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Powerful questions to build emotional intelligence and end conflict

Emotional Intelligence, often abbreviated as EI or EQ, is the ability to recognise, understand, and manage our own emotions, as well as the ability to recognise, understand, and influence the emotions of others. This concept was made famous by Daniel Goleman in his groundbreaking book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

In conflict, while our instincts are often to seek solutions to disputes through factual analysis, reasoning and debate, as Goleman’s book suggests, it is more important to reflect on how to apply emotional intelligence skills to the conflict.

At its core, emotional intelligence involves being aware of our emotions, recognising how they affect our thoughts and behaviours, and understanding how they impact the people around us. It's not just about being able to label emotions but also about understanding the nuances of emotions—how they blend together, how they evolve, and how they can be managed in different situations.

The four pillars of EQ are:

  1. Self-Awareness: that is being in tune with our own emotions, understanding our strengths and weaknesses, and recognising how our emotions can drive our actions.

  2. Self-Regulation: Once we are aware of our emotions, the next step is managing them. Self-regulation involves controlling impulsive reactions, thinking before acting, and adapting to changing circumstances. 

  3. Empathy: This is the ability to understand the feelings of others. Empathetic individuals are attuned to the emotions of those around them, which helps in forming strong relationships, effective communication, and teamwork.

  4. Social Skills: These skills are those required for navigating interpersonal relationships and primarily relate to communication skills. 

Why is emotional intelligence important?

Research has shown that individuals with high emotional intelligence tend to have better mental health, stronger relationships, and greater success in both personal and professional life. They are better equipped to handle stress, make sound decisions, and lead teams effectively and they are better conflict managers too!

Emotional intelligence is not a fixed trait— particularly when it comes to managing conflict. It can be developed and improved over time with practice, coaching and self-reflection. Next time you are faced with a complaint, dispute or conflict, before turning to legislation, policies or data, consider the four pillars of emotional intelligence and how you might use those to guide your approach to the conflict at hand.

Here are some useful coaching questions to build self awareness in yourself and in others during a mediation or conciliation:

1.Emotional Identification:

  • What emotions do you often feel through this conflict?

  • Can you describe a particular moment in the conciliation that you felt a strong emotion? What was it, and why do you think you felt that way?

  • How do you usually react when you experience negative emotions like anger, sadness, or anxiety?

2. Personal Strengths and Weaknesses:

  • What do you believe are your greatest strengths? How do these strengths help you in resolving this conflict?

  • On the flip side, what are some areas where you think you could improve? How do these weaknesses impact your life and interactions with others?

  • What personal weaknesses will hold you back from arriving at a resolution at the end of the mediation/ conciliation/ negotiation?

3. Values and Beliefs:

  • What values do you hold most dear in your life? How do these values guide your decisions and actions?

  • How are your values challenged by this conflict?

4. Self-Reflection:

  • How often do you take time to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and actions?

  • What methods do you use for self-reflection (e.g., journaling, meditation, talking with a friend) after these conflict conversations?

5. Goals and Aspirations:

  • What are some short-term and long-term goals you have for yourself?

  • How do these goals align with your values and strengths?

  • Where does this particular conflict fit into your broader goals and aspirations?

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