Emotional Intelligence: Understanding Yourself Helps in a Crisis

By May 17, 2020No Comments

The world we live in goes through constant changes. Change often leads to crises which may come in different forms. We can predict some of them, for instance, those that are industry related, however, others catch us by surprise, such as a natural disaster. A fresh example of this is the coronavirus pandemic that hit us at the beginning of this year. Our world will keep changing unexpectedly, and we must be prepared for challenges of various magnitudes in the future. Amid a crisis, one key skill that can help us is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence helps us understand ourselves and others more effectively. Self-awareness is a key component of it.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence may be defined as the sum of abilities that enable us to identify and regulate emotions in ourselves and others.

This skill is imperative in both our personal and professional lives and is particularly crucial when it comes to managing a crisis. It not only helps us manage our own reactions and panic but also enables us to understand others and help with calming their panic.

Self-Awareness – A Core Component of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence broadens our mindset and builds a firm foundation for other skills to develop and get utilized. Daniel Goleman, author and psychologist, explains in his popular theory of emotional intelligence that self-awareness is not only essential for emotional intelligence, but it is also one of its five components.

The components of emotional intelligence are:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Social skills
  3. Self-regulation
  4. Motivation
  5. Empathy

Self-awareness has been identified as a core component in other theories as well, making it is a point of agreement between experts and researchers.


The Benefits of Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is one of the fundamental building blocks of emotional intelligence; it is the foundation upon which the remaining components are built. A person must be self-aware to be able to self-regulate, and his social skills will be weak or useless if he is not aware enough about when and how he should use them.

If you want to build your emotional intelligence, developing self-awareness is the first step. Ensure that you have cultivated strong skills in self-awareness before you investigate other elements.

Self-awareness is a critical professional skill because it can improve your confidence, communication, and job performance. The reason behind its effectiveness is simple; being more aware of yourself helps you understand and evaluate yourself better. This naturally leads to improved alignment between your actions and your standards, resulting in better performance.

The Types of Self-Awareness

Tasha Eurich from the Harvard Business Review explains that self-awareness can be categorized into two types: internal self-awareness and external self-awareness.

Internal self-awareness includes how we perceive ourselves and our values, strengths, and weaknesses, among other things. In contrast, external self-awareness is all about understanding how others see us with those same factors. For managers and leaders to fulfill their roles effectively, they need to excel at both.

You may be under the impression that greater power in your role or more experience as a leader may lead to better self-awareness, but that is not how it works. Your experience may be either positive or negative in terms of improving yourself and learning. Interestingly, even positive experiences can have a negative impact; for instance, when a person attributes success to only himself even though it may have had been more a result of circumstances, and this may lead to false confidence.

Improving Self-Awareness – The Journey of Understanding Oneself

Surprisingly, research has shown that only 10 to 15% of people demonstrate self-awareness, although, in general, most of the people believe that they are self-aware (Eurich, 2018).

Eurich recommends that introspection is needed for improving self-awareness. However, the focus of it should be on asking yourself the right questions. She points out that asking “why” may not always be useful because several of our internal processes remain clouded in our unconscious or subconscious minds. A better approach would be to ask “what,” instead.

For instance, instead of questioning, “Why do I keep falling at this task frequently?”, you may ask yourself, “What are the circumstances during which I fail at this task, and what can I do to improve them?” It may not be a foolproof method, but it can surely enhance your self-awareness, resulting in better alignment with your principles on specific activities.

Understanding Yourself Is Useful During A Crisis

Dealing with a crisis could be challenging for several reasons. It requires one to be emotionally intelligent so that he or she can remain calm and help others do the same. Self-awareness is critical for managers and leaders to enable them to lead others effectively. When you understand yourself, your strengths, and your weaknesses properly, you become capable of making the right decisions and solving problems in the best possible ways.

Successful leadership during a crisis is all about facilitating and supporting changes and transitions. Being aware that people may demonstrate uncharacteristic behaviors, and show unexpected needs is a fundamental part of this. Similarly, high-performing and harmonious teams may get disturbed in ways that need adequate additional support. Such behaviors are typical of social and emotional processes that are involved in getting used to and assimilating the complicated changes that occur in crises, for example, a sudden change in the work location or a new requirement of using unfamiliar technologies.

With an enhanced self-awareness, you can expect to be more emotionally intelligent, and therefore better at dealing with any crisis, both as an individual and as a leader. When faced with difficult circumstances, people may perceive threats according to their deep-rooted human values that drive their behavior. Since these values are dynamic, leaders cannot apply an instrumental approach to provide reassurance. A better way is to apply an approach that is based on kindness and involves being available and listening and caring for people in a way that helps them explore and better understand how they are feeling and why. This approach can be referred to as “authentic reassurance,” and incorporates a listening environment that is created with time, support and space.

Become a Better Leader Today

Undoubtedly, understanding yourself is fundamental to dealing with a crisis. It raises the level of emotional intelligence that you possess and helps you become a better leader. If you are interested in developing better self-awareness and emotional intelligence now is the time to make a commitment and pursue some professional development.


Some courses that may help you develop your skills in this area include.

Emotional Intelligence, Improving Self Awareness, Improving Mindfulness, Critical Thinking, Servant Leadership, Social Intelligence,


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