Emotional Intelligence: 4 Ways to Build Your Self-Awareness Skills

The core of great leadership is understanding people. It’s understanding how to motivate them, how to find their strengths and harness them for your team. One powerful tool leaders use in effectively motivating and communicating with their teams is emotional intelligence. This is the skillset that helps leaders read the room and change their approach based on the kind of feedback or direction their team members need in the moment.

One of the key pillars of emotional intelligence is self-reflection and self-awareness. Counter to what you may be thinking, the way to get better at self-reflection isn’t through introspection. When we rely only on our perceptions of ourselves, we often get it wrong. Why?

We have a tendency to be our own blind spots. We already know and understand our own perspective, but what’s missing, without the input from others, is how what we say and the way we say it makes them feel. Though we may have meant something as a straightforward statement of fact, it may have come across like a cutting insult depending on our timing and facial expression as we delivered this information.

When we ask for feedback from others, it helps us to fill in those blind spots. It gives us new information to consider, and it helps us understand the gap between what we tried to express and the message others received.

Here are 4 ways to build better self-awareness and boost your emotional intelligence.

1. Choose Feedback Givers Who Can Afford to Be Honest

Flattery isn’t honest feedback, and it certainly won’t be helpful in allowing you to build accurate perceptions of yourself. So, who do you ask for feedback? Ideally, you ask people who can afford to be honest. Choose people who don’t need something from you rather than people who are depending on your feedback on an employee review or a critical piece of a collaborative project.

If you’re asking people to evaluate a specific situation, it’s best to ask someone who was actually in the room when it happened. That way their reaction isn’t impacted by your version of events, which will always be limited to your perspective.

Ask multiple people. Your team members and the other people around you are not a monolith. One person might find a comment you made to be deeply offensive while someone else maybe didn’t even catch that you said it. Asking multiple people gives you the opportunity to spot a trend. If multiple people were uncomfortable with something you said or did, it’s likely a situation you need to take a look at again so you can accept responsibility for anything that was out of line.

2. Ask Open-ended Questions

We’ve all had those conversations where someone asked a question in such a way that made it clear there was only one right answer. If you ask leading questions, you’re more likely to get biased answers. (You don’t think I was being too harsh in confronting her, right?) That can be tempting to do when we’re looking to recruit people to our side in a conflict, but it’s especially unhelpful when you’re trying to increase your understanding of how people see you.

Instead of questions that can be answered by agreeing or disagreeing with your position, ask questions that allow the feedback-giver to craft his own judgments. (How do you think the meeting went? What do you think about my approach? Etc.)

3. Pick Your Moment

Choosing the right time to ask for feedback is as important as choosing the right people to ask. Pouncing on someone as they’re leaving for lunch or heading to an important meeting can mean that the person isn’t truly focused on what you’re saying. They may be dismissive or agree with you without thinking about your question deeply because their minds are already locked onto their next tasks.

Asking if it’s a good time to interrupt them or asking to set a time later in the day for a quick meeting can help ensure that you’ll be heard and they’ll have time to accurately respond.

4. Resist the Urge to Explain or Defend

When someone gives you feedback, the best thing to do is listen. Resist the urge to defend yourself or explain your actions or behavior. Simply listen to what the person has to say and thank them for being honest. Ask clarifying questions if you aren’t sure what they mean.

After the conversation is over, allow yourself some time to process what was said. Can you understand your team member’s perspective? Does it make sense to you? What can you do differently in order to be understood more clearly in conversations in the future?

Boost People Skills with Our Emotional Intelligence Training

Having a strong emotional intelligence helps you stay calm in a crisis. It offers the skills to navigate difficult situations without losing your temper or becoming overwhelmed by stress or anxiety.

How do you gain a higher emotional intelligence? Easy. Check out our Emotional Intelligence training today and gain the tools for easier conflict resolution and managing stressful situations. Contact us to set up a training session.