You may know how to manage your time, how to negotiate with your boss, or how to draw up a strategy to motivate your employees.
But I suspect that you’re lacking in a very important area: emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is a term we often associate with the mere emotional awareness of yourself and those around you.
It’s a trait that we should all aspire to improve and master.
As someone who writes regularly, I take my emotional intelligence very seriously.
The last thing I want to do is to come across as someone who has to be told something over and over.
In fact, I prefer to be told things with respect and intention.
But there’s also something satisfying about reading my own work with the benefit of hindsight and the benefit of hindsight alone.
To help you get better at emotional intelligence, I’ve broken it down into five ways.
1. Be authentic
As humans, we instinctively try to make ourselves seem more important and impressive than we are.
We tell the truth, but also lie a bit. Sometimes it’s just easier.
Don’t just be “a bit genuine” or “a little honest.” Be your true self.
When you do tell the truth, especially to someone you want to impress or to those you wish would like you, you’re going to find that there’s nothing easier than making others like you.
You’ll need to be conscious of your tone, your body language, the way you speak, how you ask questions, the way you laugh, and the facial expression you use.
Don’t concern yourself with making a statement to impress someone.
Don’t worry about saying the “right thing.” Just be you.
Embrace that the stakes are low and the reward is high. And take risks with your words and your body language.
There’s nothing like making someone smile or laugh when they first meet you.
2. Have patience
Don’t leave any important work hanging around.
When I start working on something, I know that I have a limited amount of time to get it done.
I know that it may take a day to get a new idea or concept down.
I know that I may have to spend more time on a particular design than I originally thought I would.
Most importantly, though, I know that I am going to fail.
I know that I will probably not have time to finish the project I’ve started on Monday.
I know that I’m going to need to start a new one on Tuesday.
Being able to handle the consequences of these failures is critical.
I like to give myself enough time to get something done, but not too much time to procrastinate.
At this point in my life, that means at least two days.
You can only hold someone accountable to you for so long.
You have to let them fail a bit and realize that what they’re doing is not necessarily right.
You need to have your own failures and your own learning curves.
There is no shame in being wrong, but there is an awful lot of shame in pretending you know it all.
3. Be transparent
Be as honest with yourself and others as possible.
Don’t just give information to people that you think they need to know.
Share the things that you would rather not hear. Share the parts of yourself that you would rather not share.
If you avoid telling people the bad parts of you, you’ll end up hurting yourself.
People are going to have their own way of interacting with you.
They are going to give you the benefit of the doubt, forgive your blunders, and allow you to “clean up your messes.”
Sometimes you have to tell someone exactly what you’re feeling and how you’re feeling it.
If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
Sometimes what you need to tell someone can hurt them. Sometimes it can even destroy your relationship.
If you say something and you’re wrong, it’s much easier to fix it before damage is done.
If you’re wrong and you think you can fix it and you say nothing, it becomes a much bigger mess.
What you don’t do is avoid the problem, assume that it will go away, or hide behind platitudes and meaningless responses.
4. Be realistic
Have realistic expectations.
Do what you can. Don’t force yourself to do more than you’re physically and emotionally capable of doing.
For me, I used to make all of these big plans for myself and have to back down to be able to do them.
There’s no point in putting yourself in a position where you can only complete the smallest part of something.
I’ve learned to allow myself to scale back a bit. Instead of doing 10 pages of research to start a new project, I might only do 4 or 5 pages.
What’s important is to avoid anything that requires more work than you’re willing to give.
I’m sure you can think of at least one time where you told yourself you would finish this thing, you really meant it, and then you didn’t.
This habit of underestimating yourself can destroy the best of intentions.
You end up doing more work than you would have done if you’d trusted your own abilities.
5. Share your experiences
Sharing what you’ve learned is critical.
I am constantly amazed at how much help I have gotten from other people.
I’m a very open person, so it’s very easy for me to talk about what I do and how I do it.
I believe sharing my own experiences is one of the things that has allowed me to develop as a designer.
There are so many things I’ve learned that I wouldn’t have learned by myself.
I’m glad that I have the ability to share what I’ve learned with others so that I can help them succeed.
Everything I’ve written about has come from things I’ve read, observed, experienced, and heard.
If I’m writing about how a design structure works, it’s because someone gave me that information.
What have you learned from other designers? I’d love to hear your stories.