Emotional Intelligence in Veterinary Medicine, Part 2: Self-Management

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is all about how our awareness of our thoughts and feelings affects our behavior. When we are on the journey toward improving our self-awareness, it’s always best to start with ourselves. To quote Michael Jackson: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change!”  Whether you’re a manager or you work for someone else, it’s always easiest to ask others to do the hard work instead of doing it yourself. For a refresher on part one of this series, please click here.

News flash: Growth is hard and uncomfortable, but it has to start with you!

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“Becky” is a lead tech at a veterinary hospital that is constantly understaffed. When her co-workers describe her, they say: “When she is stressed, everyone is stressed,” and “We know she cares, but she can be difficult to talk to because she gets defensive easily.”

You might guess that Becky’s self-management score is low. In fact, it’s about 70%. Does this surprise you? Given it’s a “passing” grade, it may seem she’s doing pretty well, but she’s actually seen as unapproachable and is causing stress among her team.

Perhaps this sounds like someone you know. Maybe you’ve been given this feedback yourself—I know I have. Everyone has room to make improvements in these areas, and these areas have a great financial impact as well. It has been shown that for every point of EQ gained, the greater job satisfaction you have, the better your work-life balance is, and the more money you make. Money and happiness? Count me in!

Self-management is challenging, but awareness is the first step. To assess how self-aware you currently are, reflect on the following:

  • Do I push uncomfortable or unwanted thoughts and feelings aside?
  • Do I sometimes act in a way that is not true to who I am?
  • Do I get defensive?
  • Do I sometimes take out my feelings on others?

It’s great to reflect on past events, but the real question is why do we react this way? To answer that question, we must be able to identify our emotions when they happen. If you don’t like the subject of emotions, you probably need this the most, and I did warn you that it will be uncomfortable.

Sometimes it feels as if emotions hijack our lives, and our mismanagement of them can manifest in a variety of ways. When I don’t manage my emotions, they always spew out in a stream of word vomit at the worst possible moment.

The good news? There are many ways to help you manage your emotions, including:

Get to know yourself

Reflect on your strengths, weaknesses, and triggers. Where do you manage your emotions well? Where do you have difficulty managing your emotions? What are the triggers you encounter that cause you to “lose your cool”? If you know you are going into a situation that may trigger you, go in with a plan. Write down facts from the issue at hand that you can refer to in your conversation. If you get emotional, ask for time to think on it and follow up later.

Ask for feedback

Everyone has blind spots—things you don’t know are there until someone points them out. The best way to learn about your blind spots is to ask others. Blind spots change as we go through life. Growth is continuous, you will change, and you will have to get to know yourself over and over through life, so never stop asking for feedback.

 

Keep a mood journal and challenge your negative thoughts

Our thoughts determine how we feel. And, although changing your thoughts is difficult, it is a powerful way to manage your emotions. Throughout the day, jot down your mood in a small notebook. Take time to reflect at the end of the day. Identify your thoughts and how strongly you believe them. Identify any skewed thinking you may have and why it’s inaccurate (click here for a list of thinking errors). Then, rewrite how you feel about the situation and how strongly you feel about it now.

At first, managing your emotions will be challenging. It will feel unnatural. But, with practice, it will become second-nature. The results often include higher satisfaction with relationships, increased optimism, and resiliency. So, take some advice from antibiotic-resistant bacteria and never say die! Click here for Part 3 in our series!

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Kristina is an Account Manager with VSS, a leadership coach, and a Certified Veterinary Technician. She and her goofy giraffe/dog named Wesson love to take long bike rides together. Kristina also enjoys drawing veterinary cartoons, photography, yoga, and traveling the world. Professionally, Kristina is passionate about the subject of leadership and well-being.