Build Your Emotional Intelligence Muscle!

Build Your Emotional Intelligence Muscles!

Emotional Intelligence skills–understanding and managing your own emotions, recognizing others’ emotions, interacting successfully with other people, and building resilience–can all be improved.

Like any skill–developing a great golf swing, sketching a decent portrait, adding a killer serve to your tennis game, or learning to read Mandarin Chinese–learning Emotional Intelligence skills takes time, practice, and motivation.

Now you can learn and practice the Emotional Intelligence skills that will result in your greater success, satisfaction, and well-being.  The self-directed, online course, EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE 101, available anytime, anywhere at your convenience, helps you build your “Emotional Intelligence muscles” through engaging text, photos, videos, reflections, and exercises including more than 40 practical suggestions for building Emotional Intelligence skills.

You CAN build your Emotional Intelligence skills.  Learn more at  Discounts available for teams/groups of 8 or more.

Seven Ways to Increase Your Influence

Are you the kind of person that other people listen to in group meetings?  Do you find that your ideas are picked up and accepted or built upon by others on your team?  Does it happen often that after you have contributed an idea that someone says, “Great idea!  I’d like to see us do that!” ?
Or do you sit in meetings feeling frustrated because no one seems to acknowledge or understand what you have suggested?  Has it ever happened that your contribution was ignored but someone else later put forth the same idea with some slight alteration, and you got no credit for having the idea in the first place?   Does it often happen that someone says in reply to your idea, “We’ve already tried that, and it didn’t work” or simply ignored what you said and went on to something else? 
Knowing how to influence others is a necessary skill for managers and leaders.  Influence is not manipulation, and it is not “phony.”    Influence is the ability to communicate the vision or concept in your mind in such a way that your audience will be receptive to hearing it, give it adequate consideration, and make up their own minds about the idea—perhaps modifying the idea as they brainstorm about it. 
So what can you do to enhance your influence and see your ideas given due consideration?  
1.       Be aware of your audience—others on your team or committee.  Anticipate what the reaction—and possible objections—might be to your idea.   If there is someone who you think will have a negative reaction, visit with that person before the meeting to talk one-on-one. 
2.       Be clear about your intended outcome.  Ask yourself what you really want to convey and what you want the group to do in response.  Is it necessary that they agree with everything you say—or that they take the idea seriously enough to discuss it further?  
3.       Time your contribution.  If you are going into a meeting that already has an agenda as long as your arm, chances are it is not a good time to bring up a new idea.  On the other hand, if the group seems to be looking for a solution to a particular problem, and you have a reasonable idea to resolve it, you will have a better chance of being heard.
4.       Listen and collaborate.  Listening carefully to the concerns of others means that you cannot just be thinking and waiting to pounce with your own idea.  Instead, as you listen, ask if your idea might address any of those concerns.  Or can you add to someone else’s idea—first giving them credit for that idea—and then building your concept on to it?
5.       Become more self-aware.  Try stepping outside yourself a bit at the next meeting you attend.  Watch yourself speaking to the group, and observe the reactions of others.  Who do you make eye contact with?  Who do you avoid looking at?  Who seems to be listening?  Who seems distracted or hostile?  If you cannot be an objective observer of yourself, find a trusted friend who can give you feedback.
6.       Observe a skilled influencer.  Who is the person that everyone seems to listen to at meetings?  Observe how this person introduces a new topic or builds upon one that is already on the table.  How does he or she appeal to group members?  How does he or she acknowledge the ideas of others and perhaps build upon them?
7.       Try a little empathy.   Different personality types take in information in different ways and at different rates.  Some people need time for reflection before making a decision one way or another; others will be impulsive and take on a new idea without much thought.  Some want only logic and objectivity in the ideas presented;  others will need a more personal touch with attention paid to how an idea will affect the people involved. 

For Leaders: Sixteen Way to Develop Empathy

Empathy, one of the competencies of emotional intelligence, is defined as the ability to be aware of, to understand and to appreciate the feelings and thoughts of others.  We expect family and friends to empathize as they listen to us.  We pay therapists to skillfully listen with empathy.  What should we expect of our leaders?  
As a quality of leadership, empathy is critical to success.  Empathy may, indeed, prove to be the most significant skill of leadership. Try this experiment: 
Think about the leader you most admire. Describe what you admire about him or her.  Does the following description fit that individual?
People for whom empathy is a strength will generally interact well with others one-on-one, and they also work effectively in cooperative efforts.  They will probably avoid hurting others’ feelings. 
And does the following describe those leaders whom you do not so much admire? 
People who are low in empathy often have difficulty understanding what others are feeling and thinking, and in giving due consideration to those feelings and thoughts.  As a result, these leaders are often involved in misunderstandings and strained relationships. 
Of course most leaders probably fall somewhere in the middle of the curve in their ability to empathize.  But what is it that makes some more willing than others to “walk in another’s moccasins” and allow the feelings and thoughts of others to affect them and the decisions they make? 
Why do some leaders tend toward empathy, toward understanding others’ feelings and acting in a way that takes those feelings into account?  Why do other leaders tend to be oblivious to what others are feeling and thinking?  The answers to these questions are not simple, and both nature and nurture surely play a role.  In developing as a leader, it is more important for you to know that empathy, like other emotional intelligence competencies, can be learned
Typically, if you are a generally emotionally stable person, your empathy has been increasing as you have grown older.  If you reflect on your life, you will probably realize that your experiences, whether in “real life” or in reading about others, of new situations and of people who are different than you—in age, in gender, in skin color, in ability, in sexual orientation, in religious beliefs, in nationality—have increased your store of empathy.  Once you can put an individual human face on one of these “differences,” your empathy expands. 
But there is more you can actually choose to do, actions you can take to increase your empathy and your ability to connect with colleagues, with bosses, and with those you supervise.  Working with a coach, attending workshops, or doing some reading on your own are all ways to increase your own empathy.  Here is just a brief list of possibilities.
§  Make a habit of expressing your appreciation of others every day
§  Ask yourself, “What is this person feeling?” especially in those sticky situations
§  Be true to your promises to others
§  Become aware of the impact you have on others (keep a log!)
§  Identify and support a project that provides service to others who are in need
§  Learn to listen by reflecting thoughts and feelings back to others
§  Read widely to include perspectives of others who live or have lived lives very different from yours
§  Ask gentle questions:  What can I do for you?  What do you need?
§  Become an observer of how people express their feelings—including body language and other non-verbal communication
§  Build a work culture that is emotionally safe and friendly
§  Ask for feedback about your behavior, decisions, and words (perhaps through a 360 degree feedback instrument)
§  Attempt to see a tough situation from another’s perspective
§  Develop a sincere interest in other people by asking yourself what they have to teach you
§  Be willing to share your passions and interests with others
§  Don’t be afraid to express what you think, what you feel, what you need
§  Take an EQ assessment to learn more about your own ability to empathize