The Entrepreneurs’ Short Guide to Developing Emotional Skills

by | Entrepreneurship | 0 comments

Contrary to common perspective, being a great entrepreneur isn’t all about having the right strategy, opportunity, funding, or timing. It’s time to realize the missing element: emotional intelligence. Of all the entrepreneurial skills, emotional skills may prove the most important. 

Emotions in themselves are neither good nor bad. To the entrepreneur, emotions can be the most powerful of tools. Being in control of your own emotions can put you ahead. Being able to sense the emotional standing of others can improve your ability to develop relationships.

There is a time for strategic anger as there is for strategic calmness, optimism, thankfulness, disgust, and indifference. You may do well to avoid the assumption that positive thinking and positive emotions are the same. 

Wisdom leads to success. The wise man is in control of his emotions. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t let them all out to play. 

Consider the difference between children’s giggles and the seriousness that is signature to adults. Adults laugh too, but maturity grants them the ability to maintain their composure in comical situations that require a level head. 

It may be that the man or woman will laugh later about the experience when a more appropriate time presents itself – the same goes for anger or any other extreme emotion. 

Interpersonal relations is a talent that can prove critical to an entrepreneur’s success – talent can’t always be defined as a ‘special ability unachievable through practice’.  Rather, it is a skill that has been refined to the level of gracefulness. 

Being great at interpersonal relations is rooted in emotional skill. It can grant entrepreneurs the ability to work closely with all sorts of people, making it easier for the entrepreneur to achieve his or her own aims. 

Learn to Monitor Your Emotions 

If you are unaware of your emotions, how can you expect to command them? The first step to developing your emotional skills should therefore be becoming more familiar with your emotional self. 

Sure, your own gladness, sadness, or anger can be apparent to you when they present themselves boldly; people usually know when they are crying, smiling, or raging. People experience emotions all the time, even when how they are feeling isn’t apparent to themselves.

Getting in touch with yourself can be a lifelong process. Some people have gone to great lengths to get to know themselves, but even a little progress can be life changing. You don’t have to first become fully self-aware to benefit. As you progress, the rewards increase in strength and size. 

But where to start? The mere intention can get you far. Your desire to become more aware of even your less obvious emotions can cause you to stop and take stock of yourself more often. 

The habit develops. You begin to realize more and more. The things you learn about yourself helps to reveal even deeper thoughts and feelings that you didn’t know were there. 

A great way to get started is just by giving yourself reminders. Make it your main daily goal. Perhaps you may want to schedule an alarm to beep at certain times of the day, as that can help reestablish your focus if it wanders off. 

Emotions can happen at a moment’s whim, so your self-monitoring reflexes have to be just as fast. 

Redirect Your Anger, Stress, and Frustration 

Although it can take only a second for anger to present itself, it’s an emotion that can linger long after the incident that inspired it. 

To the entrepreneur, feelings of anger, stress, and frustration can be devastating when left unchecked. It can cause him or her to blow a deal, for example, or act in a way that undermines success. These emotions can also prove beneficial at times, so it’s important that the entrepreneur learns how to keep hold of the reins. 

Due to the subtlety of emotions, adhering to a consistent practice of release can be more powerful than using short-term coping skills. It’s like the difference between living a healthy lifestyle or just taking some drug whenever you feel ill; the first option can save you from a lot of discomfort, although an emergency kit is always good to have. 

What constitutes an effective method of emotional release can vary greatly from one person to the next. For you it may be spending time in nature, for example. For others, it could be getting into a boxing ring and going a few rounds. Whatever method you choose should leave you invigorated and refreshed, not more stressed out. 

For entrepreneurs, taking that needed break to focus on something other than business can be hard – especially if you have an A-type personality or are a perfectionist. And business might not seem to give you that so-needed time, but you are the leader. Investing time into developing a heightened control over your emotional self can pay lucrative dividends in all areas of your life. 

If you don’t know the activity that can help you find that release, then you may be in for a bit of adventure. Try different things and see how you feel after them. See if you’re less stressed and more focused afterwards.

Learn How to Listen

Being a great listener can at times require an impressive amount of emotional restraint. Though they may seem justified, emotions are often irrational. 

There are classes that teach people how to be a good listener. Enrolling in one may or may not be your best approach. But the real progress comes through practice. 

Listening to people of all sorts and opinions can be great exercise for your emotional constraint muscles. It can cause you to grow as a person overall. 

Learning how to listen to feedback can be especially challenging and beneficial for an entrepreneur. It might be difficult to hear a perspective of you that’s different from the one you hold of yourself, but if you listen all the way through and with an open mind, the insight you reap could prove invaluable. 

Keep in mind that being a great listener doesn’t require you to agree with what or who you’re listening to. The awesome revelation that could be your reward might not even come from the speaker but come as a result of the conversation.  

