Journey into Self-awareness

How do I?

  • Determine my strengths and understand how they might guide me in personal and professional choices?

I have many strengths and my professional choices are over. I have retired and will never work again. I volunteer but should probably discuss my previous professional choices to some degree.

My strengths include continuous learning which means that I took almost all the courses available to me at Mars. I am a quick learner and a good listener. If I have a problem, I find the solution by asking questions or doing research. I am not afraid to ask questions but I am afraid to be wrong. I accept responsibility for my mistakes and always have been honest and forthright if I do something wrong. I do not wait for someone to find out that a mistake has been made but step forward searching for a solution from someone that knows what to do. I did make a couple of big mistakes which were costly but because I told the right people that were in charge, I was able to continue to learn and make better decisions.

My first job was in Richland at an insurance agency. I was a teenager and it gave me some money and responsibility and taught me about work ethic. Lucy was my boss and the owner of the agency. I did some filing and a little typing but not much of anything really. I can’t remember how long I worked for Lucy but it wasn’t very long.

During my senior year at Vashti, I got paid to play the piano at several churches and also when I moved to Albany, I played for a Baptist Church in Radium Springs. I knew the pastor and his wife and I played on Sunday for church and also on Wednesday for choir practice.

After I left Shorter College I had a job in retail at J C Penney’s in Rome, Ga. It was only for about a month. I was dating a guy named John Busby and living in an apartment that was rented by my Big Sister. After I left J C Penney’s I moved to Thomasville to stay with my Brother to look for another job.

The first “real” job I had was at ACC Distributors. I rented a room from a lady and her son and the owners of ACC picked me up and took me to work. They were like family and I worked there for five years. It was a great job except that I worked mostly at night entering the orders for the next day. I enjoyed working and also did double entry bookkeeping for a vending company that they owned. I worked hard and saved my money and was promoted to Assistant Office Manager. I helped install the new IBM System 32 and learned a lot from the IBM representative that helped. He would answer all my questions and I learned a lot about data security and different computer systems and programs.

I applied for a job with Mars, Incorporated because I knew I would make a lot more money than if I stayed at ACC. I started at Mars as a key punch operator and worked mostly at night. There was a lot of work and it keep me very busy. I learned more and more about computers and Mars let me take many courses especially Microsoft Office Suites and other computer and leadership classes.

  • Figure out what motivates me in order to find personal and professional success?

I had professional success and as a retiree I have a pension and Social Security which allows me to live in the life style I am comfortable with although it would be nice to travel more.

  • Assess my limitations and develop a plan for improving in these areas?

My main limitation at Mars was the fact that I had no management experience. No one reported to me and although I worked for Mars for thirty years and had a successful career with many promotions, I was never a manager. The job at Mars that I liked the best was training. I had taken several training for trainers classes and I very much enjoyed doing a lot of training. The year before I retired in January, I spent many, many weeks in New Jersey at the IT headquarters testing a new system. I trained everyone including managers on the SAP system which was implemented throughout all Mars facilities around the world. I had been selected by the Albany Plant Manager to be the only one from Albany to participate in the testing and implementation and training on the new system. This was the highlight of my career. It did result in the elimination of my old job and I was paid to retire early. I got a years pay and early retirement. I am so glad it worked out for me.

At this time I do not need a plan to improve this limitation because I am no longer employed.

  • Gain understanding and insight into my personality, attitudes, and behaviors?
  • Identify the biases I have that preclude my understanding and appreciating others?

I do not tolerate stupidity very well and also do not like it when others do not accept the responsibility for their actions. It is not acceptable to me if someone keeps making the same mistake over and over after teaching them the correct procedure.

  • Evaluate my emotional intelligence and identify areas for personal improvement?

I never really understood first impressions and the result of a misconception that could not be changed. I need to improve receiving and accepting criticism without it upsetting me. I also should have stood up for myself many times when I didn’t and I should learn to stand up to bullies. I will let them run all over me. I do not like conflict. I am a peace keeper and try to make things better by forgiving people and acting like nothing happened.

