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Avoid These 3 Behaviors If You’re Looking to Cultivate Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Tom Popomaronis is a senior innovation executive and leadership writer. He is a columnist with CNBC Make it and Entrepreneur Magazine.

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Breaking Down the 3 Behaviors to Avoid When Looking to Cultivate Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence refers to someone's ability to use, understand, and manage their own emotions. Usually, this is done with the intent of overcoming challenges, empathizing with others, and communicating effectively. Anyone who's spent more than five minutes in a tough environment knows that this is much easier said than done-- but there's good news.

The truth is that emotional intelligence is a skill. With enough practice, anybody can become more in tune with their emotions and how they impact the world around them. The three behaviors listed below are some common roadblocks to exercising emotional intelligence. Consider how factors like these could impact someone's personal, professional, and overall wellbeing.

Getting Stuck in the Past (or the Future)

Everyone has gotten stuck thinking about the past. It's not a crime, but it definitely isn't conducive to emotional intelligence.

Daydreaming about the past is a great way to escape the present situation. If someone is thinking about a bad memory, they might take the opportunity to regain a false sense of control over it. If someone is stuck on imagining the future, they're probably using it as a chance to pretend to control what will happen next.

Here's the truth: nothing can change the past; and the future is so uncertain that spending too much time thinking about it is wasteful. People give up control over the present and the future when they're too caught up thinking about what's happened or what's to come.

It can be difficult not to worry about the future, but it's just another way that emotionally unintelligent people try to exercise control. Planning and thinking do not always equal an effective approach or a good outcome. In fact, when people overthink, it's a one-way street to stress.

Setting Unrealistic Goals

When somebody sets unrealistic goals or maintain unrealistic expectations, they're only harming themselves and trying to control the people around them.

The tough truth is that most people with high expectations don't see just how tall their orders are. In fact, lots of people think that having ultra-high expectations is a good thing. They argue that their demand for perfection helps themselves and others do better.

This isn't usually true-- and even when it is, who wants higher performance at the cost of excessive control? Nobody should be setting goals for anybody but themselves; and when that happens, those goals need to be realistic.

Emotionally intelligent people are present. They assess the things that life throws at them instead of getting stuck in their head creating stories about how people around them need to act.

Plus, when somebody has unrealistic expectations, it only leads to frustration (for everyone involved) when they aren't met. There's no use in aiming much too high-- it leaves everyone on the ground.

Instead of setting unrealistic goals or maintaining unrealistic expectations, try:

  • Validating the situation and its negative aspects instead of getting caught up in a daydream about the positive
  • Creating boundaries in order to prompt change (rather than assuming it will happen or waiting for it to happen)

Criticizing Other People

Everyone is critical sometimes-- and there's nothing wrong with looking for ways to improve! But when people criticize others too often, it's usually a sign of internal insecurity.

It's easy to get caught up in the idea that thinking critically is the only way to demonstrate skills or knowledge. Critical thinking is a great way to flex those muscles; when people are overly critical of others, though, it can start to make them narrow-minded. It's tough for someone to keep an open mind if they're always on the offense.

Criticizing others can be a tough habit to break; it's a good way to:

  • Position one's self as an authority figure
  • Reinforce one's own ideas

Just remember: there are two kinds of criticism. Helpful criticism seeks to make the world better. Unhelpful criticism usually doesn't help anybody but the person giving it.

Emotionally intelligent people know that criticizing others is not a good use of their time or energy. Instead, they focus their resources on improving themselves or the world that's around them.

There's No Secret to Emotional Intelligence

There's no quick trick to cultivating emotional intelligence. It's easier for some people than others, but everybody can work to lower their stress levels and communicate more effectively with others. If a person is willing to reel in their projections, focus on themselves, and keep a steady head, it can go a long way towards improving their approach to life and the way that the people around them receive it.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2020 Tom Popomaronis