Podcast Title: Health and Safety to Go!

Episode #172:  Emotional intelligence:  What it is and Why it Matters



Introduction:   Empathetic, gracious, balanced, a change agent, motivated but not a perfectionist, curious as to who or what I'm describing?  Wondering what might come next?   Well, that's one of the traits too!

Welcome to Health and Safety to Go, broadcasting from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

Host:  Today we’re joined by Sue Freeman, Emotional Intelligence Coach and Positive Psychology Researcher.  Together we're going to discuss emotional intelligence, a term that's gaining in popularity but is still being unraveled and explored as employers and employees are looking for ways to bring it into the workplace.

Sue, thanks for being with us here today. So emotional intelligence or EQ - emotional quotient, there's a lot to dive into here, especially because over the past 40 years or so, there have been so many different definitions of what emotional intelligence really is. Can you give us the definition?

Sue:  For sure, and thanks for having me join you today for this discussion.  Emotional intelligence, I like to explain it as an array of social and emotional competencies and skills, things that help us recognize and manage environmental demands and pressures.  And when I say environmental demands and pressures, I'm talking about anything from managing our work/life balance concerns through to seeking reward and recognition at work, what we've accomplished or want to accomplish in our working lives, and knowing what's expected of us by our own means of knowing ourselves, knowing each other.

So whatever role we have and how we participate in the workplace, it’s about growth and development as well. We want to be supported psychologically for example, so that would be a really good healthy workplace point and have a safe space in which to grow and change.  So you think about teamwork situations. We're going to need emotional skills and competencies such as stress tolerance, impulse control, problem solving, remaining flexible, optimistic. Those are just a few.  And one I appreciate and I used quite often is reality testing and what that really means is you're exploring truly what's real and what isn't in any given situation.  And this helps reduce my own confusion.  And how I do that is looking for the facts and getting perspective again on what is factual and not just emotionally reacting to information or situation -  people, places, things that are presented to me.

So for me, it refers to the things were made of, the stuff we’re made of, our integrity, what we're capable of doing, not necessarily what we've already achieved yet, and things that we're going to learn in our life experiences, things that are going to challenge us, how we can learn, how we can grow. We're going to need emotional intelligence because we can't remain static and stiff, we have to remain fluid and evolving, as human beings so that we can adapt to these environmental demands and pressures.

Host:  So when we talk about emotional intelligence, I think a lot of us think about emotional intelligence for leaders in the workplace. But in reality, it's applicable for employees and leaders and essentially everybody that works together in a workplace. So, can you tell us a little bit more about why it matters specifically working with a team or working with management?

Sue:   Absolutely, I think about our functionality. We have relationships or interpersonal relationships and what it requires of us being flexible, being empathetic, being compassionate and even more basically, how we relate to ourselves with an emotional self-awareness meter, kind of like a little meter stick inside ourselves to say, we're am I at with my positive use of being assertive versus being aggressive. And how do I communicate? How clear am I, how is my communication being received by others? Am I working as effectively as I can in terms of how I'm showing up?

So let's remember a time when we had to pull back and not say something that we know could be very destructive or negative even to ourselves or other people. So that would be impulse-control put to action, and then when we have a time to reflect when we hear from other people and how their loved one is struggling with health or various concerns and then what did we do to help support that person that has caregiving responsibilities. We were being empathetic and kind and that's empathy and compassion in action.  And then we go broader and we think about teamwork, what we need to do for our strong interpersonal relationships to actually complete work and think about your own emotional competencies or skills. Like do you have to use your impulse control and reality testing, when stress arises in any given situation to do with teams? We have deadlines, we have work deliverables we have to pull together and then we have to think about the leadership and the expectations that we communicate. How do we communicate? Those are we helping reduce confusion? Are we giving examples?

These are more questions than answers but that's the nature of emotional intelligence. That's how fluid and ever-evolving it is. It's something to examine and we can take a look at it every single day.

Host:   What are the characteristics of someone with high emotional intelligence?

Sue:  Let's talk about self-awareness again. And when you're more self-aware, you would then know what your stress tolerance is or your flexibility is in any given situation, especially when people bring you viewpoints that might differ that from your own, and how you're going to work with people and use those skills that you possess. So I turn to Rhett Power and he wrote an article in Success magazine back in 2015, and he was pulling some ideas from Dr. Daniel Goleman and his book Emotional Intelligence - Why It Can Matter and he talked about being a change agent, bringing about positive change, that people who are emotionally intelligent and balanced in their world views. They aren't afraid of change and the understands necessary. They're also not perfectionist. They know it's impossible. It's important to roll with things, learn from our experiences and then we have to figure out what to do better next time.  And then they're also seeking balance. They know how important it is to have a healthy work/life or professional and home/life balance and they're curious and they have inherently a sense of wonder.


And they're not into judging and they want to explore possibilities, they want to ask questions are quite open to new situations. And then they bring in graciousness, a sense of being grateful for every day and what it brings, as either challenging or rewarding or interesting or just plain “wow”, why did that happen and what they're taking away from that and putting back into their next moves?

Host:  How does a person develop their own emotional intelligence?

Sue:  Well, let's dig into how Dr. Travis Bradbury was framing it in. He wrote a book called Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and he was very interestingly saying - let's not limit our joy, let's look for a sense of pleasure and satisfaction derived from all kinds of things that we run across at work and in life, and then that becomes enfolding into your own happiness in your own growth.

You're going to not shy away from life's challenges. You're going to dig in and find out what's important about facing these things and not prioritize perfection. You're going to want to look for opportunities to learn from situations, and not just categorize them as failure because that could be quite destructive to your well-being or that of others. They don't want that nagging sense. You want to look for the silver or golden lining in a situation, not dwelling on the past, not having past problems or grudges, colorize or cloud, the clarity that we can bring to situations.  And we're going to look for what risks we can take so that we could be constructive, and again, what we shall do next. And this is one of my favorites, is saying no when you mean it and saying yes when you absolutely mean it as well.  Because saying no is a major challenge for a lot of people, because they feel out of a sense of guilt or shame or duty that they have to say yes, but it's more about being respectful of what is.

Use your reality testing again.   Use where you're at with your stress tolerance and say okay. I might not be able to get this done today but let's talk about when we can get together next week. What time can we set aside that we can be respectful to each other, supportive of each other and we're going to get this thing done, but we cannot always do it in real time. And so then trying to work with and remain fluid and evolving with the situation.

So when we think about it in a form of conclusion, we must be aware that there will always be some sort of emotional or social skill that you're going to need when you face the inevitable, environmental demand or pressure that we talked about today, work/life balance, deadlines workload, interpersonal relationships. Those are all givens, in terms of our working and personal life. So acceptance is along the road to self-actualization and self-awareness is the beginning of that journey. So we want to look at those things and look at our own growth and potential and then keep those things in the most positive way impossible.

Host:  Thank you for joining us today Sue and helping us to better understand emotional intelligence.

Sue:  Thank you for having me. Have a great day.

Host:  For more information and resources on emotional intelligence and mental health in the workplace, please visit www.ccohs.ca. Thanks for listening everyone.