“Know thyself” Socrates

As early as the time of Socrates, we have known about the importance of self-awareness. Understanding oneself is key not only to our ability to succeed, but also to our ability to work effectively with others. Studies show that the best managers are those who are keenly aware of their own strengths — and their weaknesses.1 They are able to capitalize on their strengths and either improve their weaknesses or work with others whose qualities complement theirs.

They are able to understand others — their motivation, needs, style, capabilities, and limitations — and use this information to motivate and get results from them. They also understand the importance of keeping current with self-knowledge and regularly engage in self-assessment exercises and experiences that allow them to continually learn about and improve themselves

What Is Self-awareness?

Self-awareness is knowing your motivations, preferences, and personality and understanding how these factors influence your judgment, decisions, and interactions with other people.2 Self-awareness includes many things. Your internal feelings and thoughts, interests, strengths and limitations, values, skills, goals, abilities, leadership orientation, and preferred communication style are just a few of the elements that self-awareness comprises.

Benefits of Self-awareness

Self-awareness or self-knowledge is the starting point for effectiveness at work. As Machiavelli, the cunning author and statesman, wrote, “To lead or attempt to lead without first having a knowledge of self is foolhardy and sure to bring disaster and defeat.” Self-awareness has many benefits, among them:

  • understanding yourself in relation to others.
  • developing and implementing a sound self-improvement program.
  • setting appropriate life and career goals.
  • developing relationships with others.
  • understanding the value of diversity.
  • managing others effectively.
  • increasing productivity.
  • increasing your ability to contribute to organizations, your community, and family.

For example, knowing what you are good at and what you enjoy doing may help in selecting a career or job that is professionally satisfying and therefore financially and personally satisfying. Relying solely on others’ thoughts or beliefs about what is best for you can lead to personal and professional unhappiness. It makes no sense to spend one third (or more) of your precious time doing what you abhor! By knowing yourself — your strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes — you’ll know where you belong. 3

“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” Benjamin Franklin

How to Gain Self-awareness

The first step to becoming aware of ourselves is to recognize our weaknesses, strengths, biases, attitudes, values, and perceptions. There are many ways to enhance our self-awareness. Some of these include analyzing our own experiences, looking at ourselves through the eyes of others, self-disclosure, acquiring diverse experiences, and increasing our emotional intelligence.


One means to gain insight into ourselves is through reflecting on, examining, and analyzing our behavior, personality, attitudes, and perceptions.


Behavior is the way in which we conduct ourselves — the way in which we act. Our behavior is influenced by our feelings, judgments, beliefs, motivations, needs, experience, and the opinions of others. Patterns of behavior develop through our reactions to events and actions over a period of time.

Behavior consists of four components:4

1. Motivation

Motivation — the drive to pursue one action over another. What underlying factors move you to make a particular decision or choice? For example, what drives you to do a good job?

The answer might be a competitive nature, strong achievement orientation, or a difficult childhood experience. Being aware of your core drivers, those things that motivate you — positively and negatively — can help you understand the roots of your behavior and make adjustments as necessary to modify your behavior.

2. Modes of thinking — the way you process the various inputs received by the brain. How do you analyze information and make judgments about how to use and apply that information? For example, do you process information quietly by reflecting on your own, or do you process information out loud by talking with others? Being aware of how you take in and make sense of information can help you understand how you make judgments and decisions that lead to choosing one behavior or course of action over another.

3. Modes of acting — the course of action you apply in a given situation. What approach do you choose to apply in response to stimuli, events, people, thoughts, and feelings? For example, when someone does something that offends you, do you react in anger?

Or do you react quietly, assessing your options before acting? Being aware of how you express your reaction to the things that happen to and around you can help you understand the alternatives available to you when certain events arise.

4. Modes of interacting — the way in which you communicate and share ideas, opinions, and feelings with others. Whom do you feel comfortable relating to? How do you typically share your thoughts, feelings, and ideas with others? For example, are you comfortable in large groups of people? In team situations? Or do you prefer to work on your own? Being aware of how you talk to and work with others can help you understand how your preferred style meshes with those with whom you work and live.


