily see how EQ skills affect their bottom line, and hospital staff see how EQ skills support the patient care experience on a daily basis.
  • Connect EQ to your existing competencies. Why not start with the core behaviors that make up your company values? Employees should already know the significance of the competencies that matter to the organization. The value of EQ becomes obvious when you lay out exactly how EQ can help people grow those competencies. Say, for example, your company values risk-taking. Employees will experience hesitation or fear as they approach potential risks. To take the risks effectively, they have to get good at managing those emotions in real time so that their risks are calculated, not reactive. At the same time, team members have to be good at listening and hearing people out when they present an idea, and they have to be good at dealing with conflict as people inevitably disagree. Connecting EQ to core competencies works well, especially because many core competencies are people competencies and are influenced by emotional intelligence skills training.
  • Win over influential people as early adopters. Office politics are inevitable. Make sure you have influential people buying into EQ from the beginning because those people alone can cast a wave of support and alignment. Ask them to think back to memorable moments when they grew the most as a professional, and you’ll often hear a story of EQ skills in action at your organization. Invite your EQ champions to kick off training sessions with a few EQ stories to inspire your next generation of high EQ leaders.  
  • Bring EQ in from multiple angles. Offer EQ learning opportunities across a variety of stages in someone’s career, and their understanding of EQ and ability to apply it will deepen with time. For example, applicants to your organization may first hear about EQ during their interview. Then, as they’re hired and onboarded, they’re oriented to what EQ is and how it’s valued at the company. Along the way they have access to open enrollment or online learning courses where they can assess their EQ strengths and weaknesses. Later on, high potentials and first-time supervisors enroll in a deeper dive of EQ development training and take a retest to track progress on their EQ behaviors. Leaders attend development programs with EQ 360 feedback and coaching follow-up. On top of all that, EQ can be built into yearly performance review discussions. Teams are asked to assess their team EQ for a team retreat and create team EQ actions plans together. To come full circle, your recruiters and hiring managers are trained on EQ interview questions and what to listen for in candidate responses…The point is, as you increase the number and variety of EQ touchpoints, EQ becomes increasingly a part of how your workforce interacts with customers, suppliers and each other. People will naturally begin to use it as a framework for the work they do.  
  • Measure progress and results. If you want to build buy-in, show people the numbers. There’s plenty of existing research across industries of how EQ training has drastically improved performance, but you can bring this message closer to home by measuring tangible performance results of your own and publishing them for your employees. Whether its sales numbers going up, safety incidents going down, or patient ratings improving, when you can tie EQ and performance together with tangible data, people will get on board.

From Insights to Action. No two organizations are exactly the same, so they need different ways of implementing EQ to fit their learners, their culture, their budgets, and their goals. Reach out to TalentSmartEQ at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmarteq.com/contact/ to learn what might make the most sense for your organization.

3 Ways Highly Effective Teams Handle Conflict

In a team environment, conflict is inevitable. Some conflicts are more minor like what time to hold a meeting, who is going to take lead on that dreaded data entry project, or where to order lunch. Other conflicts are more difficult, like delivering tough feedback, holding a teammate accountable for a mistake, or disagreeing over your team’s approach to an entire marketing campaign. Team conflicts can have serious repercussions for group performance and team member happiness if you don’t learn to manage them thoughtfully.

The key is to encourage and enforce healthy conflict. Healthy conflict directly and constructively addresses the issue at hand without ignoring or trivializing the needs of either party. From years of working closely with teams to develop their emotional intelligence, we have come across a number of impactful strategies teams employ to engage in healthy conflict. What follows are three of the best.

Make people feel safe. Google’s year-long study of their highest performing teams found that the single most important factor to team success was not personality, IQ, or structure. It was psychological safety. Psychological safety is a group mentality where people feel comfortable taking risks and don’t fear rejection or ridicule. Google teams that felt this sense of safety had more equal contributions from all team members, read their teammates’ tones of voice and body language more effectively, and were more skilled at recognizing when a teammate felt excluded or upset. Teams that feel psychologically safe are much better equipped to hear from everyone and engage in healthy conflicts where people don’t feel the need to be “right,” people aren’t afraid to speak up, and perspectives aren’t overlooked.  

