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The Case for D-EQ

COVID accelerated what was already happening – working remotely. One of the most significant changes and challenges? Zoom meetings. How do we express our emotions and read the emotions of others over zoom? How do video meetings impact our ability to communicate and connect with others?

A term popularized in the 1990s, Emotional Intelligence (EQ), is defined as our ability to discern, comprehend, and manage our own emotions and those of others.

Why is EQ & D-EQ important?

Research has shown that EQ is about twice as important as IQ when it comes to teamwork. A team with a leader with high EQ creates an environment in which information sharing, trust, healthy risk-taking, and learning flourish. Conversely, low levels of EQ create a toxic work environment rife with fear and anxiety, eroding psychological safety.

What does this look like in the digital landscape?

Digital Emotional Intelligence (D-EQ) is the ability to sense emotional responses—our own or other people’s—and use this affective information to guide thinking behavior and decision-making in the digital landscape.

What are some of the challenges to D-EQ?

Mirroring is powerful non-verbal communication essential for building trust and rapport with others. Unfortunately, our ability to mirror others in a video meeting is seriously hampered. It is difficult to pick up on emotional cues, making reading and connecting with others much harder. On top of that, distractions are numerous. You compete with email, Slack, text messages, social media, etc… With mirroring being hindered in the digital environment, we need to work harder to develop communication skills and emotional self-management.

How can we build D-EQ?

The good news is that D-EQ is a skill. D-EQ can take form in the development of both personal rituals and team rituals. Rituals such as communication tools, practicing mindfulness, and adhering to video meeting ground rules are vital in the digital landscape, but what do they look like?

Personal rituals include:

  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness helps us suspend judgment and cultivate equanimity and compassion. It is easier to show up mindlessly, with preconceived judgments about the person or topic and not really pay attention. It takes work to really hear what a person is saying. Listening is mindless; hearing is mindful. To start, ground yourself before going into a meeting. You don’t need to meditate for an hour before each meeting. It can be as simple as 3 deep breaths. Keep in mind a regular meditation or mindfulness practice has enormous benefits on brain health, and it makes the skill of mindfulness easier to tap into.
  • Ask open-ended, guiding questions: Open-ended questions help you see things from the perspective of others. Guiding responses should be supportive in nature, not shift responses. Shift responses are self-referential statements indicative of conversational narcissism. Support responses are other-directed and open-ended.
  • Use reflections: Reflections build trust and rapport and make the other feel heard. Empathy reflections clarify thoughts and feelings and ensure the other person feels understood. Content reflections and summarizations help clarify and recap conversations. Positive verbal behavior increases the quality of interactions, predicting more engagement, better relationships, and better performance.

Individuals with high levels of emotional intelligence have greater sensitivity and empathy and are able to express themselves. As a result, they are rated more effective leaders by their direct reports and manager and receive higher performance ratings.

Team rituals can include:

  • Virtual connectors: Warm-ups or ice breakers when starting a meeting help bring the virtual group into a shared mental space.
  • Cameras on: Being on video all day is more mentally taxing than in-person meetings. Decide when “cameras on” is necessary and when you can give your brain a break by turning the camera off.
  • Designate a facilitator: A designated facilitator can set the tone for the meeting and keep the meeting on point. The facilitator can also wrap up the meeting by using summarizations and mutually agreed-upon action items.
  • Hand raising: On video, it is difficult to pick up on the cues telling us someone wants to speak. It can feel awkward to unmute yourself and speak up, so many people avoid it altogether. Hand-raising lets the speaker know you have something to say without feeling like you are interrupting the speaker.
  • Polls/surveys: It is harder to “read the room” on video, so polls and surveys can be helpful.
  • Chatbox: The chatbox can be distracting if ground rules aren’t set ahead of time. Designate someone to monitor the chatbox for the speaker.  

Teams with high levels of emotional intelligence have more cohesion, perform better, are more satisfied with team communication, and receive social support from other team members. In addition, there is a high degree of psychological safety.

Your best emotionally intelligent self:

What does your best emotionally intelligent self look like? At the end of the day, we can only change how we show up BUT how we show up has a significant impact on those around us. When you are emotionally dysregulated, how does that affect those around you? When you have a positive interaction, how does it affect those around you? Emotions are contagious. How we show up collectively creates an emotional climate.

For example, people who witness rudeness are more likely to be rude to others. In addition, witnessing subtle rudeness leads to decreased performance and prosocial behaviors, such as helpfulness and resource sharing. As a result, we are less likely to help our fellow co-workers.

Reacting, belittling, cutting someone off, or not even listening is effortless behavior. It takes strength to listen to understand, respond with intention, and reflect with empathy. What ritual can you start with to help build a positive digital emotional climate, to build the skill of D-EQ?