Updated: Apr 21, 2020
Control your own emotions through self-management.
Naturally, as a project manager, you manage other people all the time. But have you ever thought about managing yourself?
Self-management is an integral part of emotional intelligence. It enables you to prevent your emotions from taking charge of your behavior.
Emotions can easily take over, largely because the amygdala, the reactive part of your brain, is faster than the neocortex, the part that controls logical thinking. Your brain can push you to react to something before you’ve even been able to consciously think it over!
That’s how emotional breakdowns happen. So, avoid a breakdown by pausing to give your neocortex some time to process what’s going on. If you can’t identify and consciously think about your own emotions, they’ll take over.
If you’re afraid of failing at something, for example, you might start procrastinating in attempt to avoid the project altogether. But you’ll only end up creating a self-fulfilling prophecy: you’ll definitely fail if you don’t try. Managing such a situation is a matter of managing your own fear.
Effective self-management also requires self-control. Self-control is the ability to stay calm, even when your emotions are going wild. It’s certainly difficult at times, but there are some good techniques that will help you stay cool:
First off, identify what triggers your biggest emotional reactions – those times when your emotions try to take over. You can’t manage your triggers if you don't know what they are.
You can also reduce your stress by avoiding long workweeks. Take care of yourself, both mentally and physically!
Finally, make sure you have a healthy network of support. Talk to your friends when you need help managing your emotions and ask them for feedback on your behavior.
Understand the people around you through social awareness.
The next key part of emotional intelligence is building strong relationships with other people, and that requires social awareness.
Social awareness is about understanding the emotions of others. It’s made up of four parts: empathy, organizational awareness, seeing others clearly and setting emotional boundaries.
Empathy, the first component, refers to your ability to understand how other people feel. You’re able to recognize another person’s emotions – whether positive or negative – and engage accordingly.
As a project manager, that means you need to listen to your team members using empathetic listening. Don’t just listen to their words alone; try to figure out what they’re really feeling.
You also have to master the ability to see others clearly. That means understanding people and accurately assessing their strengths and weaknesses. It’s more challenging than it seems. Even if you don’t like the person, strive to think objectively; otherwise, you might impose your own bias. Take the time to really look and think.
Organizational awareness is closely linked with seeing others clearly. Organizational awareness is the ability to understand the emotional context of your particular company, project team or other organization. What’s the power structure? Which emotions does it generate?
The last step is setting emotional boundaries that protect you from the emotions of others. It’s important to relate to other people’s emotions, but you shouldn’t allow them to control you.
Altering your language is a good way to help with this. So if you’re angry with someone, for example, say you feel angry, not that they made you angry. Taking responsibility for your feelings is always better than blaming them on someone else.