Emotional Intelligence in EMS: Self awareness

This is part 1 of a five-part series exploring the components of Emotional Intelligence as they relate to EMS professionals

EMS professionals experience a roller coaster of emotions every day. EMS leaders also run the range of emotions, but they have found ways to control their emotions and deliver the highest quality of patient care possible.

When asked to define the top traits of a leader, you often hear words like charisma, integrity and good communication skills. The best leaders have a single quality in common, and that’s their understanding of Emotional Intelligence (EI).

Emotional Intelligence in a nutshell

Emotional Intelligence is defined by the ability to understand and manage not only our own emotions, but also the emotions of those around us. There are five components of EI:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

Over the next few months we will examine each component. In this article we will take a look at self-awareness. Without a true understanding of this component, we cannot begin to understand the full impact of our EI.

Self-awareness defined

Self-awareness is having a clear understanding of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. Self-awareness allows you to understand other people as well, such as how they perceive you, and your attitude and responses to them in the moment.

As leaders, we are often so busy with the daily grind that we hardly ever take the time to reflect on how we respond to situations, and whether we are coming across negatively or unprofessionally. Self-awareness also includes recognizing how folks are responding to you. Let’s take a look at the steps to develop our self-awareness.

1. Seek feedback

When developing self-awareness it is vital we gain insight into how we are perceived. One of the best ways to do this is to have colleagues, employees, peers and supervisors provide feedback. Ask about your strengths, challenges and areas for improvement. Ask direct questions, listen attentively, and don't try to justify or defend your actions. This creates an overall sense of accountability in the organization and encourages a practice of honest communication.

2. Take a personality test

Leaders can learn about assessing their strengths and weaknesses through tools such as the Myers-Briggs or the Big Five personality tests. These tests will not provide an in-depth analysis of your personality, but they can help you understand how you react to others, what motivates your decisions, and how you approach problems.

3. Keep a journal

It is essential to keep track of key decisions, how those decisions were made, and what motivated those decisions. Keep a journal and every so often reexamine those decisions and determine whether your assumptions were correct. This process will ensure all decisions are made in the same manner and will help the whole organization hone decision-making skills. You can also document how situations or individuals made you feel. There is always that one person who can really grind your gears, and developing an understanding of why negative feelings occur can eventually help you cope.

4. Admit mistakes

Yes, leaders make mistakes too. When this happens, it is essential to admit it. Failure to admit your mistakes may damage your credibility, cause someone else to take the blame, and affect your ability to lead in the future. Admitting the error of your ways is a sign of strength, and taking responsibility for your actions demonstrates the value you place on openness and accountability.

5. Be aware of others

As a leader, you have a responsibility to assist in developing the folks that work with you. You need to understand the different personalities, attributes and motivations of your team to better manage and guide individuals. Every team is made up of different personalities and skill sets. Developing a diverse team with different personalities and complementary skills will encourage employees to better understand themselves and others. You can help create an organization that is flexible, open to change, innovative and self-aware.

As a leader, your self-awareness is a critical element of success. When you know your own values, personality, habits, needs, emotions, strengths and weaknesses, you will have the necessary information to start developing a personal or professional plan. A true sense of self-awareness will allow you to motivate yourself, manage your stress, make intuitive decisions, and lead and motivate others more effectively.

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