COMMCON: Emotional Intelligence – A primer and further reading


This has been a hard two years. For many people and that includes Communicators and Public Relations pros. Many have been working incredibly long hours trying to help confused parties understand COVID, vaccine mandates or layoffs.  Others have suffered a huge dip in earnings, layoffs and long-term unemployment. Racial equity and social justice movements have/are making great strides but the process isn’t easy. Children at home are a joy…and a stress.

What can be done to manage your own stress levels, develop resilience and be more in tune with the world around you? One approach is to strengthen your own Emotional Intelligence.

I first started thinking about emotional intelligence many years ago, before I even had terminology for it. It was early in my career, and I was working at a biotech company. I had followed up, repeatedly, on a particular press release that needed approval before an earnings announcement. Having gotten nowhere with the emails I barged into a colleague’s office – let’s call her Sally. I ignored everything else going on and, essentially, demanded her attention. Later I learned Sally had been on the phone with an ill family member. The approval of my press release is so small compared to that. That’s the day I learned it wasn’t all about me. And the rest of the world didn’t work on my timelines. That is step one in building emotional intelligence.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

The phrase “emotional intelligence” first appeared in 1964, but it became well-known in 1995 thanks to  science journalist Daniel Goleman’s best-selling book Emotional Intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence has four main components – let’s see where they fall in my lesson learned:

  • Self-awareness – understand how you feel, and how your emotions and actions can affect (and effect) the people around you.
    • I knew what I felt and needed but was completely indifferent to the fact that my urgency and actions might have a negative effect on my colleague. In that moment I was only thinking about the pressure I was feeling from the fear of being late on a deliverable because this person wasn’t approving it.
  • Self-regulation – Staying in control and being committed to personal accountability.
    • Sadly, I was not in control and had confused overall needs with personal accountability.  I didn’t feel I could share the lack of approval with my boss, I didn’t try any other forms of communication other than emailing and putting it on the Sally’s desk.
  • Social awareness – The ability to understand others point of view, their emotions, concerns, and needs, and show empathy.
    • I ignored a shut door. Ignored Sally’s emotions thinking her unhappy face was a reflection on the press release that was the center of my world at that moment. It wasn’t even a blip in her world. And that’s ok.
  • Relationship management – The ability of using the social awareness to build and maintain good relationships, to communicate clearly, inspire and influence others,  and manage conflict effectively.
    • In my haste to complete one task I damaged my relationship with Sally. It was never the same. She was nice enough to share the issue with me and explain the ways I could have been more effective. If there is a firm “need by date” it’s in my subject line now.

How can emotional intelligence help you thrive amidst the chaos?

Learn more at noon on Nov. 5, in a virtual session with Diana Steeble, a Managing Principal at PRR, and me.  

Additional resources:

About the Author
About the Author

Jennifer Hawton, APR is a strategic communications leader, adjunct professor and general word nerd. She delights in helping organizations tell complex stories to internal and external audiences. Jennifer spent much of her career at Boeing and Publicis. Throughout her career, Jennifer has earned more than a dozen local, national and international awards for her effective work. Jennifer also served in various roles on the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Puget Sound board.

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