Several posts back, we introduced a framework for emotional intelligence which could be applied to project management. That framework contains 5 areas of competence as shown in the diagram at right. The first area of emotional competency we are going to tackle is Self Awareness.
Self awareness is the first building block of emotional intelligence. Without being aware and understanding our own emotions, it will be difficult to move into the other emotional competencies like self management, social awareness, or team leadership.
Self awareness may be challenging for us for a number of reasons. First, our emotions can be as volatile as the weather in Chicago. They mix, morph, and evolve, often in a short span of time. One minute we might feel excited and happy about a friend’s plan to visit us. A moment later, we might be scared or angry about the same event.
We may also have childhood wounds which inhibit our ability to access our feelings. For most of my life I suppressed many of my emotions. This was partly a result of growing up in an alcoholic family where everyone (except my dad) was denied the opportunity to have or express emotions. In addition to that, I think I inherited my Mom’s emotional sensitivity; she was about as emotional as a small green soap dish.
As an adult I found that all my emotions were dampened. In particular though, I found it difficult to feel happy, angry, or sad. When my brother Marty killed himself in 1996, I remember feeling numb. It was a long time before I actually felt sad and angry about his death.
What I lacked in happiness, anger and sadness, I made up for in fear. I was afraid most of the time. I was scared about how I was performing at work, scared about money, and scared about nearly everything. I still have a high level of fear in my life.
It took a lot of hard work over the course of nearly 5 years before I was able to access my emotions directly. This included work with a coach and as well as working in two support groups. I learned various techniques for getting in touch with my emotions. I learned to recognize the physical sensations that lead to emotions. I learned to journal. Eventually I was able to feel angry and sad, and to dampen the fear I felt all the time.
Everyone is different when it comes to being aware of our emotions. For most people, the kind of work that I went through is unnecessary. However, each person may find that some emotions are easier to recognize than others. Self awareness is about developing this capacity.
There are many ways we can increase our emotional self awareness. The following are my favorite techniques:
- Use a feelings journal
- Conduct a physical inventory
- The face in the mirror
- Use paired sharing
We will describe each of these techniques in future posts.