Understanding your own emotional state is essential to your development and progress as a leader, a co-worker, or a person. More and more the importance of emotional intelligence is identified as the difference between good/marginal leaders and great leaders. Daniel Goleman who wrote Emotional Intelligence in 1995 (and many other books) is the leading voice on these matters. He states that “90% of the difference between star performers and average performers in senior leadership is Emotional Intelligence.”
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. The first step is to identify or become more aware of your own emotional state. To help identify your own emotional state, I like to use the glass example. A clear glass represents you in your emotional state where you are healthy, in control, and emotionally neutral.
However, life happens. When negative events occur, they begin to cloud your glass. The person who cut you off in traffic. The missed appointment. The argument with a significant other. A tragic life event…and the list goes on. Any of these can cloud your glass. Becoming aware of your glass and its current state is a great way to both identify what clouds your glass, and how cloudy you may be on a given day.
Your ability to move from the cloudy glass back to clear is one of the most important skills. For some, this process may take hours or even days until the impact of the negative experience clears and they return to neutral. Identifying your glass in the first place is a great way to separate yourself a little from the circumstances at hand. Once you recognize that your glass is getting a little cloudy, it becomes easier over time to recognize what triggers you. Knowing your triggers can help you clear your emotional state more rapidly over time with practice.
I posted this picture on the door to my office and regularly ask those who come in the status of their glass. I also let them know on certain days that my glass is a little cloudy and I may need a little space.
The great news with Emotional Intelligence is the fact that we can all become better with practice and experience. I posted about an online game called SuperBetter that has some ways to help with managing your emotional state, feel free to check it out. Another interesting thing about emotions is that they are contagious (for good or bad). This means we can play a role in helping each other when our glasses are cloudy.
My glass is a little cloudy today, but knowing that helps me manage my interaction with anyone who I encounter today. Knowing the state of my glass requires me to slow the world down a little (especially with my kids today) and not react when something does not go as planned. As I watch them, they key off my emotional state. The better I manage my own glass, the better they manage theirs as well. The last thing they need is for me to pour my glass all over them.
Right Now: how cloudy is your glass? What causes your glass to become cloudy? Are there things that are making your interactions with others more challenging because of what you are carrying with you. Take a few moments each day to think about your emotional state. The very act of taking an emotional inventory helps you become more aware that awareness can lead to better management of your emotional state.