On self-awareness

Q: You’ve described self-awareness as one of the most important facets of EQ. How can people develop greater self-awareness?

A: Self-awareness means the ability to monitor our inner world – our thoughts and feelings.  Mindfulness is one method for enhancing this essential capacity – it trains our attention to notice subtle, but important signals, and to see thoughts as they arise rather than just being swept away by them.  Google University has built a course on this – one of its creators, Mirabai Bush has an instructional audio I recommend, Working with Mindfulness»

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Social skills and EQ

Q: Having good social skills is another component of EQ, but does that mean people who are shy or introverted don’t have as high an EQ? Again, how can one improve social skills?

Social competence takes many forms – it’s more than just being chatty. These abilities range from being able to tune into another person’s feelings and understand how they think about things, to being a great collaborator and team player, to expertise at negotiation. All these skills are learned in life. We can improve on any of them we care about, but it takes time, effort, and perseverance. It helps to have a model, someone who embodies the skill we want to improve.»

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EQ in the workplace

Q: There seems to be an growing interest in emotional intelligence, especially the workplace – why do you think this is (i.e., what exactly is EQ and how can it improve your success in life)?

A: The interest in emotional intelligence in the workplace stems from the  widespread recognition that these abilities – self-awareness, self-management, empathy and social skill – separate the most successful workers and leaders from the average. This is especially true in roles like the professions and higher level executives, where everyone is about as smart as everyone else, and how people manage themselves and their relationships gives the best and edge.»

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Emotions in the workplace

Q:  Historically, leaders in many organizations discouraged emotionality in the workplace. Why is EI an important quality for leaders (and employees)?

A: Emotional intelligence does not mean being emotional – letting it all out. Quite the contrary – it means being skillful in the emotional and social realm. With neuroscience finding that emotions are contagious, and that they flow from the more powerful person outward, leaders are on the spot: your emotional state is contagious, for better or for worse.


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Emotional intelligence and customer care

Q:  Today, more than ever, creating an extraordinary customer experience is critical for an organization’s survival. Can you address how EI plays a pivotal role in the area of customer care?

A: Because emotions are contagious, how your employees interact with your customers determines how the customer will feel about your company.  You want your employees to be using their emotional intelligence to get and stay in an upbeat, empathic space, and to relate to your customers from that state. In Working With Emotional Intelligence I reviewed data from the hospitality industry showing that the most effective employees were adept at emotional intelligence competencies like emotional self-management (curbing negative feelings and encouraging motivation and engagement), empathy (which allows them to sense how others feel, and so be more effective communicators), and collaboration (so they work seamlessly as team members).»

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Technology and SEL

Q: In the digital age, students are making connections both socially and emotionally through technology. Are there opportunities for schools to use technology to help improve their students’ EI and if so, what specific tech tools do you think would work best to accomplish this—apps, mobile devices, laptops, Web sites, social networks, computer games, etc.?

I’ve never seen a computer-based SEL lesson, though they may exist (and I’d love to know about it, if so). While these skills are traditionally learned in the thick of life, there is no reason this learning could not be complemented by tech-based lessons, particularly in vivid simulations of learning opportunities (like trying to work out a disagreement, say).»

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Meditation: where to begin

Q: With the aim of becoming more aware of my actions and understanding underlying emotions, I want to learn how to meditate. I was wondering what type of meditation you recommend I begin to practice and where is the best place where I can go to learn.

A: Meditation is an excellent way to enhance emotional intelligence skills, especially self-awareness. There are many effective methods. Meditation was developed within the framework of religions; every major world religion has its meditation methods. I surveyed meditation paths in my first book, The Meditative Mind, recently released in a digital version. But now these meditation practices have been taken out of the religious context and their benefits made available to anyone, regardless of religious beliefs.»

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The emotionally intelligent salesman

Q: Do you plan to write about sales, a methodology? There are lots of books on the topic but none with your perspective. What does an emotionally intelligent sales person look like?

A: Effectiveness at sales certainly reflect emotional intelligence strengths in empathy (especially understanding your customer’s needs), relationship-building, and influence. I’ve described this in my book Working With Emotional Intelligence,  and go into those EI competencies in my new book, Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence.  When it comes to sales the difference in types of empathy matter.  Cognitive empathy lets us understand how a person thinks, and so lets us talk in ways they understand – but this can become manipulation, especially in high-pressure sales tactics. »

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The feedback loop

Q: What are the advantages of 360 degree feedback?

A: 360 degree feedback works best if you ask people whose opinions you value and trust to evaluate your emotional  intelligence anonymously – that is, they use a measure they can fill out and give to a neutral third party, who will aggregate the date so you only see averages, rather than the ratings from any one person.  This information is immensely valuable for developing further strengths in EI, because is gives you a view of yourself you can never get on your own. You see yourself as others see you.

Then you can use this feedback to find which aspect of EI you will focus on in your development plan.»

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Kids these days!

Q: It seems many of the younger generation care more about pop culture instead of serious societal manners — some may call it brain dead. Are today’s young people lacking in emotional intelligence?

Older generations have been decrying the loss of seriousness and manners in young people since at least the time of Aristotle, several centuries B.C. Today’s older generations – particularly the Baby Boomers, born in the decade or so after World War II – are a case in point: their parents despaired that this generation would shred cultural norms. Didn’t happen. Like other generations, the Boomers matured, married, had kids and careers.»

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