by Steve Adubato, PhD
A lot of people think the smarter you are or the higher your IQ is, the more effectively you communicate. Not true. The correlation between intellect and connecting with others, particularly at work or at home, isn’t very high. In fact sometimes, believing that you are the smartest person in the room gets in the way of communicating effectively.
But what about emotional intelligence, otherwise known as EQ, a concept developed by Dr. Daniel Goleman, author of the book, “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.” Goleman argues that someone’s EQ is a much better indicator of their ability to influence, persuade and connect with others, which ultimately is all about communication. But what does EQ really mean, and how can you find out what yours is and how you can improve it?
- One of the biggest keys to EQ is self-awareness. Goleman says the more you understand your strengths and weaknesses, the better leader you will be. He says self awareness is an important part of how leaders make decisions and how they are able to reach into themselves and “speak from the heart.” He also says it helps in molding people, in motivating and in finding and articulating a shared mission that will resonate with people.
- EQ is also about managing your moods. Goleman argues that keeping calm, no matter how you feel inside, is critically important to the messages you communicate to those around you. While passion is essential to persuasive communication, passion is not the same as the “toxic emotions” that Goleman says will poison the workplace or your home life. Further, keeping calm helps any professional become a more effective listener who attempts to understand other points of view, even if they contradict your view of the world.
- Managing toxic emotions also fosters more open communication allowing others to deliver bad news to a leader who needs to know. Those without this EQ trait are often surrounded by people who are afraid to tell them the truth.
- Those with high EQ are also good at reading the cues communicated by those around them, keenly aware of the subtle messages or the “micromotions” Goleman says help us understand what our audience is really feeling. EQ means being more audience-centered. It means being aware of and sensitive to others consistently glancing away or fidgeting with items on their desk while you attempt to communicate with them. Great communicators with high EQ do what is necessary to pull their audience back, either by changing their vocal pattern, leaning forward or more assertively making eye contact.
- Goleman argues that you can actually teach empathy, another cornerstone of EQ. But how exactly do you get people to care about others? One key is to ask yourself what kind of communication has the greatest positive and negative impact on you and use that information in your dealings with others. If you feel you did a great job on a project at work and no one recognizes it, you feel de-motivated. We need to teach the golden rule of treating others the way that you would want to be treated. From a practical point of view, EQ means trying to imagine what it is like being in the other person’s shoes and proactively communicating appreciation for a job well done, compassion for someone in pain and patience for colleagues and others who are struggling.
With 10 being the best and 1 being the worst, how would you rate your EQ and what specific action could you take to increase your score and in turn improve your communication.