Developing emotional intelligence

EQ required for COVID-19

Pharmacists and pharmacy staff are faced with all sorts of workplace stressors and pressures, all of which have an impact on emotional health and wellbeing.

In this month’s issue of Retail Pharmacy Assistants magazine, we spoke with pharmacist Allie Xu, who, because of her burnout experience, is on a mission to help pharmacy staff increase emotional intelligence to “be happier and healthier” and to “perform better and create a business and life they love”.

How did you come to work in the emotional intelligence space?

I’ve been working as a pharmacist for 10 years in both hospital and community settings. I was stressed, had a lot of fear – fear of not being good enough or not knowing enough, fear of making mistakes, fear of judgement. I didn’t know what to do with stress and anxiety and how to get rid of them. I was frustrated and angry and lost my zest for life.

By the time I recognised the fact that I was under chronic stress, I was burnt out and diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. I had no choice but to quit my full-time job and begin my journey of healing. After hiring numerous coaches and therapists, I’ve realised how relevant emotional intelligence is. Not only does it determine our performance and financial intelligence, but it also affects our health.

How have you personally found ensuring emotional intelligence as part of your practice as a pharmacist? How has it enhanced your practice?

Increasing emotional intelligence has improved my understanding of my own emotions and my capacity when it comes to stress. I can access my emotions and stress levels and call for help or redirect my feelings. At the same time, I learnt to set boundaries and to say no to extra overtime and tasks, to protect me from burnout. Because of increasing self-awareness and self-regulation in stressful situations, I can now pay more attention to customers’ needs and emotions, to collect both verbal and non-verbal information and provide more value and establish lasting relationships.

So, what is emotional intelligence? Why is it important for pharmacy assistants?

Pharmacists are intelligent individuals who did well at schools and universities and continually learnt and acquired new information, knowledge, research. We’re all ‘book smart’ with a high IQ (intelligence quotient). However, to be successful in this world, we need to be ‘street smart’ and develop high emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ).

Psychology Today describes emotional intelligence as: “The ability to accurately identify your own emotions, as well as those of others. The ability to utilise emotions and apply them to tasks, like thinking and problem-solving. The ability to manage emotions, including controlling your own, as well as the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.”

Harvard theorist Howard Gardner said: “Your EQ is the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them.”

As carers in the community, pharmacy staff are not just there to supply products, prescriptions or give advice, which address physical wellbeing. [We address] emotional wellbeing as well.

We’re an essential part of the healthcare team providing continuous care alongside the GP, specialists, allied health and other medical carers.

To be able to add value and offer better solutions, we first must have the ability to understand customers and connect with them – understand their needs, address their emotions, make them feel heard, cared for and understood.

What are the elements of emotional intelligence? What are the character traits of someone with high emotional intelligence?

The essential character traits of someone with high emotional intelligence include:

  • They’re self-aware. [They] know their strengths and weaknesses and are aware of their emotions.
  • They’re empathetic. [They] are excellent at reading their own feelings [and those of others].
  • They don’t seek perfection, [which can] lead to unfulfillment … and intense frustration and distress.
  • They’re good at managing their feelings … at maintaining and controlling their emotions. For example, [pharmacy staff] with high emotional intelligence can remain calm in a stressful situation … they’re the least likely person to snap and yell … in a moment of panic.
  • They’re easy going.
  • They set clear boundaries. Pharmacy staff [who set clear boundaries] can justify saying no to customers or colleagues as this keeps them from getting overwhelmed by commitment, which protects them from burning out.
  • They’re flexible, not afraid of change.

What can pharmacists and pharmacy staff do to increase their emotional intelligence?

Here are four tips to start with:

    • Practise describing your feelings. Connect emotions and thoughts. Accept your feelings as information without judgement or rejection. Talk about how you feel, especially after serving demanding customers.
    • Determine personal boundaries and act assertively (rather than passively or aggressively). Practise saying no to people and still be polite.
    • Focus attention on customers and other staff and be curious about them. Pay attention to both verbal and nonverbal communication.
    • Involve all pharmacy staff through teamwork activities. Generate synergy through cooperation and participation.

To read the full feature as it appears in the July issue of Retail Pharmacy Assistants magazine, visit: