We all know the power of emotional intelligence—that ineffable ability that defines and sets people apart, drawing others to them and giving them a charismatic demeanor that is both charming and credible. It’s also an increasingly rare quality to possess as people continue to communicate electronically rather than face to face, isolate themselves in their communication styles and lose that intuitive ability to size up people to determine what they need in order to build rapport and establish relationships. And it stands to reason if we understand how to utilize emotional intelligence in our daily lives, we’re way ahead of the game.
Research indicates people vote for, buy from and hire based on an intangible essence, they like or trust the person they are dealing with…it’s the chemistry! Research also indicates businesses can grow up to 31% within nine months based on EI; it’s the key ingredient that generates credibility, changes perception and fosters camaraderie and allegiance. And it increases profits, peak performance and helps outperform the competition!
There are a myriad of professions where EI is crucial for success and disastrous if ignored, including sales, management, education and any type of service industry. Therefore, I was really surprised with the amazing lack of emotional intelligence I encountered recently when I decided to get a massage while working in Nevada, in hopes of getting some relief from the pain I had due to a running injury.
When my masseuse walked into the room I asked if she could please pay special attention to my injury. She took one look at my leg and responded “It’s inflamed.” I then asked if she could tell me what was inflamed…a tendon, a ligament, or what, since I wasn’t sure what I had injured. She announced she had no idea, she didn’t know that much anatomy, just enough to get her license. She said she wasn’t going to work on the leg and that I needed to see a doctor.
My point is, she could just have easily said something to the effect, “I see you have an injury here and I would suggest you go see a doctor if it doesn’t get better. I’ll work on the rest of your body; relax and get ready for a lovely experience.” It would have given an entirely different meaning to the experience.
Unfortunately, similar situations are not unusual.
Awhile back while traveling I had a six and a half hour delay, and the biggest challenge was the airlines and their lack of communication. Departure times changed every few minutes, sometimes moving it closer and sometimes moving it farther away. The toll taken on the gate agent was obvious as she was simply sharing the information afforded her. As the next scheduled flight was boarding, an entire plane-load of people without a plane (some I’m sure with a higher designation on their tickets than me) were clamoring for attention and trying to get on the earlier flight. Using emotional intelligence, I approached the gate agent for more information. After the flight was boarded the agent announced the standby list. My name was the only one called. Luck or smart communication?
When we consciously strategize what we are going to say rather than acting on emotion or fatigue, we stand a good chance of getting what we need.
Eighty percent of success in life, according to Daniel Goleman, author of the best-selling book Emotional Intelligence, comes from our EQ (emotional quotient), while only 20% comes from our IQ. Companies whose employees have high emotional intelligence are more successful–according to research–than companies who don’t invest in emotional intelligence; the same can be said about individuals.
Researchers Salovey & Mayer coined the word emotional intelligence in 1990, five years before Goleman’s book was published. They also introduced a mood meter to teach that emotions have energy and will deplete our needed energy unless we are in control. How we feel influences how we think and therefore how we act.. It’s essential to redirect our emotions to be effective and that’s where emotional intelligence teaches us to choose appropriate stimuli to create the results we want.
And if that isn’t enough to compel us to use EI, scientists Keysers and Wicker have shown one person’s emotions can actually activate another person’s mirror neurons, meaning if I come in happy and relaxed from the weekend, but my supervisor did not and is feeling frustrated, she can transfer her feelings on to me. Bottom line, we are responsible for controlling and managing our emotions; otherwise they are infectious. One person’s mood literally can change another person’s brain, and the higher the rank of the individual the more powerful the connection.
The internal state of the leader (CEO/supervisor/manager) affects the internal state of all employees, and their ability to perform, which has profound implications for leadership, according to Goleman, who says if we want the best results from people, they need to be working in their optimal brain state. He also says leaders have to take more responsibility for the impact they have on the people they lead and the people around them. Everyone is responsible.
If we break it down, exactly what is EI, and how can we use it to be more effective in all that we’re doing? Basically there are four main quadrants: self-awareness, emotional management, empathy and social awareness and relationship building.
Obviously self-awareness is enormously important because if we’re not aware of what upsets us or throws us into a tailspin, we are going to be at the mercy of every angry customer, negative client or micro-managing boss. It’s worth asking ourselves whose voices are we hearing when we start to doubt our abilities or feel angry or insecure about something. We need to be aware of what we’re saying to ourselves as well as what triggers cause us to react, and why. One of my favorite acronyms is HALT, remember not to say or do anything if you’re Hungry, Angry, Late or Tired.
After self-awareness comes, naturally, self-management, knowing how to handle our frustrations so that we are emotionally clear to help our clients/customers/colleagues and be the best versions of ourselves. Sometimes it’s just taking the time to pause is necessary. Another favorite acronyms, FIDO, reminds us to Forget It and Drive On. It doesn’t matter what has happened to us, it’s time to let it go and get on with life.
Next we get in to empathy and social awareness, the ability of being aware of others’ feelings and of the impact we are making each time we communicate. It costs nothing to pay attention, listen between the lines and truly understand what someone needs. This ability to comprehend someone’s emotion is priceless and enables us to know the best way to communicate and reach people based on their needs. This includes helping others save face as well as recognizing the necessity of “making deposits” to reach people. It’s never about judging, it’s about awareness.
Obviously my masseuse could have used a large dose of empathy and awareness. Just paying attention to non-verbal communication would have given her an edge to know how to respond. It was writer Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “What you do speaks so loud I cannot hear what you say” and is a good reminder to us to just quietly pay attention before we respond to people.
Finally, building and managing relationships is enormous. Genuine interest in others, and offering help even when it may not be in our best interest, creates trust and opportunities. It leads to better productivity, better morale, and overall better relationships.
George Bernard Shaw said the biggest problem with communication is the illusion it has taken place. Yet when we consciously work on understanding instead of assuming, using the tenets of emotional intelligence, we become part of the powerful few who can communicate with anyone and build long-term relationships. The benefits of conscious communication are endless and enable us to actually understand those we’re speaking to, which can be a rare occurrence in this fast-paced world of ours.