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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

Positive Criticism and Using Emotional Intelligence can Create a Healthier Workplace

By Shel Horowitz

To succeed in business, you don't necessarily need a high IQ. But high EI-emotional-can go a long way toward building success.Dr. Hendrie "Hank" Weisinger gave lots of examples of how and why to FBC members attending his June 20 presentation at the Log Cabin.

Basically, if you show a lot of emotional intelligence, you're the kind of person that other people want to be around. Emotions, says Weisinger, are a form of communication, and that's good. The trick is in how we manage them. "Ability to regulate your emotion is the difference between the thermometer and the thermostat. In the case of anger and anxiety, the strategy is always to slow yourself down. For self-motivation, you have to regulate upward."

Weisinger cited five factors that research has identified as key to high EI: High self-awareness; mood management, self-motivation, interpersonal expertise; and emotional mentoring. Note that the first three of these involve you and your own internal monologue; the last two involve your relationships with others.

How those play out depend a lot on the culture you're in. " A Japanese woman mad at her mother-in-law will do an imperfect flower arrangement."

It doesn't always take much to increase others' perceptions of you as emotionally intelligent. Weisinger mentioned one Cornell university study that showed marked productivity increases when the boss started bringing in a box of cookies once a month.

Here are some specific strategies to build a workplace climate of EI:

"Sit back and listen to how you talk to yourself three times a day. You may notice that every time you see a certain person, your thoughts get in the way of your goals.

"Watch out for the sensory trap!" In other words, it's not enough to have a perception of a problem. "Document it! Supply the data that supports your interpretation: 'when I see you talking on your cell phone, I don't get the impression that you're here to work.' You either supply the data that supports your interpretation or ask them for their data. If a customer says 'I'm going elsewhere because you don't care about your customers,' instead of getting defensive, ask for the data. 'How don't I care about my customers?'

"Intuition is low self-awareness. Would you trust a surgeon who says 'I don't know what's wrong but my gut says have this operation.'?"

EI has implications well beyond your own employees. " If you're in a business deal and you feel uncomfortable, the mistake is in not listening to your feelings." Weisinger suggests keeping a journal of your feelings for at least two weeks. "Two of the best business schools require it" of their students.

Another powerful tool: focus on your intentions, not the method of achieving them. "What is my intention of helping my son with his homework? If I can remember that I want it to be fun, I will never yell at my kid about homework. Now-is your behavior matching up to those intentions? The incongruity shows you that you really want something else. What have you already tried? If it isn't working, throwing it out the window. The faster you recognize you're ineffective, the faster you do something different."

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