Build your emotional intelligence to build resilience


Nadia Pasha had the technical experience to lead nurses at Duke Raleigh Hospital, but she wanted to increase her emotional intelligence to better serve her team.

“Leading such a large team is challenging,” said Pasha, who became associate medical director for hospital medicine last March. “I wanted to support and empathize with my team so they can do their best.”

Pasha enrolled in Duke Learning & Organization DevelopmentEmotional intelligence” course last September to develop their interpersonal relationships. The course will be offered again by L&OD in March and September.

Emotional intelligence, or emotional quotient “EQ,” is a set of emotional and social skills that help individuals make positive decisions about their behavior to improve productivity, better cope with challenges, and build relationships, according to Sanne Henninger, director of patient experience at Duke Private Diagnostic Clinic and a former psychotherapist.

“Emotional intelligence helps us to think rationally and to react in such a way that we won’t regret it later,” said Henninger. “It also teaches us to be aware of the emotions of others so we can best manage our communication. If we are not aware of ourselves, we cannot control our reactions.”

Start practicing these aspects of emotional intelligence.

Understand your emotions

Joy Birmingham, Associate Director of Duke’s Learning & Organization Development (L&OD), states that emotional intelligence begins with self-awareness, the ability to understand your emotions and how they affect those around you.

Develop your self-awareness by recognizing immediate feelings when situations arise and consciously choosing how to respond to them. Another strategy is to ask colleagues to help you better understand your strengths and areas for development. The more you know about yourself, the more targeted you can develop professionally.

“If you don’t develop your emotional intelligence, you’re unlikely to succeed in people affairs, no matter how tech-savvy you are at your job,” Birmingham said.

Chris Hendricks, Director of Outdoor Adventures with Recreation and Physical Education.  Photo courtesy of Chris Hendricks.Chris Hendricks, Director of Outdoor Adventures with Recreation & Physical Education, asked for feedback from his peers when he took the L&OD Emotional Intelligence course a few years ago. Hendricks learned that he wasn’t looking carefully enough at his own feelings.

He takes 10 minutes every morning to write his feelings in a journal and lists his achievements like the pride he felt after founding it Back up friendsa website for participants in the Duke Adaptive Climbing program to keep in touch during the pandemic.

“I can’t help you if I ignore my feelings,” Hendricks said. “If I put myself in a situation where I’m already feeling stressed, it will rub off on you. Journaling helps me process where my head and heart are and know if I have the bandwidth to take on more.”

express empathy

Laura Lane, Sector Director at the Career Management Center at Fuqua School of Business, meets with students looking for jobs in marketing, media, entertainment and sports.

Lane shares her interviewing and resume building expertise and acts as a virtual shoulder to lean on as students navigate the ups and downs of the job search.

“You need a dose of empathy,” she said.

Laura Lane, Sector Director at the Career Management Center at the Fuqua School of Business.  Photo courtesy of Laura Lane.Empathy is the ability to understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of others, which is important in building positive interpersonal relationships. Lane said practicing empathy means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and seeing their perspective.

During a meeting with a student who was discouraged after failing to get a job after several interviews, Lane noticed the student seemed upset and encouraged the student to take a few days off to step down, refresh and then resume the job search.

“Realizing that allowed me to focus more on his mental well-being in the meeting instead of discussing the progress of the interview,” she said. “He needed emotional support.”

Don’t let emotions overwhelm you

Sanne Henninger of Duke Private Diagnostic Clinic advises colleagues to take the time to address questions, concerns and other situations.

In charged situations, make a conscious decision to stop and take a moment practice mindfulness to let first feelings subside. Acknowledging your feelings allows you to consider how best to handle the situation rather than expressing your unfiltered emotions.

“Know that your immediate response will not be the best,” Henninger said. “You want to think with a clear mind.”

Amy Rudy, Nursing Superintendent of Duke Raleigh's Radiology Department.  Photo courtesy of Amy Rudy.Amy Rudy, Chief Nurse at Duke Raleigh’s Radiology Department, eliminates distractions and fully engages in conversations when meeting with colleagues in her office. When a colleague recently came up to Rudy to talk about a family member with cancer, she paused before replying.

“I have this instant emotional reaction that’s like, ‘How can I solve your problem?'” Rudy said. “Through some mindfulness, I realized that many people just want to be heard. Empathetic listening is more helpful than giving advice you’ve probably heard a hundred times.”

Watch: Daniel Goleman, author of the book Emotional Intelligence, discusses compassion in this TED Talk.

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