Emotional Intelligence: What is Self-Awareness?Posted on April 23, 2017

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this? Self-awareness is your ability to accurately perceive your own emotions in the moment and to understand your tendencies across different situations.  In order to raise our self-awareness, we must be willing to tolerate the discomfort that comes from focusing on feelings that may be negative.  Not all leaders want to even “go there”, as it is much easier to not think about our emotions.  Our brains do a tremendous job in leading us down a discomfort avoidance path and given the “out”, most leaders take it. What is the case for doing it anyway? In order to improve our emotional intelligence, we must first try to understand our own emotions.  Self-awareness is indeed the first step to change, and if we aren’t willing to be honest and accurately assess our emotions, we can’t expect to become better at managing them.  Having emotions are neither good nor bad…emotions simply serve a purpose as reactions to the world around us.  Quickly discerning why something gets a strong emotional reaction out of us is a critical first step. How can you do it? 
  1. Stop treating your emotions as “good” or “bad”.  Getting comfortable with our emotions is challenging enough, without the added internal pressure of identifying our feelings as “good” and the guilt of feelings we identify as “bad”.  When we judge our feelings we might be putting a barrier in the path of truly understanding them.  By not labeling our emotions and accepting them as our brain’s response to a stimulus, it is less threatening to think about our feelings.
  2. Keep a journal of your emotions.  The biggest challenge in understanding our emotions is objectivity.  By keeping a journal, we are about to practice a little “Dragnet” investigative reporting of what emotions we have experienced, our assessment of what event(s) triggered them and how we responded.  This simple exercise will help us to de-mystify our feelings and begin the “root cause analysis” of the why behind them.
  3. Reflect on the ripple effect of your emotions.  After identifying our emotional responses (described above), we then need to reflect on the effect our emotional reactions had on others involved in the situation.  In leadership, we are always on stage and our reactions never occur in a vacuum and certainly impact those we are trying to lead.  This honest reflection may be embarrassing or disappointing, but certainly could be the discomfort necessary to propel us to improve.
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