Putting Emotional Intelligence to Work for You On the Job

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Everybody in the profession knows people like Todd and Amanda.

Todd: Aced every test he ever took and graduated at the top of his class. Never heard a respiratory care question inside or outside the classroom he didn’t have an immediate answer for. Isn’t shy about letting everyone know he’s a respiratory care whiz kid. Fifteen years into his career, though, he’s still working as a staff therapist.

Amanda: Struggled with some subjects in school but wasn’t afraid to dig in until she mastered them. Has always been known as someone you can count on to lend a helping hand or listening ear. Goes the extra mile for her patients and her colleagues alike. Fifteen years in, she’s director of respiratory care at the hospital where Todd works.

Todd is clearly very smart, but what does Amanda have that he seemingly lacks? Many people would point to emotional intelligence.

Six tips to consider

According to author Daniel Goleman, who is widely recognized as the father of emotional intelligence, emotional intelligence is made up of five key components: self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy, and social skills.

While those are traits almost everyone strives for (well, except maybe people like Todd), most of us have at least some degree of difficulty always following through with them, particularly when we are in a situation where we feel threatened or unappreciated.

How can you put emotional intelligence to work for you as you build your career in respiratory care? Here are six tips to consider —

Build personal relationships with your coworkers: While it’s true that RTs are on the move from patient to patient most of the day, there is always a little time here and there throughout your shift to have a quick conversation with the people you work with. Make a conscious decision to spend those few precious moments getting to know them on a more personal level.

Think before you react: In the fast-paced world of respiratory care, conflicts are bound to arise from time to time. Before you speak your mind, take a few moments to be sure your mind isn’t leading you down a path you’ll regret. Name the emotions you are feeling to yourself and make sure those are the emotions you really want to project to the person you are having the conflict with.

Step into their shoes: It’s easy to judge people based on our own assumptions. But your coworker may be experiencing things very differently than you are, so try to see things from their perspective. Once you have a better understanding of what’s going on in their day or their life, you will have the tools you need to resolve any issue.

Be a good listener: You want your voice to be heard, especially in times of conflict. So do your coworkers. Maintain good eye contact and let them know both verbally and non-verbally that you are paying good attention. Then when it’s your turn to talk, they will be more inclined to show you the same courtesy.

Ask for feedback: The best way to make sure you are succeeding on the job is to ask for feedback on your performance and then take any criticism you may hear and use it to adjust your performance or behavior in a positive way. This is especially true when speaking to your superiors about the work you are doing for your patients and your department, but it can be beneficial when speaking with coworkers as well.

Emotional intelligence may be harder to pin down than traditional intelligence, but as the examples of Todd and Amanda show, sometimes it’s the kind of intelligence that will take you the farthest in your career — and in your life as well. Use this advice to hone your emotional intelligence today.

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