Communicating with Emotional Intelligence: It Works Like MAGIC®
By Martha Mendoza
Have you ever been in a situation where just when it mattered most you displayed your worst behavior? A caller got abusive; a boss micro managed; a spouse criticized. You intended to stay calm and respond professionally and rationally, but what came out of your mouth: attitude.
Emotions get involved in difficult discussions. Rather than staying calm and thinking of the best way to handle the situation, we are genetically programmed to freeze, fight or flee. Only through applying an intelligent approach to controlling emotions can you use them to transform difficult situations into MAGIC moments and strengthen relationships.
Using your emotions in a positive way is called emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ was first coined by Peter Salovey and John Mayer in 1990 as, "the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth." Applying your EQ to your daily situations will have a positive impact on your relationships and success with customers.
What's your EQ?
Unlike IQ, EQ can be learned and expanded upon with practice and vigilance. To boost your emotional intelligence, make a conscious effort to become more aware of your surroundings. Begin by:
- Identifying emotions in yourself and in others: During conversations, ask yourself, “What is this person feeling? What am I feeling?” Once you are able to identify feelings, you are better prepared to take positive action and be constructive.
- Generating emotions in others and/or in yourself: Ask yourself, “What feeling can I encourage or remove, in myself or in others, to help solve this problem?”
- Understanding the cause of emotions: Ask yourself, “Where are these emotions coming from in this other person? Where are my emotions coming from? Why does this person feel so strongly?” Those who do not know the source of a feeling tend to blame others for their reactions. Positive communication requires understanding emotions.
- Selecting strategies that result in positive outcomes: Ask yourself, “What strategy would help result in a positive outcome? How can I display support? Use empathy? Show anger? Can I generate a new emotion within myself?” The possibilities are endless.
This may seem like a lot to think about while you are trying to do your job. Without knowing it, you probably already use some of these abilities naturally. Perhaps you are good at identifying emotions in others, but not in yourself. Perhaps you know how to talk yourself out of a bad mood, but can't seem to influence others to cooperate or listen. The secret is to be relentless in putting on your EQ hat. In others words, practice, practice, practice.
EQ in Action
Here's an example of how I have applied EQ in my everyday life:
I was approached by a musician in my orchestra class. She was having a problem with the musician moving around in his seat next to her while playing his instrument. Her natural inclination was to tell him to "stop it!" However, she realized this would probably cause him to react defensively, and that this would not solve the problem.
Enter emotional intelligence: we identified the feeling in her – annoyed. We identified the feeling in her neighbor – impassioned by the music. We then talked about the consequence of her feelings – had they begun to interfere with her own playing? Why was this annoying to her? Was it just her, or were others feeling annoyed too? Was it a situation that had reached a point where they simply had to talk to resolve it?
By answering these questions, she discovered the situation had to be resolved and the only way to do it, would be to confront her neighbor. In preparation for the discussion we mapped out a script to help her resolve the issue.
- 1. Fact: “Hey, Chuck, you may not know it, but when we were in rehearsal today, and yesterday as well, you got really into the music and began moving around in your seat. You were rocking back and forth and even lifting off your seat once or twice.”
- State observable and recent facts. Be specific. Do not be general by saying, "you always move around.” Avoid using emotional words, for example, "you always move around so violently."
- 2. Feeling: “When that happens, I feel distracted.”
- State your feelings in a way that you own them. This takes some thinking time on your part to identify exactly what it is you are feeling and which feeling word will best reach the person you are talking to. For example, it would not be helpful to say, "You annoy me."
- 3. Positive Hope: “I was hoping that I could concentrate on playing my best.”
- When stating your positive hope, notice this too is something you own. For example, avoid saying, "I was hoping you could stop it." This will most likely provoke the person and cause an undesired, defensive response.
- 4. Request: “…so, would it be OK if I could tap you on the shoulder the next time this happens so that we can all concentrate on playing?”
- Make a request that is do-able on the part of the listener. It would not be realistic to say to him, "could you just stop doing that?" He may not be aware of what he's doing.
EQ can be applied to any discussion or conflict you are facing, be it with a friend, co-worker, or customer. By practicing and honing your EQ in all facets of your life, emotionally intelligent communication will become a natural instinct. Instead of reacting defensively, you will remain calm and poised when it matters most. And you'll resolve conflicts and deepen relationships with a touch of MAGIC.
Martha Mendoza is a training consultant certified in MAGIC and in EQ assessment and coaching. She writes a blog that focuses on EQ called Create Stronger Connections.