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WriteCast Episode 72: Emotional Intelligence for Online Students

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WriteCast Episode 72: Emotional Intelligence for Online Students

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© Walden University Writing Center 2020


[Introduction music]


CLAIRE: Welcome to Write Cast: A Casual Conversation for Serious Writers, a monthly podcast by the Walden University Writing Center. I’m Claire Helakoski,


KACY: and I’m Kacy Walz. Today on WriteCast we’ll discuss emotional intelligence and how it can be useful for online students and writing in APA style.


CLAIRE: Hi, everyone! Today, Kacy and I will talk about a topic we are both passionate about: emotional intelligence! We’ll cover what emotional intelligence is, how to implement it in an online environment, and its role in APA style. First, let’s give you all a definition.


KACY: Emotional intelligence provides an indication of an individual’s awareness of their own emotions and the emotions of others. And also the level at which they are able to control and alter their own responses to create positive outcomes. Claire and I know a lot about emotional intelligence in online environments because we led a year’s worth of trainings for Writing Center staff on this topic! I’ve been particularly interested in ways of developing EI--as we are not necessarily endowed with it at a preset level. And I feel like, as remote employees and students, we are all constantly developing and improving our EI.


CLAIRE: Yeah! Emotional intelligence felt really important to me in an online environment because I wanted to communicate really effectively with my colleagues, but I had to do so without facial expressions and other physical cues I was used to. I’m sure Walden students feel really similarly working in a digital classroom, because you communicate with your classmates and faculty all through just writing, and that can be tough as well as leading to potential misunderstandings.


KACY: Right, and one thing I researched was how to communicate effectively via email or other digital writing like instant messages. I found that some key aspects to emotional intelligence online are to try to be really clear and contextualize your intentions. I also found that being aware of your own sensitivities to tone or your gut responses to feedback is really important because it can be so easy to misconstrue someone’s tone or intention when you’re not face-to-face. Being aware of your own tendencies for interpreting written communication can really help ensure you’re reading closely and focusing on what’s there rather than assuming you know how the writer feels.


CLAIRE: That’s so important because in email or digital writing tone can come off really differently depending on how you’re reading something, as the reader, your other communications with that person, what kind of day you’re having even! Another important thing I remember from that research too was to ask follow up questions of the person who sent the message, and to do so respectfully. Rather than assuming a manager was upset with me, I really learned to check my response and be aware that I might be overreacting or misunderstanding. Then, I learned to follow up and say “Just to check, are you concerned about this issue you mentioned or is this just a general maintenance email for everyone? Is there anything we should talk about more?” And so, really framing my intentions as wanting to understand rather than from a defensive place since I tend to think something’s off if I receive feedback via email, was really helpful. And I think that students could apply this too to emails to and from faculty, or other Walden employees and departments. You might also keep this in mind when reading through faculty feedback on your writing, or grading. It’s always best reframe and ask questions rather than just assume the worst. 


KACY: I really like how you put that, Claire. And I think that, even if an individual was writing from a place of frustration, receiving a response that allows for a dialogue rather than an argument could potentially help cool those emotions. At the very least, it would help prevent an escalation! So next time you receive a digital communication, take a step back and see how you are responding or what you are assuming about the person who wrote it and what their intentions might be. It’s perfectly fine to have these responses, but just know that they can color how you feel about something and can lead to unnecessary conflict, confusion, or stress.


CLAIRE: And that is one benefit of the remote position that we’re in, is that you can take that time to step back, right? Whereas, in person, you have to respond immediately and manage your facial expressions. So you can take, you know you can step away from your desk, you can take ten minutes, you can take an hour, come back to it, see how you feel about it, and reframe. Another topic I wanted to touch on with emotional intelligence online is the importance of avoiding bias. APA talks about avoiding bias a great deal, so it’s really important not only for general awareness or casual writing, but for your scholarly writing for your course work as well. First, emotional intelligence is about being aware of those biases you innately have—and we all have them to some extent! But being aware of those potential biases and what biased writing, language, or assumptions look like can help you have that revised behavior for positive outcomes that we mentioned earlier.


KACY: Right, and as Claire mentioned, we all have biases. It’s actually deeply encoded in our evolutionary survival skills! But being aware of these biases will help you avoid the potentially negative and hurtful results they can create.

My dad used to tell this riddle to explain bias: A man and his son are in a car accident. They arrive at the hospital for emergency care, but the doctor says, “I can’t operate on this patient! He’s my son!” How is this possible? – The challenge behind this riddle is that many people have a bias regarding the gender of a surgeon. It’s perfectly clear that this could be possible if the operating doctor was the boy’s mother. It could also be explained if the operating doctor was the man’s husband or partner and therefore was the boy’s other father. Or perhaps the boy had been adopted in an open adoption situation. Without examining our own expectations and assumptions, the question seems much more difficult than it actually is.


CLAIRE: Right, so being aware of those innate biases that we have, whether they’re for gender, or race, or a thousand other things, even just assuming that feedback from somebody else is negative, is a sort of bias, too. And a sort of skewed way of thinking. So being aware of those biases allows you to examine, to step back, and to make adjustments.

There are bias tests you can take, and you can also review APA’s guidelines on biased writing. Plus, it’s always helpful to have someone else read your writing so that they can let you know how your tone, approach, assumptions, and if anything comes off as biased to them. You can use us at the Writing Center if you’re a Walden student, but having a fellow student or friend read your work, or emails, can be helpful in working towards enhancing your emotional intelligence!


KACY: As always, we’d love to hear your responses to our episode – so we don’t make any assumptions about your experiences as listeners – so please comment on the accompanying blog post or write in to let us know! And if there are any topics you’d like to hear Claire and me ruminate about…please send those our way as well!


CLAIRE: Until next time, keep writing!


KACY: Keep inspiring




KACY: WriteCast is a monthly podcast produced by the Walden University Writing Center. Visit our online Writing Center at Find more WriteCast episodes on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, or your favorite podcast app. We would love to hear from you! Connect with us on our blog, Facebook, and Twitter, and at Thanks for listening!