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Why Career Success Hinges on Emotional Intelligence

A diagram of intelligence
Mind Map for emotional intelligence.

Maria was furious. She was certain that Kurt was undermining her efforts. He constantly cut her off in meetings. He routinely poked holes in her recommendations. And he barely spoke to her when they passed in the hallway. “Clearly he has it out for me,” she told herself.

Maria’s brain – like yours and mine - is a meaning-making machine. It takes the billions of pieces of information bombarding it and tries to not-so-carefully sort, categorize, and file this and that information into tidy little boxes with tidy little labels. This is tremendously efficient on many levels. After all, you have any number of automatic responses that are based on factual information and past experiences that require little thought or contemplation for you to react. For example, when the light turns red you don’t have to think about and process its meaning or the fact that you need to ease on the break to slow down. It’s automatic.

Yet, in the midst of all the stress, pressure, deadlines, and demands, your brain makes any number of inaccurate assumptions from the hints, cues, and interactions all around you. It takes selective snippets of the data and information and quickly compiles them into a convincing yet often unreliable story about this situation, that circumstance, or “those people.” This barrage of unsubstantiated assessments is often teaming with judgement and negative assumptions.

And those judgements and negative assumptions can cause you to become triggered – sent to an emotional edge – anger, frustration, contempt, shame. And you accept your interpretation of the trigger as a fact rather than looking at the emotion as data that you can set on the table as if it were an interesting object to explore and examine with curiosity.

The stories you tell yourself about your beliefs and actions, the motives of others, as well as any number of situations and circumstances can open the emotional floodgates. It’s easy to get swept away on the turbulent waters of your interpretation of a situation and pulled into the swift destructive undercurrent of a full on emotional hijacking. Further downstream you travel as you replay the scenario and envision how you are going to get back, even the score, set the record straight. Or perhaps you decide to shove the feeling aside and reason that if you ignore it long enough it will go away. Both approaches are destructive.

It has been said that emotions are like waves. You can’t stop them from coming, but you can decide which ones you surf. Emotional intelligence (EQ) enables you to be selective about those waves and recognize emotions for what they are – data and information. EQ enables you to spot your tendencies when emotional situations arise and well before that emotional reaction becomes a professional derailer.

EQ helps you recognize how you tend to cope with pressures and demands on your life, manage stress, deal with change, and solve problems. And as a professional, as a leader, or as a teammate, you are called up on every day to deal with challenges and solve problems. EQ enables you to discern which emotions can actually serve you and which have the potential to derail you in any given circumstance. And, most importantly, your professional success hinges on how effectively you use your emotions to improve your effectiveness as a leader, build your team, collaborate with others, and ultimately show up every day as an emotionally intelligent professional. Click here and learn how to put your emotions to work for you.


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