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Emotional Intelligence - Key to Resilience in a Stressful World
Emotional Intelligence - Key to Resilience in a Stressful World Enhancing Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the key to becoming resilient in this stressful world. Stress and its detrimental effects pervade our headlines. We are bombarded with a never-ending drove of articles on such topics as the economy, layoffs, holiday stress, academic stress, relationship stress, the impact of stress on health and much more. At work we are asked to do more with less; faster, better, cheaper, and with fewer people. While there may be a lucky few who can change their environment, most of us must cope with its ever-increasing pressures and, ultimately, without the right skills our performance suffers. To deal with stress, we need to examine the root cause which is how we perceive and respond to stress-producing events in our lives.
The Relationship of Challenge, Emotions and Performance:
Whether realized or not, performance is directly affected by challenges (or demands/expectations) and your emotional reactiveness to them. For example, imagine I hire you for a position. As a new hire, you're feeling excited, determined, eager, optimistic and confident. Because of your experience and positive emotions, you perform very well on the first few projects you're assigned, and now I'm confident that I can give you more projects. In fact, because of having to do more with less, I'm going to give you a lot more projects. My hope and expectation is that you will just keep performing at the outstanding level exhibited when you first joined the company.
However, once you receive project on top of project, although you're trying your best and putting in extra hours, you reach a point where that little voice in your head whispers, "What's going to happen to me if I don't get this all done?" Anxiety, fear, frustration, and panic take over. So instead of being confident and optimistic, now pessimism, skepticism and uncertainty are your constant companions. Additionally, time is now being wasted on worrying, frustration and second-guessing yourself - time that cannot be spared.
And more importantly, your health becomes affected. Emotional reactiveness sparks a cascade of 1,400 biochemical events, some of which result in physiological changes such as increased adrenaline, heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol (the stress hormone). These events negatively affect your physical energy, your mental clarity, your emotional balance, and personal effectiveness, all of which play a part in rational thought, communication, problem solving, and your state of health. And because you're feeling these negative emotions more frequently, you become short with people, indecisive, defensive and angry when others don't support you or when they approach you for support. In fact, because you and others exist in the same environment, other people are likely feeling the same emotions. And stress, like a virus, thrives in this toxic environment.
Emotions and Stress:
While this seems disheartening, let's look more closely at this problem. Stress results from the negative emotions and beliefs that occur whenever people are UNABLE to cope with the demands of their environment. So while our stress-filled environment is a significant factor, ultimately it is the negative emotions and beliefs that people experience and are unable to change or transform that lie at the core of the problem. The real leverage exists in the word "unable." If people are unable it means they don't know how to, in this case, manage their emotions about what is happening in the environment.
Actions We Can Take:
So given today's growing demands, what can we do to help ourselves in these difficult times? First we need to develop our emotional self-awareness. By being aware of our emotions, we can catch ourselves at those points and in those situations where we perceive negative emotions creeping in and taking over. The second most important thing we need to do is to develop our emotional self-management skills. By developing these skills we can transform negative emotions into positive, productive emotions and behaviors which enable us to think more clearly. In our Emotional Intelligence (EI) skill-building programs, developing emotional self-awareness and self-management skills are the foundation of EI Competence.
True Story Example:
Let me give you an example from a true story of what can happen when you develop these skills. I was delivering our EI training to a group of high-potential directors and vice presidents. The training took place on a Tuesday and Wednesday. On the following Monday morning, I received this email from one of the participants: "I had been having an extremely stressful week with a crushing, impending feeling of failure/doom that I wasn't going to be able to get everything done to meet some very important deadlines. Since your course, I have been using all the techniques and am amazed how successful they have been. I have been able to get 'on top' of everything that needs to get done with little to no agitation. You very well may have helped me with one of the most significant, positive improvements I have ever made in my life."
What's the Point?
This real example provides several insights:
- By developing EI skills, you can improve your performance in today's demanding environment.
- You can immediately begin to develop these skills with dramatic impact in a very short period of time - it doesn't take three to six months as some people suggest.
- Developing these skills enables you to manage these difficult, stressful situations in-the-moment - so instead of waiting for a yoga class, a vacation, or a meditation time, you can manage negative emotions when they occur and prevent stress from accumulating with its potential negative health impact.
Our program results support these points. Two to three months after our training, we conduct impact interviews. Our participants typically report 25% to 40% improvement in mental clarity, 20% to 35% improvement in personal productivity, 20% to 40% reduction in stress and worry as well as improvements in managing emotional reactiveness, improved teamwork, increased creativity, reduced conflict and other critical workplace issues.
About the Author:
Byron Stock guides individuals and organizations toward excellence by helping them develop their Emotional Intelligence skills as a powerful tool to achieve strategic objectives, lead change and create resilient, high-performing organizational cultures. Visit www.ByronStock.com to learn about Byron's quick, easy, proven techniques to harness the power of your Emotional Intelligence.
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