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/.

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/.

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.

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/

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/

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/.