How to be a Star Performer: Enhancing your emotional intelligence with self-awareness

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6a00d8341c500653ef019b04afd971970d-800wiOur last two posts examined the importance of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in personal branding and how it significantly contributes to becoming a star performer. The great news is that EQ is something that can be learned and developed over time.

In this post, we focus on developing what is considered to be the most important component of EQ, self-awareness. Taking the EQ inventory in our last post is a first step in increasing self-awareness. Hopefully it helped you identify the areas where you are doing well, and also where lower EQ may be impacting your performance and the people around you.

Being self-aware means you know what you stand for, what you are feeling and why, and how your emotions and actions can affect those around you. It also means knowing your strengths and weaknesses and practicing humility. As a psychologist, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time working on this with clients, however I’ve narrowed it down to seven basic tips to help get you started.

  • Assess your values – Invest some time in examining your core personal values. They embody who we want to be in this world, what we want to stand for, and how we want to relate to others. They also represent what’s most important to you in life. Communicate your values consistently so that others will also know what you stand for. Take a look at our post on values for more on this.
  • Press pause – When you experience strong emotions, take a second to step back and examine what’s unfolding. Identify what the emotion is (e.g., anger, guilt, anxiety), what it is telling you, and what the trigger was (i.e., what happened right before you felt the emotion). Look carefully at the trigger to see if it can be eliminated or reduced. If you can’t change the trigger, take a look at what you can change, including how you react or relate to it.
  • Keep a thought journal – Once you identify an emotion and its trigger, it helps to also identify and write down any thoughts you had immediately before the emotion. Are they helpful or unhelpful? Logical or illogical? These beliefs are often what cause our emotional response. For example, rigid rules or “shoulds” about how others behave can trigger anger or frustration, just as “catostrophising” a situation can fuel anxiety. Examining these thoughts can help with higher self-awareness.
  • Name your stories – As a sum total of our experiences, we carry all sorts of messages from the past. Some of these are unhelpful messages that can become quite loud and “hook” us, so we buy into them as if they are facts (e.g., the “I’m not good enough” story). What themes of negative thoughts emerge in your mind on a regular basis? You don’t have to know exactly where this “story” is coming from in order to be aware of it and how it impacts your emotions and behaviour. See if you can “name the story” and give it less weight or importance in your day-to-day life. Check out the brilliant work of Russ Harris for more on this.
  • Catch stereotypes and judgments – Take a careful and honest look at how you respond to people. What stereotypes do you tend to have? Be aware of them by noticing when your mind comes up with these labels. What judgments do you hold about others? Notice when you tend to jump to judgment before you know all of the facts. To be more open and accepting of different perspectives and needs, try stepping into the shoes of those you stereotype or judge (more on this in a future post).
  • Evaluate strengths and weaknesses – Do an honest assessment of strengths and weaknesses, or ask others to help you identify them. Check out this post by Mindtools for help with this. While it’s important to understand weaknesses to improve performance, identifying your strengths and how to “play to them” is critical for success. Focus on areas where you can excel (and not just solely on weaknesses to simply become competent) in order to create opportunities that will raise your overall performance levels.
  • Practice humility – Instead of seeking attention for accomplishments, people with high EQ practice humility. This doesn’t mean that they lack self-confidence or self-promotion, or are shy, but rather that they have a strong awareness of their achievements and can be quietly confident about them.  Of course, humility needs to be balanced with the appropriate level of self-promotion so that others who matter (e.g., your superiors) know who you are and are aware of your contributions. Instead of always seeking out praise and recognition, try giving others a chance to shine by sharing the spotlight.

In my next post, we’ll continue with strategies to build the next component of EQ, Self-Regulation. Stay tuned!


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