Personality describes the relatively stable set of characteristics, tendencies, and temperaments that have been formed by inheritance and by social, cultural, and environmental factors.5

These traits determine how we interact with and react to various people and situations. Some aspects of our personality are believed to be a result of nature — those traits with which we are born and that we possess through heredity. Other characteristics of our personality are thought to be a result of our environment — those factors that we acquire through exposure to people and events in our lives.

Personality traits are enduring characteristics that describe an individual’s attitude and behavior.6 Examples are agreeableness, aggression, dominance, and shyness. Most of these traits have been found to be quite stable over time.7

This means a person who is cold and uncaring in one situation is likely to behave similarly in other situations. Through a significant amount of research over time, psychologists believe the basic structure of human personality consists of five broad factors referred to as “The Big Five Model.”8 Even though some of these factors are inherited, some factors can be modified through training, experience, and a conscious attempt to change.

1. Extroversion represents the degree to which an individual is social or antisocial, outgoing or shy, assertive or passive, active or inactive, and talkative or quiet. A person rating high on these dimensions is extroverted, while the opposite end of the scale is introverted.

2. Agreeableness measures the degree to which a person is friendly or reserved, cooperative or guarded, flexible or inflexible, trusting or cautious, good-natured or moody, softhearted or tough, and tolerant or judgmental. Those scoring high on these dimensions are viewed as agreeable and easy to work with, while those rating low are viewed as more disagreeable and difficult to work with.

3. Emotional stability characterizes the degree to which a person is consistent or inconsistent in how they react to certain events, reacts impulsively or weighs options before acting, and takes things personally or looks at a situation objectively. Those who rate high on emotional stability are viewed as generally calm, stable, having a positive attitude, able to manage their anger, secure, happy, and objective. Those who rate low are more likely to be anxious, depressed, angry, insecure, worried, and emotional.

4. Conscientiousness represents the degree to which an individual is dependable or inconsistent, can be counted on or is unreliable, follows through on commitments or reneges, and keeps promises or breaks them. Those who rate high on conscientiousness are generally perceived to be careful, thorough, organized, persistent, achievement oriented, hardworking, and persevering. Those who score lower on this dimension are more likely to be viewed as inattentive to detail, uncaring, disrespectful, not interested or motivated, unorganized, apt to give up easily, and lazy.

5. Openness to experience characterizes the degree to which one is interested in broadening their horizons or limiting them, learning new things or sticking with what they already know, meeting new people or associating with current friends and coworkers, going to new places or restricting oneself to known places. Individuals who score high on this factor tend to be highly intellectual, broad-minded, curious, imaginative, and cultured.

Those who rate lower tend to be more narrow-minded, less interested in the outside world, and uncomfortable in unfamiliar surroundings and situations.

What are the characteristics of your personality?

How do you know this?

Which aspects of your personality do you like, and which would you like to modify? While it’s true that some of these factors are very ingrained, few of these factors are fixed in stone. It’s up to you to identify those qualities that are working well for you and worth keeping, as well as those qualities that aren’t working well for you that you should change or abandon.


Self-monitoring is the tendency to adjust our behavior relative to the changing demands of social situations.9 It is many times studied in conjunction with the five broad factors of personality to examine how varying situations will affect a person’s desire or ability to control aspects of their personality.

The concept of monitoring our own personality can help us come to grips with both those qualities we view as positive and those we would like to change. By being aware of the role of self-monitoring, we can assess our own behaviors and attitudes, diagnose which elements we are satisfied with, and identify and develop plans for addressing those aspects we want to change. When self-monitoring, it is important to want to set personal standards in accordance with certain accepted norms. High self-monitors are very sensitive to external cues and constantly adapt (and often hide) their true selves to conform to a situation or set of expectations. Low self-monitors are more consistent, displaying their feelings, attitudes, and behaviors in every situation.

In an organizational setting, it is probably best to avoid the extremes. You don’t want to be a high self-monitor (solely concerned with what others think) or a low self-monitor (not at all interested in what others think). Always trying to please everyone or conforming to gain everyone’s approval — while it might facilitate getting what you want in the short-term — can be harmful to you in the long-term. Conversely, never adjusting your behavior relative to the audience or situation can be disastrous.

