Successful collaboration is built on a high level of emotional literacy.
Without the capacity to generate and sustain certain feelings, our ability to collaborate authentically with others isn’t possible.
By the time most of us reach adulthood, our emotional repertoire has become habituated. Emotional habits are then fueled by our thinking process which is also fixed into patterns. Beliefs are the engine below stoking emotions that are triggered by outside events and social interactions. By the time we reach the workplace, these patterns are typically the set of emotional skills we have to work with – unless we consciously work toward reshaping our mindsets.
Increasingly, today’s workplace “models” are trending towards collaboration. In many organizations, collaboration is still just a buzzword – the distance between language and practice miles apart.
But there are many companies that are committed to shaping their culture towards more collaboration. Beyond philosophy, these organizations understand that without collaboration, real engagement is not possible. Demographic and generational forces and the power of social media and sharing are also driving the trend towards collaboration.
Although we hear more about the value of collaboration, we don’t hear much about the nuts and bolts of the how-to. The legacy of hierarchical, authoritarian and competition-driven cultures isn’t collaboration friendly. And the emotions that many put down as soft are the very feelings that create the core of effective collaborative interaction.
Most of us are not schooled in the practice of the kinds of emotions that support collaboration. We don’t get recognition or promotions for displaying appreciation or equanimity towards others – but these are the very feelings that promote an atmosphere of comfort, inclusion, creativity and trust.
Recent work in neuroscience has shown that social-emotional learning goes on throughout the adult life. Our early emotional learning does not have to determine how we relate to others. Since the brain is a social organ – and emotional contagion is real, how we relate in groups is always reinforcing and reshaping our personal and collective cognitive landscape. Most of the time it is being done outside of our conscious awareness. Developing collaborative skills requires a high degree of emotional awareness and exceptional competencies of self-management and social intelligence.
The very good news is that our potential for learning and re-learning is open-ended. Just as collaborative learning cultures are a constant work in progress – so are we. We can learn to cultivate the emotions that contribute to the collaborative process. The more that we familiarize ourselves with how these emotions work in other areas of our lives – the more we can practice these emotions with those engaged in our collaborative efforts.
All of these emotions, critical to successful collaboration, are within our power to cultivate. Take stock and identify what emotions show up when you are working with others. Understand that you’ve habituated these feelings every day through cognitive and behavioral reinforcement and may need to change your default responses when they negatively trigger you.
If you believe in the potential and transformational effects of collaboration, these skills will serve you at every level of your interactions. The beauty is that they will also transform every other area of your life. It’s a process – and it’s doable.
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, subscribe, share, like and tweet this article. It’s appreciated.
Louise Altman, Partner, Intentional Communication Consultants
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