As I’ve mentioned before in these weekly messages, I am a student of the emerging field of emotional intelligence or EQ. Every day I learn more about this fascinating subject and see many examples—good and bad—that illuminate how powerful emotional intelligence is in both business and personal situations.
One of the pillars of emotional intelligence is managing and building relationships. A key ingredient of building relationships is paying attention to others. Two conditions (perhaps many more) that are absolutely necessary for us to successfully pay attention to others are: 1) a high degree of both self-awareness and self-management; and, 2) a sincere interest in and curiosity about others. Our intention must be sincere in every way or our efforts will be just so much manipulation.
Why am I writing about this? Because in recent weeks I’ve coached or been asked to coach people who at some level are acting as if the world revolves around them, their story, their lives, and it’s seriously impeding their ability to build effective working relationships. This self-absorbed behavior shows up in numerous ways including: hijacking conversations; “one-upping” others to outdo them with a more dramatic story; monopolizing conversations; inability to listen and be fully present; failure to take a sincere interest in others and what’s happening in their lives.
This tendency to monopolize conversation, butting in with a “well that’s nothing, did you hear what happened to me” story is a sure-fire way to not only set people’s teeth on edge but to make yourself persona non-grata at work or in social situations. Lack of emotional intelligence can make you less promotable in the business world as well. Talent Smart, a recognized EQ research and publishing firm says that emotional intelligence predicts success on the jobover any other skill, including IQ and technical expertise; and, for leadership positions, EQ accounts for nearly 80% of job performance!
So what are some simple ways to develop your emotional intelligence muscles, to extinguish the burning desire to take over every conversation or make yourself feel better at others expense? This short list is in no way exhaustive, but it is simple enough that anyone can begin to develop greater EQ starting today. And at the end of today’s message I’ll share some of my favorite books and other resources on EQ.
1) Monitor your own emotional states regularly. Right now, take a moment and rate your current emotional state using a simple red, yellow or green code: Red=Very agitated, worried, upset or on edge; Yellow=moderately hurried, worried or bothered about some situation; Green=relaxed, calm and centered with very little emotional sizzle at the moment. This one step alone will begin to help you tune in to and manage your own emotional states more effectively.
2) Practice a few centering breaths at the beginning of a conversation or any time you’re tempted to disrupt or interrupt someone else who is speaking. Monitoring your breath not only calms you down but enables you to be more present with and focused on the other person(s) speaking. Practice it regularly!
3) Watch others’ non-verbal signals for signs of discomfort when you’re speaking. If you’re too busy speaking to notice, it’s a sure sign that you’ve hijacked the conversation or have become completely self-absorbed. If you see someone looking at their watch, eyes furtively glancing around as if looking for an escape route, or getting antsy, take note: stop talking and re-focus on the other person. It’s okay to actually admit, “wow, I realize I’m doing all the talking!” and then ask a question about them.
4) Get in the habit of giving others lots of space to talk about their favorite subject: themselves! Usually people are very willing to reciprocate and give you “air time” if they feel heard.
5) Stop talking about your aches, pains, troubles, and other personal dramas and traumas unless, (very rare) it is relevant to the conversation and serves a larger purpose than tension relief for you. For example: If someone has shared a personal experience such as an illness or an unfortunate event, first acknowledge how difficult it must have been for them (empathy) and then, if you have an idea, a resource or a question share it. But DO NOT simply wait for the first opportunity to steal the conversation away and start talking about yourself, your recent illness, the trouble you’ve had with your kids or whatever it may be.
6) Ask interested, curious questions. Examples: “Tell me more about that.” “How did you handle the situation?” “What did you learn that you would share with someone going through the same thing?” These are examples of interested, open-ended questions that actually help people clarify their own thinking and distill the wisdom from their experiences.
7) Finally, these words of wisdom from Dr. Conversation, Loren Ekroth from his weekly newsletter about speaking to others’ heart: “Talk to others about the things they treasure most. Don't talk too much about yourself and your life. Instead, listen to others. Some of the things people treasure most include their children, their jobs, their special passions and hobbies, their important ideas. Everyone has a story to tell. Perhaps a challenge they met, or a child they are proud of.” If you’d like to receive Loren’s regular weekly conversation tips, subscribe at: Loren@conversationmatters.com.
There are dozens of ways to improve your EQ skills that will pay off not only in better relationships but in better health, reduced stress, higher productivity, time management and numerous other benefits.
As promised here is a list of some of my favorite EQ resources:
Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith
The Art of Focused Conversation, 100 Ways to Access Group Wisdom in the Workplace, R. Brian Stanfield
The bottom line is that each of us has within our power the ability to grow and develop emotional intelligence. Unlike IQ, which is set at birth, EQ is comprised of a set of learnable skills. Please feel free to connect with me if you have questions about emotional intelligence or want to discuss EQ coaching and/or training. And have an emotionally intelligent week!
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