There is usually a gap between how we see ourselves and how others see us. In the workplace, this gap can be a source of development opportunities which can improve your emotional intelligence (EQ), if you are willing to be open to feedback, be vulnerable, and be truthful with yourself.
Articulating Your Understanding of Yourself
A good place to start is with looking inward and writing down your values, goals, strengths, and weaknesses.
Ask yourself introspective questions about your goals and values. Here are a few examples with probing questions. Probing questions can help you gain clarification and information to see the whole picture:
- Do you want to be a leader? Why? What traits and characteristics do you feel a leader should possess? Who are leaders you look up to and why?
- Do you want to be a more connected team member? What makes someone a better team member? How do you know when you are connecting with someone?
- Do you want to be a better listener? What does that look like? How can you tell when someone is really listening?
To gain a deeper understanding of what matters to you, write down your answers. Make a list of your values. Then revisit them asking why at each step. Write down those answers as well. This will help you map out your journey, and identify areas for development.
You can also take a variety of personality tests which can help you find the right words to articulate what you already know about yourself but don’t quite know how to put words to. This article from Onward provides a few options, most of which are free.
Getting Others’ Perceptions of You
Opening yourself up to feedback requires vulnerability. You’re going to hear things you don’t necessarily like or that you weren’t expecting. But, if you’re open and willing to hear the feedback, you will be able to learn, grow, and develop your EQ.
Working with a coach is one way to help you take a look at how your self-perceptions may be at odds with others’ perceptions of you, and help you find a path towards developing your EQ. You can also work with a trusted colleague or manager – someone whose opinions you trust – to continue to evaluate how you are doing on a regular basis.
Another great tool is a 360 feedback assessment, a process through which you gather feedback from direct reports, peers and colleagues, and supervisors, as well as a self-evaluation. This can be a formal or informal process through which you gather information related to the areas you are seeking to improve.
Assessing the Perception Gap
Using the information you gather on yourself, and from those around you, you can begin to identify areas where you want to improve, prioritize the areas you want to focus on, and how you will go about improving them.
A great example of how this could look is provided in Daniel Goleman and Michele Navarez’s article Boost Your Emotional Intelligence with These 3 Questions:
For example, let’s say you get feedback that you are not a great listener — but you think you are. Instead of taking this assessment as an attack, or simply dismissing it, step back and consider your goals: Perhaps you’ve said that you want to better connect, understand, and communicate with impact. How could listening well help you to do those things? Seeing the feedback in this light can help you position it as an opportunity for developing toward your goals, rather than a threat.
Ask yourself, what you are going to do to achieve this goal? If we use developing your listening skills as an example, what does that look like? It could include a variety of learning modalities including:
- Online courses
- Awareness and practice
- Reading articles, books, etc.
Then ask, how do you know you are achieving your goal? You can reiterate some of the steps above – feedback, personal assessment, another 360 feedback assessment.
You will find that on this journey, your EQ skills will continue to grow and develop. You will gain a deeper understanding of yourself, build your awareness of others, and be able to more readily manage yourself and your relationships.