Make it a norm for everyone to speak up. When you normalize sharing ideas and thoughtful disagreement, you lower the stakes around conflict. Your team gets used to it. This of course makes it even easier to share, and so the positive cycle begins. As an extreme example, look at the hedge fund Bridgewater which does everything it can to normalize healthy conflict. Their employees each carry iPads with “pain buttons” they use as a conflict barometer for how conflicts made them feel. In fact, healthy disagreement is so encouraged at Bridgewater that when they found their dry erase board didn’t erase properly, they readily spent hours debating the decision-making process behind their purchase. Sure, this approach seems excessive (especially from the perspective of teams that don’t rely on conflict the way a hedge fund does), but they’ve absolutely succeeded at getting everyone to feel comfortable speaking out and sharing critiques or disagreement—and that’s a lot more than many teams can say.

Turn conflict into collaboration. More often than not, conflicts become unhealthy when emotions take over and people become too absorbed in their own opinions and feelings to act considerately. When a conflict moves this direction, one of the best things you can do as a team is to steer the conversation away from conflict to collaboration. Here are a few techniques to help: 

Expand your options. When your team is deadlocked between two options and making no progress, work together to come up with several entirely new options. Getting the whole team to zoom out from their conflict, also reminds everyone that the purpose of the conversation is not to win the debate but to accomplish the bigger goal.

Idea stacking. Instead of critiquing an idea, take turns adding improvements to an existing one. Often, people “stack on” by coming up with a critique and a solution for that critique before sharing. This leads to a more thoughtful, complex, and creative idea than the team began with.  

Assign Roles.
If you find your team too combative, assign specific perspectives and roles to each member—like “questioner,” “data person,” “idea generator,” and “advisor based on past experience.” Then have each person show up prepared to present their assigned perspective and answer questions. The assignment of roles ensures a more balanced, forum-like conflict and it shows the team the value of bringing alternate perspectives.

From Insights to Action. When you consider how significant the repercussions of a single conflict can be, it’s clear how important it is to devote your team’s time and energy to improving their approach. Talk about these conflict strategies and techniques at your next team meeting and employ the ones that will boost your team’s performance and happiness.

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/

Team Emotional Intelligence: Seeing Agreement as a Symptom, Not a Goal

A united team is often heralded as “the goal,” but swift agreement can also be a symptom of a bigger problem. 

Picture a marketing team tasked with putting together a new campaign. Within the first ten minutes of the meeting, someone senior pitches an idea for a video campaign, and the whole team immediately and unanimously jumps on board. The idea is half-baked at best, but instead of pushing back on the idea or taking a critical eye to it, they’re excited by the new concept and they say “yes.” Unfortunately, built on a flimsy premise, their months-long project is rife with avoidable problems, each casting a ripple of work that slows everything down.

If this sounds at all familiar, that’s because teams make this mistake all the time. When working on teams, we often gravitate toward consensus because it’s easy and feels good—at least initially. We all like to be on teams that act cohesively and enthusiastically. But, a team that jumps to agreement quickly and decisively can easily overlook important perspectives, problems, and details. Worse yet, they create an environment where people are scared or hesitant to speak up. They don’t want to ruin the nice atmosphere and rhythm within the team.

Here’s what to do as a team to break this cycle: 

  1. Learn to recognize the problem early. Instead of seeing hasty agreement as an indication of a perfect idea, treat it as a sign that perspectives, opinions, and feelings aren’t finding their way to the surface. When decisions are made, ask yourselves “How many perspectives have we actually heard?” 

  2. Buy yourselves some time. One big reason we get swept up in consensus is that the positive emotions of agreeing on something new take over our ability to be thoughtful in the moment. Slowing things down, even just a bit, can help people move past their emotions and think more logically about a group decision. Next time your group is hasty to make a decision, ask team members to continue thinking on this, try to schedule a follow-up meeting to finalize, or even just circle back to the decision at the end of a meeting to check for alternate perspectives and questions. 