Of course there is a limit. Of course there are people who you’d do well not to listen to and times when it’s just not the best idea. Part of developing your emotional skills is learning when to listen, but that cannot always be gauged by the intent of the person speaking nor the content of what they’re saying. 

Cleanse Your Emotions through Meditation

Just as a muddy windshield can impede your ability to navigate the road safely, emotional cleansing can help you steer the sometimes bumpy, curvy pathway to long-term entrepreneurial success much easier. 

Emotions are notorious for clouding judgment. The entrepreneur must beware of becoming foggy-minded. Meditation can be a powerfully effective way to clear your head. 

It’s not hard, though it requires practice. Even a little bit can bring about noticeable positive results. The key isn’t to become the next ancient master in some mountain temple. No, the key is to keep trying, studying, and doing what you can. 

Your meditation practice can be complex or it can be simple. It’s up to you. Some find that going through lengthy rituals before and/or after meditation helps them to get “in the zone” while others would feel downright silly doing all of that. Meditation can be as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on one concept for a few minutes. The goal is to clear your mind. 

As an entrepreneur, you may want to get into the habit of meditating in the morning and in the evening. You may want to meditate right before a big meeting or presentation. The benefits are yours to claim and so you have every right to make meditation fit into your lifestyle in the way that suits you best. 

Become a Student of Human Emotion

An entrepreneur’s set of emotional skills should include not only a handle on his or her own emotions but an understanding of the emotions of others. 

Emotions can be highly irrational and temperaments vary. You may have to deal with people of an array of emotional states. 

The emotional being of a person makes up a significant part of his or her personality. Getting to the fundamentals of human emotion can make an entrepreneur better equipped to function in the business world as well as in life in general. 

Academia has transformed the knowledge of emotion into a science. Why not benefit from that? There is much to be gained by becoming a student of emotion and learning the various theories, definitions, and explanations. You may or may not agree with all that is taught, but this gain in knowledge can give you a powerful edge. 

If the scientific approach doesn’t suit you, then consider studying the greats, such as Aristotle, Plato, and Descartes. For a more modern experience, watch some of the many great TED talks on emotion, such as Daniel Goleman’s Why Aren’t We All Good Samaritans, or David Brooks’, The Social Animal. Daniel Goleman has also written a number of books about boosting emotional intelligence that make for a great read and even greater emotional education. 

Read the books, watch the videos, and then put your takeaways into practice. This kind of self-education can make a world of difference and push you forward to the achievement of your goals. 

Experiment with Yourself

Taking yourself too seriously can be a trap. It can cause you to see more at stake than what’s really there and block your ability to think and act strategically. 

To entrepreneurs, thinking and acting strategically can be a way of life. It can be difficult to refine your emotional skills when you seem ever caught up in an emotional situation that’s beyond your threshold. 

Your perspective can be one of the most powerful secret weapons you could ever wield. You can control it and, when you do, you may be able to take control of any situation that you find yourself in. You can develop your emotional skills even when you don’t seem to be granted the opportunity to do so. The secret is to play. 

Remove your emotional investment from a situation by approaching it with a mindset of experimentation. Go in with the sole purpose of developing your emotional skills. Actively choose situations in which you know you would normally be very emotionally charged then watch your internal and external reactions. 

Practice can help you control your emotions instead of them controlling you. You know it’s an exercise that you are willingly subjecting yourself to in order to get stronger. From this, you can gain the ability to use your emotions much as you would a poker hand, picking and choosing the right card to put out there. 

You may want to start trying this with situations where you aren’t so dependent on the outcome. As you advance, you can practice it in situations of increasing importance until you have mastered the skill and gained the measure of confidence that is a requirement of it. 

Keep an Emotions Journal 

Getting to know yourself is a journey for which there isn’t a map. What you have is a destination only and your work is to acquire and use the tools that can help keep you moving forward. A journal of your emotional development can be a powerful tool that shortens the distance you have to travel to achieve your aims. 

By keeping track of your progress, you get to see how you have grown as an emotional intellect. Like with most forms of data analysis a review of this record can help you to identify trends. 

The information you uncover may even help you to refine your strategy for skill development as you can quickly begin to see what works and what doesn’t without having to make an in-the-moment, short-sighted decision. 

There is an additional benefit. Your journal can serve as a safe place for you to vent your emotions. You may find writing in it comforting, enabling you to move forward with greater self-control. It can be an excellent place for you to work out complex matters to yourself. For this reason, you may find it best to make your entries at the end of each day. 

Many entrepreneurs are already in the habit of keeping a diary or journal. With this exercise, however, you want to have a journal that is dedicated to the one purpose of tracking your emotional self, even if you’re already one who writes daily. Focus on writing about your feelings. Don’t worry if you can’t name them all before you begin to write, as you may find that the day’s emotions start revealing themselves soon after you put your fingers to the keyboard, or pen to paper. 

