• Cathy Sheppard

Emotional Intelligence is so important!

Sarah Best, a consultant at BSI People Skills recently went to Bangladesh and wrote this amazing article reflecting on her time there!

It went out in our recent newsletter but for those of you who don't receive it, I thought I would post it here.

I know this is long, but please take the time to read this as I believe it is a great example of how emotional intelligence can help you cope on a day to day basis, not just at work but in any situation!

" The shock for me of being in Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh, was not just the humid, 30+ degrees temperature, nor the constant honking of horns and insane traffic jams; it wasn’t just the need for me to cover most of my skin due to being in a Muslim country, nor the perplexing lack of women out and about; it wasn’t just the language barrier, nor the regular, blatant, quizzical staring at my long, blonde hair and pale face; and it wasn’t even the difficulties of long haul travel through foreign countries and being served up variations of curry three times a day (actually I really liked that!); the real shock for me during my 10 days of facilitating workshops in Dhaka, was how very much I needed to use what I was sharing about people skills with the groups I was working with – and boy did I need it!!

Within two hours of arriving at my first accommodation I was dressed in a “Camp Leader” t-shirt and meeting passionate young people from all over Bangladesh. Not fully clear what this camp was about nor what my role was I proceeded to smile, nod, say “Assalamualaikum” and try to look confident and comfortable. I was feeling neither. My understanding of how our human stress response works and what I can do to soothe said stress response was invaluable for getting me through each day, each new group of people, each new spontaneous facilitation challenge. “Remember to breathe Sarah, deep belly breaths, slow them right down, … and smile” Simple yet so very effective.

Each morning I followed a calming routine of washing my face and ears with cold water and doing a short yoga sequence. Working out which clothes I would wear the night before was a lifesaver as most mornings I felt too nervous to be able to work out whether the outfit was appropriate for me to appear in for a room full of Muslim men. Positive self-talk helped to calm the nerves also, along with making healthful choices in my eating and drinking. Many of the things that we talk with our coaching and workshop clients about in NZ. I was proving their effectiveness in real time.

Along with the WSDA NZ team who I had just met on arrival in Dhaka, we facilitated workshops for a National Youth Camp, school teacher training, Dhaka University students, a Government department, the Bangladesh Navy and the latest module “Customer Excellence” of the Future CEO programme. The common thread for my role in each of these was running workshops on DiSC. Being of profile type “Si” (steadiness and influence) I found that I needed to bring my “i” preference to the fore and also channel my inner D (dominance) to keep our sessions and the team on track. It is wonderful understanding how we all experience and respond to the world differently from each other, and in different situations. Our team, both facilitating and supporting, joked about and utilised both our strengths and more challenging areas of personality and skills. “I’m being the D” was commonly heard and we all knew that meant that person was taking over for a necessary moment.

The groups we worked with were amazed at the value they gained from increasing their understanding of how people work together and what’s possible if we choose to take into account the preferences of the person we are working with.

For example, if we are wanting to get a person with a D preference to hear what we are saying, we are best to stick to the point and not add fluff or story; what is it we are wanting from them? Those with the I preference would love us to make whatever it is sound exciting, and they’ll be there with bells on! For working with an S preference, it pays to check in how they’re going, if this is a good time to talk, consider the people impact of our discussion topic, and give them time to think about it. For C, let’s make sure we give them all the facts they’re after and some time to consider before they buy into the suggestion. It’s just like magic! Really.

There were times during my days in Dhaka where I just wanted to hide away from everyone, my S side was strongly calling to me.

Noticing this and managing my stress response, working with my emotional intelligence to make another choice of response to my feelings, choosing more I & D behavior in that moment, was both a challenge and wonderfully empowering.

I needed to be ready to get up and lead at any moment. The situation called for me to show confidence, clarity and connectedness with the groups we worked with. And I did it!

Another challenge was utilising all of my abilities in reading people’s facial and bodily expressions so as to understand what was happening when the room were conversing in Bangla. I wanted the groups to be free to express themselves fully and many needed to use their native tongue for that. I had a wonderful interpreter working with me so that my slowly and carefully enunciated statements could be conveyed to the groups and then some of the responses were translated back to me, the only native English speaker in the room most days. Who knew that watching people closely for signs of humour, upset, confusion, insight, happiness or seriousness could be so exhausting, yet also so enlightening? I’m sure my skills were sharpened considerably by the experience and will have opened me up to further understanding of this integral part of human interaction and communication.

While on this journey to Bangladesh, I was lucky enough to encounter a fabulous NLP trainer from Nepal, Subash Poudel, who worked with strategic thinking, business planning, human interaction, effective self-talk, time management and had huge wisdom in a range of other areas. There are incredible people around the world with whom I would love to work, share my knowledge and learn from theirs. I look forward with great anticipation for my next opportunity to bring into play all the many people skills I’m privileged enough to be coaching and facilitating with here in NZ. And my Bangladesh experience has certainly stepped up my skills and ability to effectively work with any groups and clients. Dhonnobad WSDA NZ, thank you. Assalamualaikum, peace be with you.”

Time and time again, people's understanding of themselves and the way they work furthers their ability to be adaptable to different circumstances and environments. I encourage all my consultants to go through experiences out of their comfort zones, bringing a wealth of knowledge and a depth of understanding that I believe is invaluable to my already strong team at BSI People Skills.

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