I Get So Emotional

Yes, that is a reference to the Whitney Houston song. I loved that album when I was little– and by album I mean the cassette I listened to so much that the tape warped.

But I’ve had that song going through my head recently, as I recently completed a supervisory development course and just wrapped up a graduate course in facilitating adult learning.

Both courses brought up the idea of self-awareness and self-management with regard to emotions, mostly in the workplace, but also in the training or adult learning setting.

Not getting emotional from a managerial (or employee) standpoint is not always an easy thing to do.

Very rarely do human beings have an “Off” button they click when they step into the office.

Sometimes, getting emotional at work can be detrimental to a person’s professional career.

In fact, while working at a communications agency previously, it was written into my performance evaluation that I was “too emotional” at times, yet there was no definition of what that phrase meant.

It is a difficult order, being told to manage your emotions, when so much of what makes us human is our emotional ticker.

But by that same notion, businesses and companies cannot fully function if we are guided purely by emotional reactions to situations. At some point, reason needs to prevail.

For women in the workplace, there is more pressure to control our feelings and to hold back the tears if we feel our emotions getting the better of us.

So what do we make of all this emotional stuff?

In learning how to be an effective supervisor, my training colleagues and I went through the exercise of exploring emotional intelligence, a term made famous by Daniel Goleman with his 1995 Harvard Business Journal article.

Basic representation of Goleman’s Model

Put simply, the key to emotional intelligence lies in our ability to manage ourselves (i.e. our emotions) and our relationships with others.

I’m no stranger to emotional intelligence. I remember reading Goleman’s HBR article in graduate school. It all made sense, in theory…

But in practice, many communications professionals can find value in understanding emotional intelligence.

Our emotions will have an effect on how we communicate to others, so it stands to reason that many communications and PR professionals should have a good grasp of the concept of emotional intelligence.

The way my supervisory development course framed it, the four-part model can be thought of as a step-by-step process of gaining the emotional intelligence skills necessary to result in productive interpersonal communications and supervisor-employee relationships.

  1. Self Awareness – the first step is within the individual; recognize your own emotions, what sets you off, and how your emotions affect others.
  2. Self Management – a little harder than the first step is actively managing our emotional reactions so that they facilitate rather than interfere with the task at hand.
  3. Social Awareness – includes the ability to identify and understand another’s wishes, emotional needs and reactions, read situations, and demonstrate empathy.
  4. Relationship Management – is like the icing on the cake, if you get through the other stages, because it involves the ability to manage relationships, social interactions and service transactions. For those in supervisory roles, this includes interpersonal and cross-cultural communication, change management, influence, conflict management, team building, motivate and managing diversity.

This is not to say if you are emotionally intelligent that you will automatically have a productive team or clear communications. But it couldn’t hurt.

For those in the communications/PR field, emotional intelligence can help in how we work with our colleagues and clients. Imagine conducting an exercise on Self Awareness with a company CEO or a Relationship Management workshop with an account team.

Emotional intelligence is not the end-all, be-all of business communications. It’s more a method of organizing human emotions and utilizing them to their potential.

So maybe the key to emotional intelligence is not just controlling our emotions, but also understanding the right time and place to put our emotions to work for us.

That’s just my understanding of the emotional intelligence model. I would welcome anyone to share their experiences or interpretations.

What do you think? Is emotional intelligence a bunch of baloney or is there real value to the communications field?

May 9, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Career.


  1. Frank_Strong (@Frank_Strong) replied:

    Not just an HBR chapter, Goleman wrote a whole book on it! I think the idea is less about controlling emotions, and more about being attuned to them; that is to say to instinctively know how to adapt one’s style based on the emotions being expressed. There’s a certain element of empathy — but as a skill — I think it’s something people can in fact be learned. It takes work and patience. Nice post! Thought provoking.

    • Krista replied:

      Thanks, Frank! I thought this post would resonate with your experience.

  2. Frank_Strong (@Frank_Strong) replied:

    Speaking of which, I just read this post on Search Engine Land on emotions and SEO. Very academic, so seems fitting here — thought I’d come back and share it: http://selnd.com/JjWviM

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