All of the personality dimensions can have a significant impact on job performance and interpersonal relationships. 10 By understanding the meaning of these factors, you can pinpoint areas for personal and professional development and growth. Knowledge of our ratings on each of these dimensions can also help us in selecting a career. Much research in the area of person/job fit demonstrates that individuals who select professions that suit their personality are more likely to be satisfied and productive. 11

Finding work that matches our personal preferences may require a fair amount of investigation; this investment in time and resources pays big dividends — success and happiness. For example, a person who is low on the extroversion and agreeableness factors would probably not be happy (or successful) as a traveling sales representative. The sheer nature of the job requires an outgoing, friendly individual in order to contact and build a rapport with clients. A poor fit between one’s personality and job can be a recipe for disaster.


Attitudes are evaluative statements or “learned predispositions to respond in a consistently favorable or unfavorable manner with respect to a given object.”12 As human beings, we can choose how respect to a given object.”12

As human beings, we can choose how we think and feel about a situation or event. Imagine you are on an airplane that has been diverted to another airport due to bad weather. You can choose to become irritated and show your anger to the flight attendant, or you can be patient, acknowledge that nothing can be done to change the situation, and take out a good book to read while waiting for your flight to land. The emotions we choose to act on determine our attitude. This in turn is reflected in our behavior.13

Attitudes are narrow in scope. They can vary from situation to situation. For example, we might have a positive outlook when we are with our friends, feel negatively about our work, and have a neutral attitude toward our academic experience. Attitudes are derived from parents, teachers, peers, society, and our own experiences. Attitudes are one of the less stable facets of our personality, which means they are easier to influence and change than our behaviors or values.14 Some can change at will depending on the situation, the people involved, other events that occurred to us in a particular day, how we’re feeling as a situation unfolds, and how we respond as events evolve over time. Strong attitudes can have an impact on our professional and personal relationships.15 As students and managers; it is helpful to remember how much of a role our attitude can play in our success.

Our demeanor, whether we’re with others or grappling with an issue on our own, can make a significant difference in what behaviors we choose to exercise and in the outcomes of our efforts. Have you heard the saying “she takes lemons and turns them into lemonade”? This is an example of the power of one’s attitude.

Our attitude can determine whether we think positively and take control of a situation or think negatively and feel helpless about our ability to change or respond to a situation. Our attitude is an important component of our ability to be productive at work or in school. Our attitude can influence those around us. Being aware of our own attitudes, and making choices about which attitude to display to others, is very important for us as individuals and as managers.

Our attitude can affect our job behavior as well as our interactions with others. Our friends, significant others, family members, co-workers, and others are definitely influenced by our thoughts and feelings toward situations. As managers, it is also important to recognize that our employees are affected by the attitude we display toward them and toward the work that needs to get done.16 A manager’s attitude is a large factor in how people feel about their jobs. If a manager is upbeat most of the time and supportive of his/her colleagues, employees will generally respond well and work hard to produce the desired results. On the other hand if a manager is pessimistic and belittling toward his/her employees, staff morale will suffer and, ultimately, so will the expected outcomes.


Perception describes the process by which individuals gather sensory information and assign meaning to it.17 When we encounter a person or situation; we use our senses to absorb various inputs. Next, our brains select aspects from stored information in order to process and organize these inputs. Finally, our brains interpret and evaluate the person or situation. Perception is person-specific — no two people will take in, organize, and evaluate inputs the same way. Your perspective on a situation can be entirely different from the way another looks at the exact same situation. Two friends walking by engaged in conversation. One friend, taking notice of their mannerisms and gestures, concludes that it “looks like they’re breaking off their relationship.” The other friend vehemently disagrees. “No, they’re probably discussing a plan to spend more time together.” Which friend is right?

Individual perception may not always be consistent with reality; it is only the perceiver’s interpretation of reality. For example, when you go to a movie with a group, your opinion and those of your friends might differ. You each perceived the same event through a different set of lenses.

One might have seen the movie as an action film, another as a romance. There’s probably some element of truth in both perspectives. What’s reality for you is based on your interpretation of the event. Your reality can be shaped and impacted by learning about others’ perceptions of the same incident.

