Emotional Intelligence in Professional Nursing

By Val Gokenbach on Wed, Jan 01, 2014

professional nursingWhether in the professional nursing environment or in our personal lives, success depends on our behaviors. It’s especially true for those that affect the feelings of other people. Unfortunately, many people cannot see or refuse to admit that their behavior contributes to relationship problems that they have.

I am sure that you have worked with individuals like this. What they lack is the competency known as emotional intelligence. Conversely, those individuals that have healthy relationships have a high degree of emotional intelligence. How emotionally competent are you?

Studies on emotional intelligence

There is scientific proof that supports the concept of emotional intelligence. It begins with the study of the anatomy of the human brain.

Daniel Goleman, in his book “Primal Leadership,” describes the root of all behaviors as physiologic responses to human emotions evoked through interactions with others.  The limbic system in the brain is an open loop system, which receives transmissions secondary to personal interaction or thought processes. It can alter hormone levels, affect cardiovascular functions, disrupt sleep rhythms, and reduce the response of the immune system.

In other words, human emotions are the most powerful motivator of our behavior, personal feelings, and bodily functions.

Remember a time when you were angry or humiliated or frightened? How did that make you feel? The effects of your behaviors on the emotions of others are just as powerful as the effects of others on your emotions. Those individuals who evoke positive emotions in others are emotionally intelligent.

Goleman also describes two important components of the emotionally intelligent individual. The first is that of self-awareness. It is translated as the ability to read your own emotions, know your strengths and opportunities, having the right amount of self-confidence, and having a positive self-image.

After the understanding of self, the second component is that of effective self-management. This includes social awareness of behaviors and the ability to positively manage relationships. The reality is that all of us are going to find ourselves in uncomfortable situations throughout our lives. It is how we understand our own personal behaviors and how we relate to others that will make management of difficult situations effective.

So what do emotionally intelligent people do?

In every situation there are three sides to every story: your side, the other person’s side, and what really happened. We all see things the way we want to see them and everyone’s personal perception in their own mind is correct. The emotionally intelligent person realizes that they are looking through their own set of lenses and that they may have something to do with the situation.

Hence, emotionally intelligent people practice the following behaviors:

  1. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

    Once you understand the concept of three sides to each story, it is important to give others the benefit of the doubt. Even in the same situation, all of us will react differently based on our value systems, experiences and personal emotions.

  2. Do not make assumptions for what was done or why people behaved the way they did.

    We are all different. As such, we cannot project our own personal feelings or logic on the behaviors of others.

  3. Think before speaking.

    The cartoon character Thumper, in the movie “Bambi,” said that “if you don’t have nothing nice to say, don’t say nothing at all.” Oftentimes, if we do not think before we speak, things that are said can be damaging and hurtful to others. The emotionally intelligent person will not hurt others and will manage their words well.

  4. Respect others at all times.

    Respect in the professional nursing workplace can mean many things such as the support of co-workers, being part of the team, and refraining from gossip, especially damaging ones. Those individuals that start or spread destructive gossip lack personal integrity. They are generally not respected by others. Perhaps they gossip because information is power and gossip makes them feel important. If people are gossiping, simply walk away. You cannot help but wonder what is being said about you by the person who enjoys gossiping.

  5. Do not take anything personally.

    What people think about you is their own reality and not a reflection of you. Although it is hard at times, stay firm in your self-confidence. Do the best you can to ignore the reality of others.

  6. Find good in all people.

    Whenever you have to deal with difficult people, it helps to try to find something good in them. Think about whether it is the fact that they are a good parent, student, competent nurse or philanthropist. Stay away from negative perceptions and focus on the positive.

  7. Be an optimist.

    Lastly, stay optimistic and attempt to look at the bright side. Coming from a positive state of mind begins to channel a positive outcome.

The first step to becoming emotionally intelligent is to understand the concepts behind it. Then we should make a conscious decision to begin the process to improve this competency. After all, life is all about growth and self-exploration.  It is painful at times, but it is the part of the road to improving ourselves and becoming good people both in our personal lives or our professional nursing careers.



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