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The Top 3 Skills for 2022: Resilience, Empathy, and Emotional Intelligence

December 08, 2021

A lot has changed in the past year. From learning new tech tools like Zoom, to adapting to a hybrid work-from-home and in-office model as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect how we live, it’s safe to say that we’ve faced more personal and professional changes in the last 365 days than perhaps at any other point in our lives. 

Most years, as we look to the year ahead, we ask ourselves: “where do I want to be by this time next year?” but this year we challenge you to think differently. 

This December we challenge you to ask “what are the skills I want to have developed by this time next year?”

In this post we’ll explore three of the top skills you’ll need to thrive personally and professionally in 2022: resilience, empathy, and emotional intelligence. 

Top Skill #1: Resilience

Building your resilience means focusing on four key areas: emotional, cognitive and mental, physical, and spiritual resilience

Developing these areas gives you the mental strength to handle stressful situations more easily, manage your anxiety by teaching you how to re-frame challenges as opportunities, and improve your overall quality of life as a result. 

How to Build Resilience in 2022: Five Steps

If you’re new to the concept of building your resilience, we suggest starting with these strategies:

Clear Your Mind

When we’re in “crisis mode” our brains go into overdrive, which can cause us to become emotionally overwhelmed, making us less able to manage our emotions and reactions in healthy ways.

The next time you start to feel heart palpitations caused by a stressful situation, bring up this graphic from Daily Burn and breathe along with the gif below:

Protip: if you can, lie down on the floor as you work to slow your breathing. The position, also known as ‘active rest’ is the best way to restore and reconnect the body and mind and calm anxious or stressful thoughts.

As your breath calms, observe your thoughts without judgment and work to stay in the present moment. 

Remove Your Emotions From the Situation

One of the reasons why we over-react is because we’re allowing ourselves to be controlled by our emotions instead of controlling them ourselves.

When you start feeling stressed, focus on what you can do to resolve the situation instead of how the situation is making you feel. 

Ask yourself: “what is my ideal outcome, and what can I do to achieve it?” then sit down and write out a list of options, outcomes, and the steps you can take to get there. 

Get Moving

Studies have shown that walking helps us calm down, so if you can, go for a short walk around the block or at a local park to clear your thoughts. 

Walking through a park or in nature can be especially helpful when you feel overhwhelmed since studies from Japan have shown that trees and plants emit aerosols that calm us and have significant positive impacts on human biology. 

Practice Self-Care

It’s easy to fall into habits that compound negative feelings or thought patterns. When we get stressed it can feel easy to skip a workout or indulge in fast food instead of taking care of ourselves, but studies have found that these negative habits make us more anxious and unhappy. 

Getting lots of rest, exercising regularly, and eating healthy food helps us regulate our emotions, our self-control, memory, and more, so do your best to keep looking after yourself even when you don’t feel like it.

Top Skill #2: Empathy

Empathy is the mechanism that allows people to understand and relate to each other and plays an important role in maintaining social order and promoting cooperation.

Although genetics explain why some people are naturally more empathetic than others, most of what we learn about empathy comes from our environment, our experiences growing up, and what we experience day-to-day.

With empathy being ranked as the top leadership skill in 2021, there’s no better time to focus on developing your ability to relate to the struggles other people are having and put ourselves in their shoes. 

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Learn Something New

Learning a new skill can be a great way to push the boundaries of our comfort zone in healthy ways. In 2022, try taking up a new instrument, hobby, group sport, or learning a new language. 

The goal isn’t to perfect it — in fact, it’s the opposite. Learning new things is a humbling experience, and humility is a key enabler of empathy.

Ask for Feedback

Ask for feedback about your relationship skills like active listening, accepting criticism, and offering emotional support from family, friends, and colleagues. 

Warning: you might not always like what you hear, but as Gloria Steinem once said: “the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”

Do your best to accept feedback with grace, work to change, and check-in periodically to see how you’re developing. 

Read Books That Explore Relationships

Studies have shown that doctors who read literature and rewrite short stories that involve ethical dilemmas become better doctors, so why not apply this tactic to building your own empathy?

When choosing your next book, pick a title that explores relationships and ethical dilemmas that are different than ones you’ve faced in your life so far. You can even take it a step further and write short stories exploring the ethical dilemmas the characters face in order to deepen your understanding!

Take a Walk in Others’ Shoes

Talk to other people about what their lived experience is like. Ask about their issues, concerns, and how they perceived situations that you both shared — you may be surprised by what you hear!

Top Skill #3: Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a collection of the “soft” but important skills that help us understand our emotions, empathize with others, and react to sudden changes and challenges with grace and ease.

If you’re not sure how to start building your emotional intelligence, try these three science-backed strategies from our book Emotional Intelligence: Your Foundation for Success:

Keep a Journal of Your Emotions

We all feel our feelings, but naming and understanding them can be a challenge. To better understand your feelings and thoughts, we suggest keeping a journal.

Over two weeks, track how you feel using the Plutchik Wheel to identify specific feelings and articulate how you feel in various settings and look for patterns.

After two weeks, reflect and ask yourself: 

  • Were some feelings more prevalent than others?
  • Did specific situations, people, or things trigger them?
  • What can I do to change how I reacted at the moment?

Build Your Self-Regard

Self-regard is linked to self-esteem and refers to our ability to have consideration for ourselves and others, including accepting our strengths and weaknesses. 

We love this exercise from Dr. Jennice Vilhuaer that suggests changing your self-talk to focus on the positive. Here are some suggestions to get you started:       

  1. Notice the critic. Notice when you start criticizing yourself (your journal works well for this!) Work to notice the patterns that emerge in the things you say to yourself and the situations that lead to it.

  2. Free yourself. Recognize that it’s not “you” talking; it’s a negative voice in your head that can be controlled and silenced.

  3. Change the message. Instead of accepting a negative thought, change the message. For example, if the voice is saying “you can’t” refute it and tell yourself “I can do whatever I put my mind to”.

  4. Replace the message. Practice reframing negative statements with positive ones. If you tend to think “I can’t” or “I won’t,” start to say “I can” and “I will” and focus on how to achieve that goal.

Consider All Perspectives

This practice also helps us build empathy by approaching a situation from other perspectives. In our book, we suggest following these steps:

  1. Assess your assumptions

    1. What are your beliefs?
    2. What are your expectations?
    3. What are the facts?
  2. Expand your thinking

    1. What’s possible?
    2. What has worked before?
    3. What haven’t you tried yet?
  3. Get perspective

    1. What would you do?
    2. What do you see?
    3. What would others do?

Build the Top Skills for 2022 

The start of a new year is the perfect time to re-invest in ourselves and build the skills we need for success — in 2022 and beyond!

To get started, sign up for our self-paced Leading with Resilience course, or subscribe to our newsletter and join over 1200 professionals who get these tips delivered straight to their inbox once a month.