For example, checking your perception with others, and sharing yours with them, might change your opinion of the movie or increase your understanding of it. At work, the best managers are those who augment their own perspective with the views of others. Our perceptions can — and should — change based on new inputs.

It is important to be in touch with our perceptions — what they are and how they’re being formed. Equally important is being aware of the perceptions of others. Others’ behavior toward you is heavily influenced by their understanding of the situation, and your behavior toward others is equally dependent on your assumptions about them and the situation. It is crucial to understand and disclose your own perspective as well as to solicit information from others about their understanding of the same situation.

Our perceptions are influenced by many factors, such as our culture, environment, heredity, and the media, peers, past experiences, intelligence, needs, emotions, attitudes, and values.

Perception can be a result of multiple causality: many factors from a variety of sources may simultaneously impact individual perception. This makes it even more important to be fully aware of the factors that influence our perception. This way we can check ourselves to ensure our own experience and perspective are not distorting our perceptions of reality.

As human beings, we tend to form perceptions based on our biases. If we are not aware of our biases and don’t check our understanding with others, we may miss out on important information and situations by relying on distorted perceptions. Some of the more common filters that influence our perceptions are stereotyping, selective perception, projection, expectations, and interest.

Social information processing theory

The social information processing theory asserts that individual needs and task perceptions result from socially constructed realities

Selective perception

Selective perception is the tendency to single out for attention those aspects of a situation or person that reinforce or emerge and are consistent with existing beliefs, values, and needs

360-degree evaluation

360-degree evaluation is a comprehensive approach that uses self-ratings, customer ratings, and ratings by others outside the work unit

360-degree feedback

360-degree feedback provides performance feedback from peers, co-workers, and direct reports as well as the supervisor

Measurement Errors in Performance Appraisal

To be meaningful, an appraisal system must be both reliable — provide consistent results each time it is used — and valid — actually measure people on relevant job content. A number of measurement errors can threaten the reliability or validity of performance appraisals. Note the strong tie between these errors and 5, covering perception and attribution.

Stereotyping: making assumptions about an individual or a group based on generalized judgments rather than on facts, or a means to make assumptions when there is little or no information.

Many who stereotype others do so on the basis of observable demographic characteristics, such as race or ethnicity, gender, age, disability, religion, and sexual orientation. For example, some companies are reluctant to hire older workers for certain job roles for fear that they lack the energy and stamina to perform at a desired level.

Stereotyping is a convenient but faulty way to make assumptions about a person’s behavior and abilities. Rather than relying on a stereotype that is probably largely false, it is best to check your own perceptions and come to an event or meet a new person with an open mind. This will allow you to form your own perspective rather than rely on biases that have been shaped by judging and attributing certain behaviors to all members of a group.

Selective Perception: interpreting information for meaning and accuracy, and discarding information that is threatening or not relevant. We are constantly bombarded with stimuli. This has always been true but even more so today thanks to the availability of the Internet, downloadable newspapers, 24-hour news channels, cell phones, e-mail, and fax machines.

In an effort to reduce the breadth and impact of continuous stimuli, our brains attend to information according to our own experiences, interests, attitudes, and background. This means we are constantly “filtering” — absorbing and processing only those inputs we think we can handle, or want to handle, at any given time. For example, people tend to dislike thinking about their own mortality so they avoid the subject of wills and funeral planning. A college student whose main concern is graduating is probably not likely to be thinking of retirement plans. A manager with a project deadline is probably not going to read information for a meeting that’s scheduled for next month.

Selective perception provides a useful purpose, but it hinders communication with others. Rather than automatically “tuning out” information with which you disagree, it is best to keep an open mind, being open to all new views about a situation before prematurely developing your own perception.

Projection: the attribution of one’s own attitudes, characteristics, or shortcomings to others. For example, someone who cheats and lies might make the assumption that everyone cheats and lies. This validates our own perceptions of the way things are, or at least the way we think things should be. However, projecting our beliefs onto others denies them the opportunity to provide us with a unique and fresh perspective. Rather than transferring your own experience and feelings to another, it is best to consider each new situation and person in your life as unique, paying attention to their features and characteristics rather than yours.