Study with the Greats

Entrepreneurs are usually lovers of independence, but a lot of people learn better when they have a teacher. You may be a great self-educator when it comes to topics of science, mathematics, business law, and the like, but learning emotion is a different beast. Using the services of a coach might help you learn more and progress faster. 

You can find someone with whom you can meet perhaps once a week more or less and discuss your experiences. He or she may be able to teach you how to take control of your own emotions and how to recognize the true emotional state of others. The methods your coach uses are sure to lean more to real-world applications than book learning, leaving you with practical skill instead of just a bigger intellect. After all, applied learning is knowledge. 

In choosing a coach, you want someone who can display a great measure of empathy and emotional control. Talk to the person and resist the urge to judge by credentials, as they are not a better indicator of emotional intelligence than the person’s own temperament. You want someone with whom you can role play real-life situations if need be. You want someone who’s coaching style matches your learning style. 

Working directly with an expert to develop emotional skills can be a particularly great approach for an entrepreneur. It can help him or her to grow not only in the skill of focus but in interpersonal communications and relations overall. You may choose to learn in one-on-one sessions or a group setting as both offer a variety of benefits. 

Take a Holistic Approach

Crying is an expression of emotion. Babies cry. When a baby cries, that can be an indicator of any number of issues. The baby could be hungry, for example, or wet. Whatever the situation, what the infant put out there was an emotional display.  After a while, parents learn to interpret the meaning of their baby’s cries, but especially when the infant is newborn, covering all the bases to try and calm the child is the best that can be done. 

Likewise, the entrepreneur who wants to develop his or her emotional intelligence and measure of control would do well to take a holistic approach. If you are given to strong emotion, even if it presents itself as an utter lack of emotion and no single technique seems to help, you might want to start identifying other roots of the problem. 

In fact, there doesn’t have to be a problem for you to take a holistic approach to the acquisition of greater emotional skill. Taking great care of yourself is something that often pays out high rewards in the long-term. 

What is this holistic approach? It is extending care over every aspect of your life for the sake of the end goal of becoming more emotionally capable. It’s about seeing to your physical health in order to boost your emotional health. It’s spreading more love at home so that you can be a stronger leader in the office. 

Use Thought Cues

Emotion is energy. You can learn to redirect that energy using an array of tools and techniques. Those who are spiritual, for example, may recite their favorite scripture in trying times as a way to recapture control and move forward. 

You can use thought cues that break up unwanted emotional patterns and grant you the freedom to have the emotions that’s most productive for the time or situation. Thought cues can be a game-changing tool for any entrepreneur. 

You can use any words that inspire you to the optimal mood, whether they be quotes from some ancient or modern thought-leader, or the words of a family member or friend. Even sayings that you come up with on your own may serve you well. 

For this purpose, the words matter more than who said them, but if there is a person you look up to, their words may carry more meaning for you. The method works whether you’re working to control yourself or are dealing with the emotions of another, but you say them to yourself, not to the other person.

The strategy is to have those emotion-moving words available to you when and where you need them. And avoid assuming that “positive” emotions are the only ones you’ll want to be inspired to. You may at times need to get yourself worked up enough to take action. Place your focus on the control more than on the content.

If you can, commit the sayings to memory. Then the challenge will be calling them to mind when they’re needed. Otherwise you can have them written down and kept somewhere you can easily access anytime. 

You might, for example, keep card in your pocket, wallet, or purse. They could even be in an app on your phone. Then the challenge becomes remembering to pull them out and use them.

Settings Goals for the Development of Your Emotional Skills

Developing emotional skills is a process far different than that for other skills. It can be difficult to set a reasonable goal for something so very intangible. 

Most entrepreneurs, however, function mostly by setting and tackling goals. One way around this challenge is to focus on one particular situation or person you must face and keep your composure despite temptation. From there you take it event by event.

Besides cases where the lowest price gets the contract, business decisions are often based on the likeability of the people involved. That’s just one scenario in which being an emotionally skilled entrepreneur could benefit you. 

Though the business world is based in logic, its players are people and that means that emotion will always be a factor, whether it’s the occasional need to put on a strategic but sincere display of anger or exercise patience and an upbeat attitude when you have to work with a jerk.

You can move forward. It doesn’t matter what your emotional track record has been. You can learn to come off as nicer or tougher than your past self and give your reputation the makeover you think it needs. 

You can learn to be emotionally proactive instead of reactive and push the game more in your favor than ever before.

As an entrepreneur, there are numerous skills which could add to your success. Emotional skills are likely the greatest of them all because they enable you to work better with others and grant you a greater level of trust in yourself and your intuition.

More insights from Elisa’s desk:

What Can You Achieve in 30 Days?

Sometimes we get so bogged down in the details that we don’t see the opportunities. But all it takes is a little focus to get back on track. If you’ve tried other 30 day business challenges and weren’t able to make significant progress, you may find this very...

read more