Emotional Intelligence: A Journey Worth Taking

Many years ago I heard my mentor John C. Maxwell say that “leaders are readers”. At that time, I hated to read and rarely read anything. The truth is, I’m still not a speed reader or a scholar. But I made up my mind that the juice was worth the squeeze and since that day, I have read literally hundreds of books!

One of my favorites of late has been Emotional Intelligence 2.0,  by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. In the book, the authors give a four part framework to much of the personal growth journey. They are:

  1. Self Awareness
  2. Self Management
  3. Social Awareness
  4. Relationship Management

This resonates with me because I can easily see my own journey of more than fifteen years reflected in each of these categories.

Self Awareness

There was a time that I was clueless. Because of my hard charging personality combined with my lack of maturity, I would often say things to employees that were cruel and insensitive. People consistently felt intimidated around me and suffocated by my negative energy. The worst part was that I didn’t even realize it.

Thanks to some exposure to good leadership materials, I was able to take the very first step on a long journey–I was able to compare my behaviors to the models that I was reading about and I became self-aware of the tension between where I was and where I wanted to be. This step alone didn’t change much. An alcoholic can finally beat denial and realize that he is indeed an alcoholic. If he does nothing else, the results won’t be any different. But self-awareness is a necessary first step. Without it, I could have never moved on to the second step, Self-Management.

Self Management

After becoming aware of patterns of behavior that I wished to change, the next step was putting intentional habits into place that enabled me to act differently and talk differently–a real difference maker. I wanted to value people more, and I wanted to communicate that increased value to them. This meant reacting differently to situations than I had in the past. I used different language. I focused on empowering rather than disempowering speech and behaviors.

This second phase was a huge step that enabled me to gain momentum on my journey because it required action and intentionality. But to fully realize the benefits of this type of awareness, I had to reach outside of just myself and increase my social-awareness.

Social Awareness

In a general sense being socially aware simply means that one has the ability to pick up on the emotions of others and to get a feel for what is really going on in a social setting. Before experiencing significant growth in this area, it was far more likely that someone else would pick up on my emotions and underlying attitudes, even after I begin to implement the changes under self-management. 

Even though I had changed my vocabulary and many of my less than optimal behaviors, I still had a lot of the old thoughts and attitudes floating around in my head, and anyone who was socially aware would have picked up on my body language. My “vibe” would have still betrayed the ‘old’ Alan, even though I was no longer speaking it aloud.

Ironically, it was by learning to pick up on the emotions of others that my own began to slowly shift. I don’t give off the same vibe as before because–for the most part–I don’t even think the same way as before. I can tell you that was not an overnight development, but it was crucial for developing Relationship-Management.

Relationship Management

This is where it all comes together. Only by being self-aware, practicing self-management strategies, and being socially aware can one hope to appreciably change the dynamic that has the most impact on your life and those around you–Relationship-Management. 

All this means is:

  • we are aware of our own emotions and behavioral tendencies
  • we are intentional and proactive in managing them effectively
  • we are also aware of the emotions and behavioral tendencies of others
  • we are intentional and proactive in applying this combined awareness within the relationships we are in

Once you can check off the bullet points above, you will no doubt be an individual who is highly emotionally intelligent. That doesn’t mean that you will be perfect. I can see where my journey has led me through each of these stages yet I can assure you that I still do not always get it right, and that I can continue to improve in each of them.

What I hope you will take away instead is hope–hope for yourself or someone else you know. No matter how bleak the picture looks, there is always hope for improvement, hope for real change. I am an example of such a change and it is my desire to see that change continue both in myself and in as many others as possible.

If you would like to talk about how I can help you or your team experience real growth and get real results in your field, feel free to reach out to me:

Alan Bracken

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Comments 1

  1. Paul Adams

    Alan: I am very proud of your achievements in this journey that you have embarked upon. It is especially good that you are helping others.

    Keep up the good work.
    Paul Adams

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