Expectations: forming an opinion about how we would like an event to unfold, a situation to develop, or a person to act, think, or feel. We tend to perceive, select, and interpret information according to how we expect it to appear.

For example, when proofreading a paper you have written, you may pass over mistakes because you know what you intended to say, so you perceive it to be correct. Actually, the best way to proofread your own copy is to read it backwards! That way you’re not preconditioned to see a word as you perceive or expect it; you see a word as it really is (try it!).

By understanding what our expectations are and viewing a situation with a clear slate minus preconceived notions about what to expect — we are better able to approach situations and people and form our own opinions based on actual experience rather than on assumptions.

Interest: basing our activities and inputs on things that are likeable or appealing to us. We tend to focus our time and attention — consciously or subconsciously — on those things that are enjoyable and meaningful to us. For example, if we are in the market to buy a new home we will notice “for sale” signs in front of houses that previously would have gone unnoticed. If you have an interest in people, you might focus on a career in teaching or counseling, while ignoring other subjects such as computer science.

The tendency to be drawn to things that interest us can be positive, in that it helps conserve our energy for the things that matter to us. However, as you increase your own selfunderstanding, it is important to reach out to things that go beyond what interests you at the time. By doing this we can broaden ourselves and our understanding of the things that are important and meaningful to others.

By understanding ourselves, we can begin to change our perceptions that are often affected by the biases described above. It is imperative for us to understand and confront our biases. By doing so, we will increase our level of self-understanding and will be more understanding of others and their perspectives.

The workplace is increasingly global and diverse. Companies are now involved in developing new business models. We will be better able to compete in this world and better equipped to formulate and embrace these new models — by expanding our self- and other-awareness. This will help us to be better managers and, just as important, better people.

Others’ Perceptions

Another means for gaining self-awareness is through understanding how others view us, and also understanding how we are shaped by others’ opinions of us. Stephen Covey refers to this concept as the “social mirror.” 18 Covey explains that we gain perceptions of ourselves as a result of what other people say about us or how they react to us.

We adopt a view of ourselves based on other people’s views. How do others view us? How do we change our actions as a result of what we think others are thinking about us? These are the questions to ask to get a handle on how we are shaped by others’ perceptions. By seeing ourselves through others’ eyes, we can learn about our strengths and also about areas in which we can improve.

Learning to read accurately how others see us enhances our “self-maps,” our images, and judgments of ourselves.

For example, you might say to yourself, I’m not a creative person or I’m an athletic person after hearing comments from others about our artistic or athletic ability. The social mirror is based on our memory of how others have reacted towards us or treated us. Through feedback from others, we can gain more insight or perspective into aspects of ourselves and our behaviors.19 However; our potential may not be based accurately on this information. The social mirror can be wrong or only partially correct.

For example, an overbearing parent might say something negative such as “You’ll never amount to anything.” In this case, be very careful to first assess the statement — is it true? If not, to what degree and what can be done to change? If the statement is not a reflection of reality, then work hard to dispel this image of you in your own mind, if not the person who said it to you. Negative self-statements can be very damaging to one’s esteem. The social mirror is designed to help you learn about yourself, but not everything that’s said to you by others should be accepted by you as reality.


Another means of gaining self-awareness is through self-disclosure — sharing your thoughts, feelings, and ideas with others. Talking with others allows us to share our feelings and responses. Self-disclosing is a key factor in improving our self-awareness; we must disclose information and interact with others to further clarify our perceptions. 20 Through verbalizing our perceptions, we verify our own beliefs, affirm our self-concept, and validate data received from an objective source.

For example, if you’ve received a low grade on an exam, it’s helpful to discuss this with someone else. They can listen to your concerns and give you feedback. They might empathize with the fact you’ve received a low grade, then offer to problem-solve, for instance, identify a future test taking strategy you can use. They might also remind you that in general you do well in school. This helps you to maintain perspective even while going through a hard time about the exam.

