Nearly every one of us will be required to enter the workforce at some point in our lives. As with every other aspect of life, this area can be fraught with frustration and challenges. From the actual work environment to the people you come in contact with regularly – every day brings different opportunities to grow.
Sometimes, the best advice comes in the form of real people’s stories. That’s why we interviewed our team member Alycia, a Turbulent Mediator, about her experiences with emotional intelligence in the workplace. Read on to see how emotional awareness has helped Alycia increase her emotional intelligence and find a balance between expressing and suppressing emotions.
Alycia Shares Her Thoughts and Wisdom
Laura: Tell us about yourself. What’s your background with emotional intelligence in the workplace?
Alycia: Hello! I have been a writer with 16Personalities for several years now, but my prior work experience was in higher education. Shortly after getting my master’s degree in higher education administration, I began working at a small but well-respected engineering college in the Midwest. Specifically, I advised engineering students who were on competitive teams like Formula and Baja SAE, Human Powered Vehicle, Supermileage, and even Ham Radio.
I did leadership and teaming workshops, emotional intelligence training, and other personal and professional development workshops and training with students, faculty, and staff alike. I am certified in the EQ-i 2.0 assessment, which measures an individual’s emotional intelligence on several scales, and I often used this tool to facilitate workshops and training.
Laura: How would you define emotional intelligence?
Alycia: The standard definition is, “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” In my personal experience, however, I view emotional intelligence as the ability to effectively balance one’s emotional strengths with one’s weaknesses.
Empathy, for example, may not be someone’s biggest strength. However, they can learn to balance that out well with an awareness of how their emotions affect others. For example, knowing that you can be overly expressive can help you temper that tendency – which can be overwhelming to more reserved people. It’s not the same as empathy, obviously, but it can help you interact with others in a more understanding and considerate way.
Laura: Can we use our emotions to guide us in our careers? How can we balance emotionality with rationality to help us make wise decisions?
Alycia: I think that being emotionally aware is one of the most important keys not only to succeeding in one’s career but also to finding a career that is a good fit. Being aware of how your emotions affect your interactions with others, your levels of stress, and even your ability to complete tasks is incredibly useful.
For example, in the past, I worked with engineering students, faculty, and staff on personal and professional development workshops. These individuals are often much more reserved (more reserved than me, at least) when expressing their feelings. That experience really helped me realize how emotionally expressive I am. I didn’t realize how what I viewed as communicating passionately could come across as “emotional vomit” to others. I had to adjust my presentation style accordingly, to say the least.
Laura: What are some common pitfalls when it comes to emotional awareness in the workplace?
Alycia: Being too emotionally aware can actually hinder self-expression just as much as a lack of emotional awareness can (if not more so). People who are overly conscious of their emotions may attempt to suppress them out of fear of being judged. This suppression just leads to a buildup of emotions that will eventually erupt in a less-than-helpful way.
I experienced this myself after I first started studying emotional intelligence. I was hyperaware of every emotion I had and how people were reacting to me. I actually became pretty paranoid and anxious after a while because I was overanalyzing everyone’s reactions to what I said or did. It was pretty miserable until I was able to find a better balance.
Laura: That’s so fascinating. How did you find that balance?
Alycia: Honestly, a big part of this was my hitting 30. I just kind of stopped caring what other people thought of me – at least I didn’t care as much as I did before. And I made a conscious choice not to engage with people who drained my energy with negative attitudes. I’ve always been someone who people like venting to. That’s fine if we’re friends and there is a give-and-take there. But those people who just used me as a dumping ground really amplified my own negativity, personal victimization, and bitterness.
That’s another thing – I took responsibility for my emotions and feelings and stopped letting myself fall prey to the moods, thoughts, and behaviors of others. Creating healthy barriers was the best thing I ever did – I really increased my personal responsibility and assertiveness. It was a rocky road, though. I had trouble being assertive – I’ve always either been too timid or too pissed and angry if I hold it in too long – but it’s getting better. I still work on this stuff every single day.
Laura: Thank you very much for sharing your experiences with us!
Alycia: It’s been my pleasure!
Personal experience certainly doesn’t provide all of the answers, but it is helpful to hear from individuals who have gone through certain experiences to see what they have learned. In this case, the development of emotional awareness came with some growing pains but ultimately led to a more balanced, fulfilling life.
You tell us – what experiences have caused you to improve your emotional intelligence? Does reflecting on frustrating experiences help you develop skills to deal with them for good? Or do you keep repeating the same struggles? We look forward to hearing from you in the comments below!