The idea of Emotional Intelligence has been popping up recently in my readings.
The concept is simple in that it’s the ability to recognize one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others.
As I look at myself I see that I can be very much selfish in life. I’ve always thought that I’ve paid pretty good attention to others. I’ve considered myself to be a good friend in many ways, but over the years I’ve come to recognize some selfish tendencies.
And it seems to come back to emotional intelligence. It comes back to understanding my own emotions and understanding the emotions of others.
If you want to be an effective leader it’s important to understand emotions. There is evidence to suggest strong correlation with successful leadership and high emotional intelligence.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone, even someone very close to you, where you’re telling them something and it seems like they’re just waiting for you to shut up so they can tell you their own story?
I’m guessing it’s happened to you just as it’s probably happened to many of us. I’ve started seeing it more and more in my life and it’s got me thinking about my own listening skills. It has me thinking if I make people feel that way when having conversations.
The art of good listening is putting yourself aside and giving attention to understanding what the other person is trying to communicate to you.
Obviously you’re going to have thoughts that pop into your head that will distract you. The key is doing the best you can to put those thoughts aside. You acknowledge that they’re in your head and then you kind of put them aside or let them pass and focus back on the present and what the other person is telling you.
And if you do miss something it’s okay to stop the person and have them backup for a second. Tell them that you missed something or that you want to make sure you’re understanding.
Something that has seemed to work for me is to ask more questions and give very few statements when having conversations.
Asking questions is both for my own understanding, but also to show the other person that I’m listening, that they’re important to me and that they have my full attention.
Obviously there comes a time in the conversation when the other person will expect you to provide some of your own thoughts. This is where you can provide some of your experiences. Maybe tell a story.
But in general, a good rule of thumb would be to ask questions. Don’t provide unsolicited advice. Help the person work through what they’re telling you instead of giving your two cents.
You’re Not That Interesting
Another aspect of emotional intelligence is understanding yourself.
Something I’ve really learned is that I’m not really all that interesting. I can start telling someone close to me about my day in the office or about something I did and their eyes will glaze over.
Then I started paying attention to myself when others will tell me those things and I could see that I reacted the same way. My eyes would glaze over and my mind would drift when someone was telling me a story.
I think the truth is that we’re really just not as interesting as we think we are. George Carlin, one of the best people of all time, said it best when he said that people are boring. If you click through to that video I’ll let you know that’s it’s NSFW. Maybe that’s obvious if you know George Carlin.
Listening to that bit always makes me laugh. I think it makes me laugh because I’ve been on both sides of conversations like that. And it’s made me think that people really don’t want to hear the boring stuff of my life. It’s fine that’s it’s important to me, but others don’t really care one bit about it.
And that’s fine.
Maybe that’s part of understanding your own emotions and those of others, but it goes a little deeper too.
What People Are Really Telling You
The other trick of emotional intelligence…or maybe it’s not a trick, but what you need to figure out. It’s about figuring out what people are really telling you.
In a recent post, Ramit Sethi said that people rarely take advice. The reason is that they often express concern for something, but aren’t 100% serious about making a change.
Ramit has found that many times people are just looking to vent or complain. They’re also looking for validation of what they’re doing.
Most of the time when people come to you to talk they’re looking to complain or they’re looking for validation of some kind. They want to know that you still care about them and what’s going on with their lives. They’re looking to you, a trusted friend or colleague to validate that what they’re doing is the right thing.
Once you realize this I think you become a better listening. And you become a person that others want to talk to and that will look to you for leadership. I’m not saying that you are manipulating the conversation or the people in anyway.
You’re simply learning to better understand their emotions. You can see that most times they’re not looking for you to jump in with judgment and advice. They’re looking for understanding, compassion and validation. All they want is an ear. They want to still figure things out on their own and they just need someone to help guide them on that journey and not tell them how to get there.
Oddly enough, it seems to have been easier for me to understand the emotions of others than it has been to understand my own emotions. I’m not saying I’m an expert at understanding others, but it’s surprisingly difficult to figure out how you’re feeling.
I’ll catchy myself in a bad mood, let’s say. And I’ll just kind of let that wallow for awhile. It affects those around me and I don’t even really seem to care. I know that it’s going to happen sometimes, but I think there are ways to control it better. Maybe it comes down to recognizing the moods I’m in and figuring out why I’m feeling that way. Just knowing why you feel a certain way seems to be a key to understanding your own emotions.
Hopefully this has been a bit helpful in how you understand yourself and others. I think it’s an important topic if you’re in a leadership role. Many of us so want others to act a certain way. We want others to change, but are unwilling to change ourselves. I know I’ve been guilty of that in the past.
But I’m working to change that and so far I think there have been positive results.