Follow Us

Your Personal and Professional Development: Plans, Tips and Lists

Powered by Bookboon, your personal eLibrary with 1,700+ eBooks on soft skills and personal development

Self-Compassion: Why an Emotionally Intelligent Workplace is Important

Posted in Articles

Where middle managers represent a keystone in a company, sitting between the top and bottom of an organisation, they frequently get caught between conflicting demands and priorities, making it a challenging position to be in. They not only require expertise in their field but an ability to work well with a wide range of colleagues. 

Psychologist David Goleman[1], coined the term ‘emotional Intelligence’ to refer to four core workplace skills:

  1. Self-awareness – the ability to read our own emotions and recognise their impact while using our intuition to guide decisions;
  2. Self-management – the ability to control our emotions and impulses and adapt to changing circumstances;
  3. Social-awareness – the ability to sense, understand and react to others’ emotions.
  4. Good relationship management – to inspire, influence and develop while managing conflict and communicating compassionately.


Self-compassion – a vehicle to overcoming conflict in the workplace?

It’s well known that conflict in the workplace happens most often between the people who work most closely together; staff and their line manger.

In order to effectively connect and work well with others, we need self-awareness and an ability to access our own thoughts, feelings and body sensations. Most importantly, we need to have self-compassion, to be in a kind relationship with ourselves. It’s not easy to connect with others if we are our own worst enemy, if we hate or dislike our own thoughts or feelings.

Kristin Neff[2], who specialises in the study and research of self-compassion cites three main components to self-compassion: self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness.


Let’s apply a self-compassionate way of dealing with the following conflict scenario:

You are dealing with a team member who regularly misses their targets. As their line-manager, you need to raise the issue. Your team member blames high workload and your lack of support for not doing better at their job. You overreact and tell them to just get on with it.


A self-compassionate narrative might sound like this:

“I felt frustrated and stressed (mindfully acknowledging your feelings) because I had so much on my plate myself and I just needed them to get on with it. Okay, I overreacted, these things happen (common humanity); I understand why I was like that. At our next meeting I will try to listen more and find out what’s actually going on for them (self-compassion).


Here are some tips to increase your emotional intelligence:

  • Pause and check-in with yourself several times a day and become aware of your thoughts and feelings. This increases your awareness of how you habitually think, feel and behave.
  • Catch yourself when you are about to react to someone or a situation at work. Pause, take three deeper breaths and use the gap to make a wiser choice of what you say or do next.
  • Practice empathy. Notice and mindfully attend to the behaviour, stance, gestures and actions of your team members and colleagues. This will give you vital clues of how to respond and communicate with understanding and compassion.
  • Make time for your team members and listen attentively to what’s going on for them. Listening is a vital ingredient to conflict resolution.
  • Practice self-compassion Start by listening to this short audio guided self-compassion exercises by Kristin Neff.
  • Attend a mindfulness course or get buy-in to bring a mindfulness practice into your workplace. Mindfulness practice is an effective means to develop emotional intelligence as it significantly enhances your capacity for self-awareness, empathy, rapport and connection with others.


Here are some more interesting blog articles:

[1] David Goleman in The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace, 2001
[2] Kristin Neff at