  3. Collect perspectives deliberately. Being deliberate about gathering perspective can be as simple as going around the room and having each person share, or it can be as complex as assigning each person a role, perspective, or sub-topic, and having them come into a meeting ready to present and defend it. Assigning roles can be especially effective because it shows the whole group that perspective-sharing is not only encouraged, but also a team value.

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/

3 Simple Strategies Extroverts Can Use To Increase Their EQ

It’s a common misconception that an extrovert working in a typically introverted job will feel dissatisfied and underperform.

In reality, extroverts can thrive in introverted roles by leveraging the strengths that make them unique for the job. Picture the extroverted engineer who scatters a clever set of social breaks throughout her daily independent work. She uses this “break” time to communicate across departments, hold energetic brainstorming sessions, and network with engineers in academia and other organizations to stay up with trends.

Extroverts can also fumble through a job that should match their strengths, struggling to use their strengths in an effective way. Picture the extroverted salesperson who uses his social skills as a crutch, never developing a much-needed depth in his selling strategy.

Another way of saying all of this is that a person’s extroversion, a stable trait over the course of their life, doesn’t usually dictate their ability to succeed. Rather, it’s how well a person understands their tendencies as an extrovert and how well they use their understanding to their advantage. This boils down to a person’s emotional intelligence (EQ).

To help extroverts see if they are on the right track, we’ve put together a list of three of the most common extroverted tendencies and three accompanying EQ strategies to make the most of those tendencies.

#1: Extroverts need to talk their problems out. After a particularly tough day, or as they try to work on a problem, extroverts need to talk through their thought processes with another person. It’s through communication that extroverts reach understanding.

EQ Strategy: Block out time to talk. There’s no reason to toil over things alone when you know you work better and faster via conversation. In both your working and personal life, be sure to block out periods of time to chat with colleagues and friends about your problems. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, blocking out the time to chat with someone will set you at ease.

#2: Extroverts like to open up. Sharing comes so naturally to extroverts that people will often leave a single conversation with an extrovert feeling like they know them on a deeper level. Extroverts do have to be careful though, because in the wrong situations, their oversharing can come across as self-indulgent and self-centered. With the right timing and approach, their opening up comes across as heartfelt and bonding.

EQ Strategy: Get vulnerable, with intention. An extrovert is an asset to a team lacking in trust. People may be afraid to share the emotions gnawing at them and afraid to show their authentic self at work. When you put an extrovert in there who can show vulnerability in front of the team, it can turn everything around. The whole team will feel safer and more comfortable, and everyone may slowly begin to open up more, creating a more cohesive, open environment. That said, getting vulnerable with intention also means knowing when to refrain and striking a good balance between your give and take person-to-person and team-to-team.

#3: Extroverts are energized by socializing, and they’re drained by alone time. Extroverts thrive when they’re fluttering from group to group getting to know a variety of new people. However, they might get distracted or tired in jobs or projects where they’re expected to spend long periods of time working alone.

EQ Strategy: Be your team’s connector. The advantage of being a social butterfly is that you tend to know a lot of people, and you know them well. One of the most valuable things your extroversion can do is to bridge your team toward other people, teams, and ideas. Connectors improve their team’s cross-functional communication, increase access to experts and ideas, and help the team develop a more strategic relationship with upper-level leadership. Playing the role of connector can help break up your time spent on jobs or projects where you’re expected to work independently, and it will help your whole team in the process.

From Insights to Action. Personality extends far beyond introversion versus extroversion and includes things like being results-oriented, humble, systematic, firm, high-spirited, or even-keeled. Make it your goal to discover more of your personality traits so that you can 1) Understand what makes you tick with more nuance, 2) Act more congruently with your natural tendencies, and 3) Align those tendencies with actions that will help you succeed.

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/

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.


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 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.


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/