Progress in meaningful endeavors relies on both our internal and external perspective. We can talk ourselves out of trying and taking risks as well as allowing others to squash our ambitions. Understanding and developing emotional intelligence competencies can help us get past our self-imposed obstacles as well as improve and enhance the quality of our relationships.
Psychologist and author Daniel Goleman has been researching emotional intelligence for years. In our hyper-fast and “skim the surface” environment, understanding ourselves and others better can take us deeper into meaning, connection and relevance.
The chart below summarizing Goleman’s research on emotional intelligence is taped on my computer monitor at work to remind me of the importance of all four of these domains as I lead myself and a department. I am also convinced that the sooner more of us improve and master these competencies, the more we will be able to focus our energy on fruitful activities and healthy relationships.
The first two domains focus on internal/“me” competencies and the second two domains focus on the external/“we” competencies. We need all four domains to complete the picture of a whole being.
Self-awareness helps us know our likes, dislikes, strengths, challenges, triggers and narratives that we’ve come to believe as truth. Often these narratives are what hold us back from starting and finishing what’s most important to us. Self-awareness allows us to understand our triggers and to get past them by changing narratives and assumptions.
I know that I’m an introvert, I’m not a fan of conflict and I take things too personally. I also am very cognizant of triggers that can bring me back 25 years if I allow. Being aware of these things allows me to challenge those stories, create new positive triggers and risk starting new things even if it makes me a bit uncomfortable.
Going from a cocoon of self to the butterfly that dances in the world involves struggle, effort, patience and time. Transformational growth is both hard and wonderful at the same time.
Moving from the fundamental self-awareness domain into self-management leads to critical competencies of self-control, adaptability, achievement orientation and positive outlook. This is where we take responsibility for ourselves, our actions and emotions. This is where the seeds that have been planted take root and start to break through the ground to enter the outside world.
When we know ourselves, faults and all, we soon realize that there’s an entire world of people out there to connect to, enter relationships with and understand. This is where “me” becomes “we.” Many don’t make it to these domains because they’re still stuck in unfinished self-unawareness business. These are the people who make it hard to have empathy for and the ones that need it the most.
Researcher and author Brené Brown describes empathy as “feeling with people” and fueling connection. In a three minute animated clip, she shares the research from Theresa Wiseman on the four attributes of empathy:
1. Perspective taking;
2. Staying out of judgment;
3. Recognizing emotion in other people;
4. Communicating that back to them.
She describes it as sacred space which leads us to vulnerability – seeing something in others that we see in ourselves. We run quickly from vulnerability, treating it as weakness rather than an opportunity to go deeper to the root of self-discovery.
In her Power of Vulnerability Ted Talk (43+ million views), she sums up her years of research, “This is what I have found: To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen ... to love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee -- and that's really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that's excruciatingly difficult -- to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we're wondering, "Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?" just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, "I'm just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I'm alive." And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we're enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, "I'm enough" ... then we stop screaming and start listening, we're kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves.”
Vulnerability leads to empathy. And while empathy is an outward action, it actually comes back to us – as do all things really. Karma can really suck if we’re not putting good things out into the world.
When we get stuck in the first domain and don’t venture out beyond self-awareness, we remain steeped in our own stuff, caught in old stories and negative limiting thinking which halts our growth. This is what stops us from becoming our best selves and sharing it with the world. Imagine a world where individuals bring their best or at least attempting to be their best selves daily – now that would be a fun party to be at.
Life gets harder and more meaningful when we add people to the mix. They complicate things by not having the same views, opinions or experiences. Being in healthy relationships is the main component to achieving happiness. Empathy is an invitation to lasting relationships and permission to show our whole self to another. Research shows that social connections are key to well-being. So entering the social awareness and relationship management domains, getting outside “me” and entering “we” actually returns us in the form of a healthier and a happier “me.”
All of the domains together weave together the emotional intelligence fabric. And in a technologically over-connected and human under-connected world, it’s a worthy pursuit and one that can serve us well as we change, grow, and dare to try new things each day. The journey is both inside and out and then back again. Let’s go!