Typically, I don’t write a lot over the summer. I love trying to ‘catch up’ with all the reading I have wanted to do. That said, when I read this #CHARLESTONCHURCHSHOOTING; it resonated so much with me that I had to share it! Seriously!? Bill Ferriter has many great insights. This post, though, really gets to the essence of why I am an educator. Thank you William Ferriter!
Due to a fortuitous convergence of related articles I have been thinking a lot about Emotional Intelligence, whether we can change it for ourselves and how one’s EQ relates to interpersonal conflicts.
Unless you live in a bubble you’re likely exposed to POTENTIAL interpersonal conflicts on a weekly (if not daily) basis. I say POTENTIAL because we have a fair bit of control over whether these actually develop into conflicts. Having two teenage children, right now, I have been reflecting A LOT on how to reduce interpersonal conflict (that should give you a clue as to how often these potential conflicts develop!). Occasionally, conflicts at work also occur… So, I read a useful article on “Five Secrets for Mastering Conflict” published by the “VitalSmarts” folks who are behind Crucial Conversations and CrucialSkills. Skills for Change. Change for Good.
Essentially, before having a crucial/difficult conversation…
- Be truthful without being brutally honest. I like to call it compassionate honesty.
- Get your facts straight first and link them to your feelings… don’t just share your feelings without facts, it turns people off and causes them to tune you out, fast.
- Don’t listen defensively, listen with true intent to understand the other’s perspective.
- Take honest responsibility for how YOU have contributed to the situation.
- Instead of being afraid of saying something because you fear the costs, if things don’t go well, consider the costs if you don’t say what needs to be said and try to think positive about how the conversation could turn out if it goes well.
The possible problem with all this is that these skills directly relate to one’s Emotional Intelligence. So… if your EQ isn’t great, what do you do? Can an EQ be increased? The good news is, it can! It’s not easy but there are some basic, positives to get us going down the path to improvement. According to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in the Harvard Business Review, there are 5 key points to consider:
- We CAN change our EQ but long term improvements require plenty of hard work and guidance/feedback. Luckily, our EQ tends to naturally improve with age.
- Interpersonal Skills is the most coachable characteristic of one’s EQ.
- To improve, we need specific and accurate feedback – like, 360-degree feedback and other specific, accurate coaching processes.
- Since some techniques and processes are better than others, focus on the ones that are in the “cognitive-behavioral therapy” realm NOT the “self-esteem/confidence-building” realm.
- Some people are simply more coachable than others… this is not a reason to give up! This is a reason to do a coachability pre-assessment to help initially map the journey and increase the effectiveness of the coaching.
The bottom line is, if you really want to improve, there are concrete ways to do it that can help you develop better interpersonal communication skills that can help reduce conflict. Here is another resource on improving one’s EQ:
Fleas and Revolutionaries by Michael Josephson
Here’s another great post by Michael Josephson that I want to share… with the caveat that I don’t endorse tying the idea of the glass half-full to political revolutionaries. However, there’s no doubt there’s power in positive thinking… and, positive actions! I would tie this concept to the actions of education revolutionaries!!!
- Unquenchable desire to make things better;
- Unwavering commitment to do what one must, to change;
- Unstoppable will to try and try and try again to build a school culture that creates and sustains excellence!
(Deal, Terrence E., and Kent D. Peterson. The Principal’s Role in Shaping School Culture. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Programs for the Improvement of Practice, 1991. Print.)
Easy! Right? There’s no doubt that it takes hard work. Those three bullet-ed points boil down to staying the course with as much energy and enthusiasm as possible. Just as important (perhaps, more so!) is knowing where to focus your energy.
Begin by asking these questions:
- Do we know who we are as a school? What is our identity? What do we stand for?
- Do we share common values? What are our beliefs about students, education and learning?
- Do we face our issues head-on? Can we build unity through resolved conflicts?
- Do we ‘walk the talk‘? Does each of us model what we expect to see in others?
- Do we have stories that exemplify who we are, who we want to be and how to become that?
- Do our ceremonies, symbols and traditions illustrate and reflect our identity?
Develop a clear vision of our (your) mission. Make sure we (you) have the right people ‘on the bus’, respecting those who are better suited somewhere else. Look at ourselves (yourself) honestly and resolve disputes/conflict positively. “Be the change” we (you) want to see. Become a story-teller… of stories that sustain our (your) vision. Continually reflect on who we (you) are (as a school) and whether what we (you) say and do is aligned to who we (you) are and where we (you) are headed.
Let’s do it!
I was led to that book from watching a video interview by Katie Couric that really gave me something positive to reflect on… service to others and the difference it makes. Not only does it feel good to know you’re helping others… you can actually make a real difference.
Educators make a difference in the lives of their students on a regular basis. How can we get our kids to take that and ‘pay it forward’. I’m convinced that we can combine helping opportunities with encouraging stories (like the one above) to really build global citizenship.
AND! We benefit by helping others! It’s a win-win! There’s plenty of evidence that shows that giving of ourselves is good for us, so let’s get out there and give what we can!
It’s easy to be positive when things are going well but how do you stay positive when confronted with multiple challenges, roadblocks, fits & starts, etc.?
- Stay most closely connected to like-minded, energetic individuals that you can get energy/motivation from;
- Likewise, avoid those full of negativity and if you can’t – try to focus on positive common interests (the next fun trip, reminiscences of past happy times, good family moments, etc.);
- Get/Stay physically active – those endorphins are natural stress fighters but you need to ACTIVate them;
- Think of a way to help others – especially those less fortunate than you (this accomplishes two things: keeps things in perspective; makes joy for others which feels good for you).
I know there’s many more ideas about how to keep ‘rolling’… what are yours?