Try a Perception Gap Analysis to Improve Your EQ

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:

  • Coaching
  • 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.

 

Photo by Garidy Sanders on Unsplash
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Don’t Let Negative Feedback Make You Negative

Early in my career I was the Marketing Director for a commercial real estate firm in Manhattan. I had a great relationship with the team of brokers I worked with. I was having a great year developing new marketing ideas for their properties. Everything was going well. So, when it came time for my annual review, I was pretty confident. Then, I was hit with a ton of bricks.

During the review I touted all of the great things I had done, all of the projects I had worked on, and the successful outcomes. I asked for a raise. And then came that ton of bricks…the comment made to me was, “everyone is replaceable.” A punch to my over-confident gut. After all the great work I had done, this was what I was told.

I spent the next hour on the phone with my mom crying and ranting and spewing expletives. How could my boss say that to me? What a jerk! I’m the best employee he ever had! I’ll show him! I really wanted to to just quit and walk away. How dare he dismiss all of my hard work and dedication to doing my job! How dare he!

Well, after venting and crying and spewing a few expletives, I began to get over myself and realized, well…he is right. Everyone is replaceable. And it was my choice to decide how I was going to take this feedback and use it. As Tasha Eurich wrote in her article for Harvard Business Review, The Right Way to Respond to Negative Feedback,

“processing and acting on negative feedback is not always easy. It can make us defensive, angry, and self-conscious, which subsequently impairs our effectiveness. What’s more, we can’t take all feedback we receive at face value.”

When I finally calmed down and stopped to really think about the feedback I received, I realized I was overreacting, and not really listening. The review had gone pretty well. They were pleased with my work. They were happy with me. But, in my making an assumption about getting a raise, I got feedback I wasn’t expecting.

There are tools to help deal with feedback you aren’t expecting, whether it be constructive, negative, or good. Most of our initial emotional reactions have to do with our own self-image, and hearing something contrary to it. Here are some of the tools Ms. Eurich provided:

Pause. Don’t let a knee-jerk reaction get in your way of growth. Give yourself time to pause, reflect, and absorb the feedback you have received. Process your emotions, and identify them. Why do you feel this way? Put it into words.

Get additional input. Seek out friends and coworkers you trust to tell you the truth; to tell it like it is. Get that reality check. You need to be able to understand the feedback. Eurich labeled these trusted friends and colleagues as “loving critics”:

These “loving critics,” as we named them, were people they trusted and who would be brutally honest with them.

Show, don’t tell. If the feedback you receive indicates your team or coworkers don’t think you care about them because of a something that happened, or even inaction on your part, you need to act – and in a sincere manner. You can’t just tell them, “I do care”. You need to show them by doing something. This is part public relations (your image). Your action needs to align with the feedback, your desire to change, and your need to show your team or coworkers that you are actively engaged in changing yourself.

Make the First Move. You can’t improve in isolation. You need to seek out the feedback of others, get additional input, and understand the feedback so you can take action. Though easier said than done, it is best for you to make the first move, approach those who gave you the feedback, acknowledge your part, and seek to work out a way together to improve things going forward.

Fail forward. It’s not always easy to admit to ourselves, or others, that we have flaws. But, when we do, it helps create a connection with our coworkers. As Eurich so aptly stated,

Sometimes the best response to critical feedback is to admit our flaws — first to ourselves, and then to others — while setting expectations for how we are likely to behave. When we let go of the things we cannot change, it frees up the energy to focus on changing the things we can.

The adoption of these tools takes time and practice. You can start small by seeking out feedback from your “loving critics” and reflecting on the feedback, acknowledging your emotions, and putting together a plan to change.

 

Photo by Matthew Brodeur on Unsplash