When he walks into a room, he greets you with a warm smile, handshake, and most importantly, your name. He makes you feel like the most important person on the planet and the person he’s been waiting to see all week. Does he have some sort of superpower that makes him extremely charismatic? No, he just practices.
Emotional intelligence is one of the most important traits that will contribute to your success in life. It’s the ability to assess the situation and personalities in your presence and drive interactions based on that. It’s not something you’re “born with” – it can be learned.
When we visited Detroit during our Great American Road trip, we met up with a friend who has very high emotional intelligence. In the course of conversations with him and his partner, we learned that he works very hard to make people feel special. In fact, after he meets someone, he’ll write down their name and something to remember them by (what they do, where they met, etc). He’s been known to search through his notes for 45 minutes before a meeting to find someone’s name and notes again!!
This isn’t new information, and I’m sure you’re familiar with it from books like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. In it, he gives many tips, but in this particular area, he has some dandies:
Even with all of this information out there, it blows my mind to see how low some people’s emotional intelligence can be! There’s one particular example of someone who talks incessantly about crap nobody cares about. This person is not a friend, but someone who cohabits mutual gatherings, so don’t think I’m talking bad about somebody I like (or who would be reading this)! This person will trap somebody in a conversation and then drag them through the painful details nobody wanted to hear in the first place… and doesn’t seem to realize people are doing anything they can to escape.
People aren’t going to hire you, spend time with you, or even want to work for you if you have this low of emotional intelligence. I’ve thought about some of my friends and mentors who display high emotional intelligence and noted three main areas to improve my emotional intelligence, the “Three A’s: Awareness, Adjustment and Acceptance”.
In my example of a really low emotionally intelligent individual, she had no idea people ran when she turned their direction. You have to be aware of how you’re viewed in situations. Are you coming off as arrogant and rude, or kind and friendly? Are people interested in what you’re saying, or are they just too nice to walk away?
To get more aware of yourself, start to take a more “outside in” approach and think about how other people see you. One of the biggest challenges with awareness is your particular situation is always changing. Even if you’re talking to two people in one conversation, each will have their own feelings of the situation. However, the first step is just to start thinking about it.
After you become of aware of how you are seen, make adjustments accordingly. If you’re the person who talks all of the time, take one of Mr. Carnegie’s tips and be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves. There’s no better way to drive a conversation than to get someone talking about something they’re interested in.
You can also try the name and notes approach, which always make a great start to a conversation because people are surprised you’ve actually remembered them and will quickly warm up to you.
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. There’s some things we know about ourselves that we might not be able to change or don’t want to change. Conversely, there’s things about other people we’ll never be able to change. Some of my friends call me “Direct Dan” because I’ve been known to skip over the light talk to get straight to a point and it comes across a little harsh. I’m aware of this and many times I don’t control it fast enough as the directness escapes my lips, but it also helped define me in my career and allowed me to be a better leader and boss.
Working on your emotional intelligence can be a fun thing, but as mentioned earlier, it’s also vitally important to your career and life. We have another good friend (I know, surprising I have 2+ friends) who’s also highly emotionally intelligent. He’s one of those guys who can fit in any situation you throw him in, and he’ll adapt beautifully. A perfect example is a relationship he’s developed with the Marley’s (yes, as in Bob Marley’s family) through work. Whenever they come to town, they always give him a call because the trust they have in him that’s developed from his great work but also his high emotional intelligence. A call from the Marley’s will more than likely always result in fun.
What examples do you see that makes someone high or low emotionally intelligent?
p.s. I thought this picture would be fun to share because it’s from a work event, and I’m not a dirty hippie like I am now… and it maybe I’m either really emotionally intelligent in it, really cheesy, or just having fun 🙂