The American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education has shown in its published research that a strong propensity for emotional intelligence increases one's ability to make sound decisions. EI is crucial for conflict management in the workplace, as it helps regulate various emotions and elements of motivation, empathy, social skills, and self-awareness. This article discusses emotional intelligence and how and why it is essential.
With Stefanie Montagna, who has worked with Google as a Sales and Business Development Manager for several years, we discuss why we shy away from difficult questions about conflict, failures, and how to overcome that. Stefania has worked at the UN Development Program and speaks five languages fluently. She also has various certifications in training and yoga, mindfulness, psychology, and other embodied practices. She helps us understand the cancel culture and why there is a tendency for people to blame each other at work.
A lot of emotional intelligence is about taking the harrowing experiences and finding goals in them. Society is the most prominent teacher of all, and it teaches us that we have to go outside ourselves and get new skills and certifications to achieve auto goals. However, completing all these out-of-the-box things might imply getting at peace with the things we have already received. So, it is not so much looking for new things we need; it's more about finding the gold in the things we already have.
According to Leonard Goleman, an American psychologist and author of the book "Emotional Intelligence," EI has five key elements -
Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.
Self-awareness as it relates to any worse situation, in particular to an interview, is being aware of what is happening in the body and the mind at the moment it is happening.
Stefania shares a metaphor of a radio station and says, "If you have a radio and you find a radio that you like, let's say radio happiness, you think that that's the only radio that's playing in the room. But we all know that's not true. The moment you turn the switch, you can find a completely different radio. All of the radio frequencies are there at the same time. This is another way of saying that we get to decide which radio frequency to tune into. The same happens in our brains. We have a lot of thoughts, the 9000, whatever number of thoughts we have per day. I think that when we have little emotional intelligence, or at least I can speak for myself at the time I did not have a lot of it. I believed a lot of my thoughts. Thoughts like this are unfair or I am trying so hard, why is no one seeing this? But those thoughts don't have to be the truth. So, if we are self-aware, we are able to see that we have a thought or that we have a feeling, for example, the feeling of injustice might appear in the body in the form of a really tight chest or perhaps like a burning stomach. Well, self-awareness is observing that.”
Next comes self-management or regulation the second part, and then there's empathy, which is a switch from me to us whereby you can relate to the other person, not from the perspective of how you would feel if you were in that person's situation, but rather from the standpoint of trying to understand how that person is feeling from their viewpoint. The last one would be the management of social problems. You can finally relate to many people, keeping in mind all of the ones that came.
How do you create self-awareness?
Experts suggest that meditation is the best way to develop self-awareness. While facing a challenging situation, it is crucial to understand your triggers and point them out. The more external stimuli we have, the more it means that we're attributing what is happening to us to what is happening outside of us. If a probing question makes you feel defensive or get offensive, that is because underneath, there is a sense of something wrong with me. It's important to understand that it's not that the probing question is a trigger; it's that the person is experiencing it as a trigger. So whenever we find ourselves in a situation where a colleague asking for something is a trigger, our manager asking for clarification is a trigger. Then a reorg is a trigger, a reorg is often a trigger, that's fine, but let's say you get a new task, and that's the trigger. Then somebody else has a half an hour delay on delivery; that's the trigger. If everything is a trigger, then you need to go and explore your self-awareness and self-management because there's a story that you're believing.
Why are you being triggered?
Much of it also wants to be correct, which primarily social media has overemphasized because it thrives on polarization. There's a lot of I'm right, you're wrong, and that isn't the way that could use this to more participation. It leads to the outcome, which is a cancellation culture. Cancellation culture doesn't allow us to meet the other person where they are, and thereby create an outstanding costume from participation and inclusion. There's a sentence by Rumi which says, "There's a field beyond right and wrong; I'll meet you there." This refers to this idea of meeting another, not with the idea of contacts, but with the idea of me owning all of the expenses I've had and the other person possessing all the costs they've had. Us together creating something new, which is not rooted in trying to overcome the other in any way, but in meeting with our scars. Not necessarily our wounds, but at least spots.
How to deal with tough questions during interviews without being defensive?
Take a look at the experiences related to this particular role you're going into for your interview over a meaningful period. Don't necessarily take all of your life and not just take the last year, but let's say you have five years of experience and they're all in retail and that you're applying for a type role somewhat loosely related to retail. Take the last five years, right, so you have enough juice there. And then, the idea would be to list all the moments that mark before and after. And if you can do this in a circular pattern, the better because I want you to see how often the same issue has come up in different shapes or forms. Find that through several of your pivot moments, then that's something to be aware of, that you have that narrative that shapes the way you interact at work a little bit. You will start seeing some of the patterns you go through and the lessons you have already gathered. And that's the thing that makes you strong in an interview. If you know that you've already walked all of that row, basically what you understand is that, okay, now it's like the steep 100 meters up, but you've already walked 15. It's not the 100 meters that are going to be so challenging. I think that can make you much more robust and confident interview candidates. Because you know where you're coming from.
How to answer questions about emotional intelligence?
Questions like tell me about a time you had a conflict with a colleague and how you handled that are EI questions. Emotional intelligence is much more subtle in how a candidate answers anything. A lot of candidates are reluctantly talking about their fears. By undermining the conflict, the failure, the difficulty that you had back then, you're not able to admit and own up to what you did before then that you wouldn't do today. Interviewers believe that if you're afraid of failing, you will not be the best decision-maker in those circumstances.
Have the interview expectations changed from both sides, and are people coming in more reserved now trying to impress?
There's one effortless culture shift to consider, to compare where we were 30, 40 years ago versus today. A significant factor is the influence of social media, especially on the millennial and future generations, in terms of we've learned to project our lives upward with those fantastic pictures and beautiful landscapes. So diversity and inclusion, that's an elementary examples. If you ask somebody, what was your policy on diversity even ten years ago? And that person says, oh, I was already very aware of my bias and already hired people with a different whatever.
💡 Stefania Montana does two kinds of coaching; one is interview focus, and the second one is leadership focus. It focuses on bringing along these aspects of emotional intelligence to succeed better at work and find more balance in your life, be more aligned with your mission, and be happier. The first approach is time-sensitive when someone has an interview; she gets into the weeds quickly and helps them out. The other is not necessarily just interviews, but careers in general, like picking apart some of these stories and narratives, getting a bit deeper, developing them, and understanding them. They both sound compelling and could be done in combination depending on the time and the individual.