9 Simple Habits That Will Improve Your Emotional Intelligence - Deepstash
9 Simple Habits That Will Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

9 Simple Habits That Will Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

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9 Simple Habits That Will Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

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We start out with the hardest question on the planet for most people to answer: "Why? "

  • Why do you want that job?
  • Why are you so interested in that reward?
  • Why are you spending your time--your most valuable and limited resource, by the way--on the specific things that consume your day?

We can answer "why" to most things superficially, but that's not enough. The trick that emotionally intelligent people learn is to ask again and again, deeper and deeper.

  • I want the job because I want to make money. (OK, but why?)
  • Well, I need money because I have to maintain this lifestyle. (OK, but why?) )

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We start out with the hardest question on the planet for most people to answer: "Why? "

  • Why do you want that job?
  • Why are you so interested in that reward?
  • Why are you spending your time--your most valuable and limited resource, by the way--on the specific things that consume your day?

We can answer "why" to most things superficially, but that's not enough. The trick that emotionally intelligent people learn is to ask again and again, deeper and deeper.

  • I want the job because I want to make money. (OK, but why?)
  • Well, I need money because I have to maintain this lifestyle. (OK, but why?)
  • If I don't maintain this lifestyle, I'll feel like a failure. (OK, but why?)

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"Don't just stand there," some people say. "Do something!"

But often, that's backward. (Don't just do something. Stand there.)

Learn to wait a minute  (or an hour, or a day) before acting. I promise, there is power in restraint. There is potency in silence.

He or she who pauses before responding to almost any external stimuli -- be it an email, or a message, or an insult, or a complaint, or even an opportunity -- often winds up with the upper hand. 

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For all theemotional baggage  attached to the simple, four-letter word, "quit," in our society, emotionally intelligent people understand that quite often, quitting is the answer.

How can that be? We grow up hearing that quitters never win, and that quitting small things makes it easier to quit bigger things later in life.

Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. But quitting in a vacuum is a morally neutral act; it's the thing one quits, among other factors, that lends its relevance.

But, it takes emotional intelligence and bravery to learn to admit the possibility.

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No matter what you choose, you might actually do the same thing afterward: sit still, look receptive, try to listen.

But the latter language choices inspire openness and the welcoming of an ongoing relationship.

We all have habits we're not even aware of: especially language habits. 

Emotionally intelligent people recognize this, and therefore they work hard to develop language habits with intention -- literally, specific words and phrases -- because they understand that these choices are likely to inspire emotions.

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We say honesty is the best policy; I think that's right. But, it's not just about just honesty toward other people; it's about being honest with yourself.

Here's an example. As a boss, you might smartly make a habit of asking your employees if they have everything they need to be successful. Maybe they tell you they do, and that's comforting to hear.

But, an emotionally intelligent boss might put himself or herself in the employee's shoes, and think of some of the emotional reactions that might go into their response.

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This is the corollary to the second habit, above. Don't just look for your "why." Ask yourself what motivates other people to do the things they do, too.

Often enough, you can come up with a working theory. You might ask more questions to clarify. But often (this is the emotionally intelligent part) you won't share your conclusions.

Why not? Because you're trying to do at least two things at the same time: 

  • Identify other people's emotional motivations; and
  • Avoid triggering additional emotional reactions, which might be counterproductive to the result you seek.

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People often go into conversations without a clear goal in mind, or a clear structure. If they do think about structure, they sometimes do so only in basic terms, by articulating length and goals:

  • By the end of this 20-minute meeting, I hope we can agree on X, Y, and Z.
  • Let's take a minute to talk about where we want to go to dinner tonight.
  • Can we clear the air briefly? I hope I didn't offend you with my comment the other day.

Honestly, these are good starts. But, truly emotionally intelligent people recognize that there are other structural dimensions to conversations.

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We could write an entire book simply on learning this particular habit. I may just do so. But for now, let's focus on just one easy example: the rule of three .

In short, we're hard-wired to respond better, and remember things more easily, if they're grouped in threes. So, wherever possible, emotionally intelligent people try to make their three points at a time.

This is why the late Steve Jobs organized almost every product unveiling (the original Macintosh, the iPod, the iPhone, etc. ) with a 3-point structure.

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Every conversation is made up of many smaller conversations, and people with high emotional intelligence understand that there's a sense of momentum that can ebb or flow as you proceed.

That's why it can be so useful to structure conversations so that you pile up agreements and understandings along the way--leading to even bigger and better understandings.

One way to learn to do that sometimes is to be strategically vulnerable.I've written before about one of the most controversial manifestations of this (but one I believe is accurate): the use of vocal uptick, or high rising terminal.

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I'm sure you can envision this: Their voice trends upward during the course of a sentence? So that even though they're making a statement, it sounds like a question? And it's been stereotypically associated with younger people, and perhaps with women?

While I think this habit requires care and calibration, it comes from a place of high emotional intelligence. There's an astute recognition that someone has less power in a conversation. So, he or she has to guide others through their points, chalking off small points of agreements and understandings along the way.

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I'm sure you can envision this: Their voice trends upward during the course of a sentence? So that even though they're making a statement, it sounds like a question? And it's been stereotypically associated with younger people, and perhaps with women?

While I think this habit requires care and calibration, it comes from a place of high emotional intelligence. There's an astute recognition that someone has less power in a conversation (a junior employee, for example). So, he or she has to guide others through their points, chalking off small points of agreements and understandings along the way.

In a difficult conversation, for example, perhaps you can learn to structure what you're saying so that the emotional undercurrent becomes, "we all face this common problem sometimes, let's solve it ," as opposed to, "you did something wrong and you need to fix it ."

  • "I wonder if you might have forgotten about our meeting Monday? I've done this a few times myself; I know it's tough to start the week that way."
  • "You promised you'd be there Monday, and you skipped it. What gives?"

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We started with the hardest lesson to learn (asking "why" over and over), so let's end on the easiest: Emotionally intelligent people will go out of their way to find something they can express gratitude for, toward the end of every conversation.

Even better: Learn to express thanks for something you know the other side will agree with, rather than something that might trigger an undesired emotional reaction. 

  • easy examples: "Thank you for meeting with me today," "Thank you for taking the time to talk."
  • Tougher one: "Thanks for understanding," "Thank you for coming around to my way of thinking."

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The point here is to leave people feeling good about your gratitude; rather than bothered by disagreement.

"People will forget what you said," someone once said (I think it was Maya Angelou, but there's some controversy. "People will forget what you did. But, people will never forget how you made them feel."

In that spirit, allow me to end on gratitude.

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In a difficult conversation, for example, perhaps you can learn to structure what you're saying so that the emotional undercurrent becomes, "we all face this common problem sometimes, let's solve it ," as opposed to, "you did something wrong and you need to fix it ."

"I wonder if you might have forgotten about our meeting Monday? I've done this a few times myself; I know it's tough to start the week that way."

"You promised you'd be there Monday, and you skipped it. What gives?"

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