Diverse Experience

Another way of increasing self-awareness is through acquiring multiple experiences in diverse situations and with diverse others. For example, living or studying in a country other than your home country, learning a new language, traveling, reading books on new subjects, and acquiring broad work experience are ways to broaden our experience base. Even negative situations such as having to face a life-threatening illness, going through your own or your parents’ divorce, and overcoming a personal problem such as dyslexia can provide enormous learning and enhance your experience base.

As we encounter new situations, we use skills and acquire new ones, meet people and develop friendships, see new places, and learn first-hand about things we might have only read about. Being open to new experiences broadens our horizons. It helps us to see ourselves in a new light while giving us new information about ourselves and our ability to interact with the world.

This boosts our confidence level and encourages us to reach out to further our experiences even more. It makes us more open to new ideas and diverse people with varying ways of living, working, and thinking. Expanding our experience base puts us into situations that test our abilities, values, and goals. This greatly aids in increasing our level of self-awareness.

Emotional Intelligence

Many of the elements of self-awareness are embodied in a new concept known as emotional intelligence or EQ. EQ is “a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” 21 As the ancient philosopher Aristotle said, “Anyone can become angry — that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way — this is not easy.”

Aristotle was a wise man. He recognized that as human beings we are able to experience a full range of feelings. Learning when, how, where, why, and with whom to share them is more complex than we might think at first glance. Emotional intelligence enables us to do this.

Emotional intelligence is a concept used to describe the levels we possess of key emotional responses. These include self-control, zeal and persistence, and the ability to motivate oneself to use our emotions, feelings, and moods and those of others to adapt and navigate in society. A guiding principle of emotional intelligence is that having and expressing emotions is a good thing. But expressing emotions, especially in the business world, requires an innate sense of what’s appropriate to say, when, where, and with whom. EQ is developing an awareness of your feelings and emotions and using them in appropriate ways. Your level of emotional intelligence — the degree to which you are savvy about the use of emotions when communicating with others — is a huge factor in one’s ability to be successful.

EQ is considered to be just as important or even more important than IQ, one’s “intelligence quotient.” IQ and EQ involve different parts of the brain. IQ affects our ability to reason, to process information, to think analytically. EQ affects our ability to use emotions in relating to others at work and in our personal lives. Important criteria for professional success in any field are the “people” skills that are derived from understanding our emotions and responses to working with others. This type of self-knowledge is critical to our ability to relate to others and make decisions about our lives and work. The good news is that unlike one’s IQ, which is determined primarily at birth, EQ is a quality we can actually learn about and improve.

There are six fundamentals for achieving emotional competency — a learned capability based on our EQ: 22

Self Awareness-emotional awareness, accurate self-assessment, self-confidence, ability to recognize emotions and their effects on you and others. Self-regulation-self-control, trustworthiness, conscientiousness, adaptability, innovation, ability to manage disruptive emotions and impulses. Motivation-zeal, achievement drive, commitment, initiative, optimism, and the ability to remain persistent in the face of adversity.

Empathy-understanding others, service orientation, developing others, leveraging diversity, political awareness, the ability to read and respond to others’ feelings.

Social Skills-interacting smoothly, managing interpersonal relationships, handling emotional responses to others, influence, communication, the ability to build bonds with others.

Group Work Skills-collaboration and cooperation, team capabilities, conflict management, the willingness to work towards shared goals. Understanding our levels of emotional intelligence is essential for our self-awareness. By knowing how we presently function when dealing with our emotions in situations with others, we can develop new goals, behaviors, and attitudes toward can develop new goals, behaviors, and attitudes toward ourselves as well as others. The best managers have discovered it is essential for them to work on and demonstrate top-quality people skills.23 Working to increase your emotional intelligence can help you do this. In the process, you can become a better manager as well as a better person.


Self-awareness is an essential skill for developing personally and professionally. If you have a high degree of self-awareness, you’ll be able to capitalize on your strengths and develop plans for improving or compensating for your limitations. Part of being self-aware is being able to monitor and change our behavior. By concentrating on self-improvement, we demonstrate to others our willingness to learn and grow, increasing the likelihood of being able to develop close relationships and success in a profession.

