Learn how emotional intelligence can help you boost your remote team’s motivation levels.
Imagine you had a terrible night of sleep after weeks of feeling stressed out because of your high workload. You wake up depleted, your hair looking like a rock-star Mick Jagger style and you are about to have your daily Microsoft Teams meeting with your manager and colleagues. You can’t be bothered to dress up, fake your your facial expression and act like you are alert, present, and focused. So you decide to leave the camera off.
Your manager recently announced a new rule for all remote and virtual meetings. CAMERA ON! No exception unless communicated at least 48hrs in advance with a viable argument.
Your manager, Linda, seems like the classic control freak to you. In reality, Linda has high levels of interpersonal relations based on her emotional intelligence survey. She values people and believes that to create trusted relationships and foster teamwork remotely, people need to see each other’s faces. That’s the only way to read facial cues and make sure we don’t react based on misassumptions and miscommunications. At least, in her map of the world.
You see messages in your chat box popping up, which you ignore. Not on purpose, but your reflexes are kind of slow this morning. You hardly slept and you have been putting in many, many hours. You need a break!
Linda on the other hand is not a mind reader and thus seems to be annoyed with you without mentioning anything during the meeting. Instead, she calls you several times on WhatsApp after the team gathering is finished. You missed her calls so she assumes that you are showing disrespect and not taking her seriously. While in reality, you are taking a cold shower and drinking lots of caffeine to ensure some level of brain productivity and focus levels.
Linda is furious when you call her back, and you don’t understand why. You both argue and blame each other for being disrespectful and micromanaging adult people.
What’s happening here?
This is a classic example of how our brain is a master in deception and creating stories so we can feel comfortable. Before looking at the situation above through a renewed emotional intelligence lens, let’s first distill the FOUR EQ myths which can keep remote teams below their potential.
Our mood and emotions are the same things
Our brain is wired as a body budget regulator. It is always predicting and guessing our response options in anticipation to our environment, to minimize the risk for energy deficit and keep on surviving in life. When we feel hungry, for example, we are experiencing an energy deficit. The meaning the brain gives to this feeling is called AFFECT, a scientific word for MOOD.
The reason your brain is constantly in simulation and prediction mode – guessing how you should respond and behave is to ensure your energy levels in your body remain balanced. We draw energy from our body so our brain can function correctly. Energy in forms of food, nutrients, exercise, social connections, people we like, anything or anyone that boost our energy levels.
What often happens that instead of checking in with ourselves if we need to eat, sleep, have caffeine, or what energy input when we experience an energy deficit in our body, we stick with our perceptions of how we feel. We know we feel off, unpleasant, tired, sleepy, moody etc., but we attribute these feelings to something or someone external to us. Our mood influences the way we see the world. Don’t take my word for it, watch this brilliant TedTalk by Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD, who is among the top 1% most cited scientists in the world for her revolutionary research in psychology and neuroscience.
We don’t control our emotions
Myth number one is the universal understanding that emotions happen to us and reside in specific brain circuits has been proven inaccurate.
“A large body of anthropological and psychological research on emotions has yielded significant evidence that emotional experience is culturally constructed: people more commonly experience those emotions that help them to be a good and typical person in their culture”.
Emotions are constructed based on the meaning you give in any given context so your brain can come up with the most accurate response option. Imagine that every one of us is walking around with our model of the world. A model filled with experiences from the past, stories we have been told since childhood, and stereotypes beliefs also referred to as bias, both conscious and unconscious.
Every thought you are thinking, your brain constructs emotions to respond to your immediate environment. What you feel is what you believe, and what you believe is what what you will act upon. There is some nuance and generalisation to this, but from a scientific perspective this has far reaching implications in the way we relate to ourselves, to others and to the world. Especially in the period we are currently living in where remote working teams are here to stay.
There is a universal set of bodily expressions of our emotions
If we believe that we can recognize when someone is sad or angry based on their facial expression and bodily response, we are in for a surprise.
Even one person can demonstrate one emotion with different bodily expressions based on the context. Think of a time where you felt outraged, but you started laughing. A binary explanation for why you are displaying a “what is perceived as a happy emotion” during what is experienced as a “frustrating situation” is not helpful in this case.
Even though if there remains a longstanding scientific debate on whether facial expressions of emotions are universal, there is enough evidence to cast reasonable doubt.
Which brings us to the fourth myth of another long held universal belief that women are more emotional than men.
Women are more emotional than men
This myth is based on decades, if not generational, long-held beliefs about men and women. Even though science has shown us that emotional intelligence is not gender-specific, how we judge women and men when it comes to emotional intelligence is different.
Look at picture below, and pay attention to what’s your first impression. No judgement, no overthinking, but what is your first impression? Most likely when we compare these impressions we will notice that there is a difference between how we judge women and men when it comes to facial expressions and emotions.
“Both men and women are held to norms of appropriate emotional expression in the workplace, but emotional expressions by women tend to come under greater scrutiny than those by men,” write the authors of “Constrained by Emotion: Women, Leadership, and Expressing Emotion in the Workplace,” a chapter in the 2016 “Handbook on Well-Being of Working Women.” Constrained by Emotion: Women, Leadership, and Expressing Emotion in the Workplace.
It is an organisational responsibility to dispel this myth and ensure both genders are aware of how emotional intelligence influences their behaviours, response options, decision-making and interpersonal relations. That is if organisations want to thrive, stand out and actually recover from low levels of engagement and motivation.
How do you move forward?
By addressing the root cause and helping people first understand this process at three levels. The way our brain perceives and predicts our behavior is based on:
- What we experience and feel in our body. Are we helping our body balance out its energy deficit with food and nutrients instead of projecting our AFFECT on our external environment?
- Our environment influences our subconscious mind, which drives 95% of our behaviors, habits and the way we think. Are we taking care of our space, moving things around, and making sure we feel comfortable, so our brain does not signal to our body that there is an energy deficit?
- Are we regularly taking stock of our internal model of the world, our deep-held beliefs, and bias? Unlearning ways of thinking and re-learning new ways takes effort and time, and if done under stress, it will yield little sustainable results.
Let’s look at the example from the beginning through these three points.
- When you feel tired because you lack sleep, make sure you give your body what it needs to choose a different response option. If you can’t get out of the meeting or don’t want to put on your camera, communicate this with empathy. Give your manager a heads up instead of letting their brain “guess” what is going on.
- If you struggle with sleeping at night in general, start making small changes step by step. No phone in the bedroom; get a traditional alarm clock. One hour before you go to bed, disconnect with technology and LED led so your conscious mind can transition to your subconscious mind and prepare your body for sleep. It needs rest to be a high performer in the body-budget regulator. E.g., keep your energy levels in balance for you to survive life. What you want is not to survive, but to thrive. This takes a bit of effort, patience, and practicing new habits.
- When your mind tells you that OBVIOUSLY, Linda is a Micro-Manager or an emotional mess, take a step back and question. You’re OBVIOUSLY right about your knowledge that she is a Micro-Manager is what your mind is guessing. Instead, acknowledge your AFFECT (Mood) and change perspective which is called LEARNING in scientific terms. It takes effort to adjust error prediction in the brain to a more accurate representation of what is happening.
If this article resonated with you, I have some exciting news! For this community alone, I am hosting a FREE one-hour workshop on how to practice emotional disassociation techniques so you can increase your energy and experience better teamwork and relations, remotely or in person. You will receive a personal invitation in the course of next week, so keep an eye out in your mailbox!
If you are not member our EQ community, you can still sign up this week to ensure you won’t miss our invitation.