In a country as diverse as Singapore where we interact with different ethnic groups, sensitivity to differences in beliefs, customs, rituals and religious practices are fundamental to maintaining a happy work environment.
How can we put emotional intelligence into action to improve results in our workplace? Are we able to be an inspiration to strengthen the people-side of performance just by our very presence?
Emotional literacy is the ability to accurately perceive and interpret emotional information. It is the key to using, understanding, and managing our feelings. Emotions are the foundations of our thinking and therefore our feelings. They influence our moods and hence willingness to engage with ourselves and others.
Emotional literacy is the ability to be real, open, and honest about our feelings and emotional states. This means having the courage and finesse to confront emotionally awkward and painful situations — rather than shut them out of our lives.
For example, we can be sensitive to other people’s feeling but look the other way when faced with abusive or destructive behavior.
Emotional literacy requires that you face the situation fully without flinching. One of the biggest misconceptions about emotional literacy is that it is about reacting in only a conciliatory manner, to appease others and to avoid confrontation.
In fact, emotional literacy is much more than acknowledging feelings and assuming a diplomatic posture; it’s also about recognizing patterns so that thoughts, words and actions are expressed appropriately and effectively.
For example, a person in a heated discussion during a meeting can express their feelings of anger and frustration by either lashing out in an explosion of words or shutting down and becoming emotionally passive and letting the conflict fester in an effort to diffuse the situation and appear calm.
Both approaches, even the second one, are examples of compromised emotional literacy when the person does not a) choose to understand the reasons of why and how they lost it/suppressed it and b) recognize the triggers of this event and whether such events happen frequently for similar reasons. We need to look back, pause and notice repeated behaviours or patterns.
Identify our feelings
Building emotional literacy requires us to identify and label our own feelings and to observe emotional cues in others. Accurately perceiving and interpreting emotional information is imperative to using, understanding, and managing feelings. This means developing the acumen to recognize the varying levels of intensity of a particular emotion (e.g., irritation-anger-rage).
Being adept at recognizing the broad spectrum of emotions in others and ourselves helps us acknowledge what emotional state we/others are in. It also helps us become aware of the symptoms and causes of particular emotions we are experiencing, the root source from which these emotions swell, and where they eventually take us.
Emotions are the key to decoding all human relationships. Emotions guide us in facing predicaments too important to leave to intellect alone — such as times of personal crisis and in making life-changing decisions.
Clarity of mind and thinking is often thought to be free of emotion. being unemotional is prized as a desired state of mind in some quarters.
People are encouraged to ‘think with their heads and not their hearts.’ Heightened emotional states are associated with everything from debilitating anxiety, soaring stress levels, road rage, ballooning pressures in our school, stress in our work and family lives, antidepressants, and cultural confusion.
Yet it would be dangerous to “to move away” from our emotions because they are fundamental to how we behave.
The bond that enables us to communicate with others can be found in emotions. But rather than moving through life triggered by anger, sadness, fear and disgust, we can empower ourselves by understanding the meaning behind these emotions — not by turning them off or ignoring them but by managing how we deal with our feelings.
This can simply happen by staying with the feeling and not running away from it. Fear, anger and sadness are there for a reason and it’s ‘occurrence’ is telling us that some aspects need to be dealt with or such feelings will persist or become more intense if left alone or swept under the carpet.
Emotional Intelligence is about tuning in to the wisdom of your feelings and utilizing them as a resource to act or think differently to obtain more favourable outcomes.
Dr. Granville D’Souza, DBA is the Director of Six Seconds has extensive training experience in Emotional Intelligence practises as well as conducting coaching and facilitative workshops that deal with team and individual behaviour.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Dr. Granville D' Souza DBA, Director, 6 Seconds SEA Pte Ltd, he has extensive training experience in Emotional Intelligence practises as well as conducting coaching and facilitative workshops that deal with team and individual behaviour.