Questions to be considered individually and discussed in small groups

  • Why do we interpret the same scenario differently from others?
  • What impact does this have on developing relationships?
  • What if in scenario one the person you “met” was a woman?
  • How would your interpretation of the situation change?
  • What if in scenario two, the person with the daughter was her mother instead of her father?
  • Or perhaps the discussion was between a father and his son?
  • How would your interpretation of these situations change?
  • Why is it important to know what our biases are?
  • Let’s say it’s three years in the future. You’ve been working for a Fortune 500 firm as a member of a product development team. The meeting is about to start when a man matching the description in scenario one walks in. What’s your judgment? Why?
  • As the meeting proceeds, he’s about to open his mouth. Before he speaks, do you assume that he is credible or not credible until proven otherwise? How do our biases help/hinder us in the workplace?


1. Daniel Goleman, “What Makes a Leader?” Harvard Business Review, Nov.–Dec. 1998, p. 93.

2. Robert Cooper, Executive EQ: Emotional Intelligence in Leadership and Organizations (New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1998).

3. Peter F. Drucker, “Managing Oneself,” Harvard Business Review, March/April 1999, pp. 65–74.

4. Patricia A. Hoffman and Gene Powell, “The Aura of a Winner: A Guide to Behavioral Hiring,” Journal of Property Management 61, no. 5 (September–October 1996), pp. 16–20.

5. This definition is adapted from S. F. Maddi, Personality Theories: A Comparative Analysis (Homewood: Ill.: Richard D. Irwin, 1980), p. 10.

6. A. H. Buss, “Personality As Traits,” American Psychologist, November 1989, pp. 1378–88.

7. Barry M. Staw, Nancy E. Bell, and James A. Clausen, “The Dispositional Approach to Job Attitudes: A Lifetime Longitudinal Test,” Administrative Science Quarterly 31, pp. 56–77.

8. Murray Barrick and Michael Mount, “The Big Five Personality Dimensions and Job Performance: A Meta-analysis,” Personnel Psychology, Spring 1991, p. 11.

9. M. Snyder, Public Appearances/Private Realities: The Psychology of Self-Monitoring (New York: Freeman, 1987).

10. Barrick et al., 1991.

11. Charles A. O’Reilly III, Jennifer Chatman, and David F. Caldwell, “People and Organizational Culture: A Profile Comparison Approach to Assess Person Organization Fit,” Academy of Management Journal 34, pp. 487–516.

12. M. Fishbein and I. Ajzen, Belief, Attitude, Intention and Behavior: An Introduction to Theory and Research (Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1975), p. 6.

13. Barry G. Smale, “The Power of Positive Attitude,” Fund Raising Management 25, no. 8 (Oct. 1994), p. 24.

14. Gregory R. Maio, David W. Bell, and Victoria M. Esses, “Examining Conflict between Components of Attitudes: Ambivalence and Inconsistency Are Distinct Constructs,” Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science 32 (April 2000), pp. 71–83.

15. Andrew E. Schwart, “How to Handle Conflict,” The CPA Journal 67, no. 4 (April 1997), p. 72.

16. Adrian Furnham, “Managing Demotivated People Is a Tough Task,” Business Day, August 22, 2000, p. 19.

17. David W. Johnson, Reaching out: Interpersonal Effectiveness and Self-actualization (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1997), p. 4.

18. Stephen R. Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989).

19. Don L. Bohl, “360-Degree Appraisals Yield Superior Results,” American Management Association Compensation and Benefits Review 26, no. 5 (Sept. 1996), pp. 16–19.

20. S. Harris, Know Yourself? It’s a Paradox, Associated Press, 1981.

21. Peter Salovey and David J. Sluyter, eds., Emotional Development and Emotional Intelligence: Educational Implications (New York: Basic Books, 1997).

22. Daniel Goleman, “Emotional Competence,” Executive Excellence, April 1, 1999,

23. Goleman, 1998.

Interpersonal Skills in Organizations, ISBN: 0072441224 Author: Suzanne C. De Janasz, Karen O. Dowd, Beth Z. Schneider Copyright © 2002 The McGraw−Hill Companies

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.