Emotional Intelligence – taming the inner critic

When it comes to emotional intelligence, our inner critic can get a little rowdy!  Though we may try to be actively listening so we can deeply connect into a conversation, if we allow it, our inner critic can put up barriers that don’t allow us to be present, with our mind open, so we can really hear. 

Actively listening means we not only listen, but we seek to connect, understand, and ‘get’ not only what is being said, but the person behind the words. I’m concerned that we have begun depersonalising a process that is based on human connection. 

So how do we manage our inner critic so we can truly connect?

Emotional intelligence & the inner critic

Before we even learn the process of coaching, we need to explore what a deep connection looks like.

We must ask ourselves:

  • How comfortable am I, being present to a person?
  • How do I convey connection through my body language or my tone?

Let’s consider the story of a young leader.

This woman began in positional leadership early in her career. She was identified by others as showing huge potential, given various roles, and quickly rose to senior leadership positions.

But like a duck on water, visibly she glided along effortlessly, whilst underneath she was paddling madly. If she made the slightest mistake, she would beat herself up, chastising herself for days or even weeks afterwards. When asked to reflect on her journey, she found it difficult to see her achievements, instead focusing on what was missing. She settled for nothing less than an A-grade in her studies and would drive herself hard to achieve this. Guilt played a large part in how she operated. She felt guilty if she wasn’t working and she felt guilty if she wasn’t spending enough time with her children. 

This highly respected leader had incredible people and organisational skills and was also creative in her approaches. Outwardly she seemed like she had it all together.  Only the few she allowed to see behind this, saw someone whose inner critic was running rampant.

She is not alone. 

There are many incredible leaders of all ages whose inner critics are sabotaging their work and well-being. This internal fight however doesn’t have to be. The road to inner-critic recovery begins with self-empathy. If you’ve found yourself connecting with this leader’s story, then I encourage you to explore the following pathways to increase your emotional intelligence with self-empathy. 

The 3 elements that contribute to empathy

According to Roche Martin, the three elements that contribute to empathy are: listening, curiosity and emotional connection. When we apply these not only to those around us, but to ourselves, both the outer and inner critic can be tamed. For those who are trying to tame the inner critic these three elements can be applied in the following way:

Listening: The key to listening is sometimes NOT to listen; particularly if you are saying unkind things to yourself! A way of checking this is to ask yourself:

“Would I talk to someone else like this?” “Is it true? What’s the evidence?”  

Begin by checking your internal messages and looking for counterevidence. Attune your listening to the positives.

Curiosity: Being able to hold information away from you and look at it with a sense of curiosity is an important skill to learn. To view it from a “That’s interesting!” mindset helps one disassociate from the emotion and reflect from an objective standpoint. From this viewpoint, we’re able to gain a less emotionally charged perspective.

Emotional Connection: Part of having an emotional connection involves showing compassion; both towards others and ourselves. This means allowing oneself to be ‘real’, to make mistakes and to forgive oneself. It also includes giving and receiving aroha. This may take the form of taking time out and doing something you enjoy. This doesn’t have to be something large; it may just mean giving yourself ‘permission’ to take time out to go for a short walk during a busy day. 

Our #developme challenge

As you go forward into this week, spend some time practising self-empathy. 

  • Become aware of your inner voice
  • Hold its messages away from you with a sense of curiosity and compassion

Over time, as you continue to do this your inner critic will become lessened. You will learn to be gentler on yourself, to find inner calm, and to acknowledge and appreciate the gifts you have to offer. 

The journey may not be easy, but it is well worth taking.

Need a speaker?

There are plenty of speakers to choose from. I am not the norm. You won’t be bored to tears by the same ole’ approach and dribble. How about bringing Mary-Anne for the conference or all-staff day.

Give me a stage and I’ll own it. Give me a room and I’ll energise it. Give me your people and I’ll inform and inspire them. 

Need virtual delivery – no sweat! I have facilitated virtual full and half-day workshops, virtual keynote speaking at online conferences, and might I say, you still get the Mary-Anne goodness you deserve!

More details here


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