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How to develop your Emotional Intelligence Part 1: Self Awareness

You cannot be a good leader without self awareness.

The most compelling, trusted, respected leaders are aware of their emotions and state of mind, giving them the massive advantage of being able to regulate themselves; expertly choosing their responses and actions to get the best outcomes.

The best leaders also use self awareness to gain an honest appraisal of their strengths and weaknesses so they can engage the services of people with complimentary skills, leaving no gaps in the talent within the team.

A highly desirable characteristic, self awareness is the foundation for strong, charismatic Leadership. Recognised as an important part of Emotional Intelligence, self awareness allows leaders to engage their teams with openness and authenticity, powerfully guiding and empowering people to grow, develop and achieve more.

The question is then, how can we develop this quality further? Here is a 3 step process that will develop your self awareness.

Step One: Notice. The first step is to become conscious of what’s going on inside: the thoughts and emotions you are currently experiencing. For most people, emotions are easier to notice than thoughts. Tune into your body and become aware of what sensations are present. Now, as an experiment, deliberately think of someone you love and notice the response in your body. Next, think of someone you find challenging and notice again.

Step Two: Name the emotions you are experiencing. If you have trouble with this, here is a list of categories (in bold) that emotions fall into. You can become more nuanced with practice.

Fear – includes nervous, anxious, frightened, panic, worried

Anger – includes annoyance, irritation, frustration, exasperated, rage, fury

Sad – includes regretful, disappointed, miserable, grief, depressed

Happy – includes joy, pleasure, love, cheerful, glad, elation, bliss

Disgust – includes uncomfortable, disdainful, revulsion, loathing, hateful

Shame – includes self-conscious, embarrassed, mortified, guilty.

Step Three: Thought Triggers. Pay attention to what you were thinking to trigger that emotion. Thoughts move through very quickly, it can be hard to catch them but notice when your thoughts are judging, name-calling or blaming other people. When you catch yourself using one of these 3, try thinking a different thought about that person – and notice how you can change your associated emotion. Celebrate that you can change what you feel by changing what you think – you are in control! This is great news.

You can become more fair and honest in your thoughts.For example, if you catch yourself thinking, “Simon is such an idiot”, you might feel angry, irritated or exasperated. But if you then think a more honest and fair thought such as “I don’t like it when Simon does that.” you won’t feel such a strong emotion in response to that thought, you’ll be calmer and more able to respond in a way that gets you what you really want.

Become an observer of yourself, take note of your most common emotions throughout the day. Be curious about the kinds of thoughts you are thinking – are they mainly positive (producing enjoyable emotions) or are they mostly negative (producing unpleasant emotions)? Notice, notice, notice!

One of the best ways to practice self awareness is to set aside some time each day to calmly contemplate. Sit quietly for 10 minutes and simply notice what your body feels like. Observe your breath moving in and out. Notice your thoughts and the emotions they generate. Don’t judge or evaluate yourself in any way during the exercise, just observe without analysis.

Practice this every day and your self awareness will develop. You will soon know yourself better and you’ll be able to use this skill ‘live’ when interacting with others.

Once you have some self awareness, you are ready to use it to self regulate, which is what we’ll be talking about in Part 2.

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