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4 Tips to Increase Your EQ and Strengthen Communication

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

So, you think that you are self-aware? You and others may be surprised by some recent research findings. In a five-year research program on self-awareness, researchers discovered that although 95 percent of people think they’re self-aware, less than 15 percent actually are. In a cross-industry survey of working adults, 99 percent reported working with at least one unaware person. Peers were the most frequent offenders, with 73 percent of respondents reporting at least one unaware peer, followed by direct reports (33 percent) and bosses (32 percent).

These numbers point to a need for the development of self-awareness in employees, managers, and leaders. Self-awareness helps people more effectively collaborate and communicate at work. Let’s look at four simple ways to increase your EQ.

Connect and Adapt Across Behavioral Styles

Most of the time we communicate with others in a behavioral style that is comfortable for us, and we don’t consider our audience as often as we could. If someone shares our communication style, we may connect sooner and engage with greater ease. For example, as an extrovert, I often engage in conversations and quickly build off other extroverts’ thoughts and ideas. If I use that same behavioral approach with an introverted colleague, I may shut them down or potentially cut them off and lose out on their input and perspective. I need to be aware of my natural communication style then observe the style of my colleague, and then I can figure out how to effectively adapt and engage with them. I may need to pause more with my introverted colleague, ask more open-ended questions, listen more, and allow them the reflective time they need in a conversation. As a leader, adapting across behavioral styles is even more important. Expecting your employees to adapt to you, with the power differential, can lead to disengagement, low trust, and missed opportunities.

Engage Others With Perspective Taking

We often enter conversations aware of only our own perspective. We can be quick to share what we think, feel, or believe about the issue or situation. Even if we are self-aware, we also need to be aware of the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Observe their body language and how what you said landed with them. Ask them what they think. Look for and try to understand their perspective. This is particularly important in today’s virtual environment. Managing relationships well requires us to enter conversations with an open mind, open ears, curiosity, and without judgment. Seek to understand then discern.


Know Your Negative Triggers

A negative trigger is an emotional reaction that can shut down access to our prefrontal brain with negative results. In a triggered state, we are operating from our amygdala or reptilian brain. We can lose perspective and may find ourselves more defensive, judgmental, or avoidant. Communication can break down, and relationships can be damaged.

Be conscious of what triggers negative responses in you. If someone says something that you perceive as offensive or disrespectful, how do you respond? Do you take it personally? What feelings and emotions show up? How do you behave in the moment? Do you shut down, get angry, or say something that you may regret later? We need to be aware of our triggers so we can take steps to respond more effectively in the moment.


Commit to Mindfulness Practices

When we experience an amygdala hijack, we react unconsciously—our breathing is shorter, our muscles are tighter, our pulse rate is more rapid. Common responses are fight-flight-freeze or appease. The key is to intercept the hijacking by shifting your attention.

The simple technique of deep breathing is available to you wherever you go and allows for shifting attention. Try breathing in deeply for a count of five, pausing, then breathing out for a count of five. Repeating this several times will shift your focus and brain chemistry, resulting in more clarity and calm. While you pay attention to your breath, focus on a positive feeling or experience. This helps you reset, giving you the time to shift out of the negative reaction and back to the more effective parts of your brain. Now you can choose to respond more mindfully, listen better, empathize more, and explore alternate responses.

Which tip will you commit to action by enrolling an accountability partner to for a weekly check-in or journaling your progress on new insights, changes in communication, and enhanced relationships?

For more insights, join me July 1 for the webinar Effective Feedback in a Remote Environment.

About the Author

Susan Curtin is president of Insightsd4Results. She delivers top results for rising talent and executive leadership across sectors with her inspirational and mobilizing coaching program. In addition to enhancing self-awareness in leaders while maximizing their organizational effectiveness in measurable deliverables for stakeholders since 2008, Susan holds professional experience across many sectors and at different levels of leadership, thus offering a solid context of training and experience to leverage in each session.

Through intentional conversation and a honed methodology, Susan helps managers learn how to be, what to do, and when to do it—with the primary goal of these steps being to build stronger relationships with direct reports through giving constructive feedback, coaching, and communicating in ways that truly motivate and enable teams to achieve greater results. Prior to her coaching career, Susan spent 30 years in higher education working for the San Diego Community College District and in government for the City of San Diego and Health & Human Services Agency. Through these organizations, Susan gained firsthand experience rolling out programs that support employee engagement and leadership development, igniting her passion to inspire, change and facilitate meaningful growth for teams, and organizations.

Susan also garnered substantial experience in organizational leadership while implementing the first internal employee assistance program for the City of San Diego. She was the diversity project lead and program manager of the city's successful diversity commitment program.

Furthermore, Susan excelled when creating the first award-winning career development program at the City of San Diego as well as award-winning Manager Development Institute for San Diego County's Health & Human Services Agency. Susan is a board-certified executive coach, Certified Employee Assistance Professional, and Certified HeartMath Coach. She has the Master Corporate and Executive Coaching designation. In addition, she completed the first Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ) Certification program, so she incorporates the C-IQ tools and techniques into her coaching and organization development practice.

1 Comment
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Great tips! I use the breathing technique quite frequently but I notice that Perspective Taking also works a lot of the time.
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