I was reading the Evening Standard last week when my eye was immediately drawn to the headline saying, “Research proves that emotionally intelligent people are more likely to be successful.” As CEO of a commercial training and coaching company that uses emotional intelligence as the basis of all our training programmes, I understand better than most, the important role EQ plays in building meaningful relationships that help you stay ahead of the game and deliver real commercial results.
As Dr. Martyn Newman, explains in his book “Emotional Capitalists”, EQ is “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” People often interpret this to mean you need to “be nice” to get ahead, but this is to confuse sympathy with empathy. Sympathy, suggests you feel sorry for the other party, whereas empathy is about understanding the other party’s point of view.
It is this ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes that enables you to build strong relationships based on shared experiences and trust. The great news is that EQ, just like selling, negotiation and other commercial life skills, can be developed over time. So here are 3 steps to help you boost your empathy levels:
1. Be curious
People with high levels of empathy are genuinely curious about other people. So take the time to find out what makes the other party tick. A great way to do this is to ask clever questions that will give you greater insight into what’s important to them. Try to reserve judgment; your aim should be to get a deeper understanding of their perspective. This will help make the other party feel valued. Remember people buy people – so you need to create a balanced relationship by treating the people you interact with as equals.
2. Listen attentively
This may sound obvious but to be empathetic you need to listen carefully to the other person. In reality this can be easier said than done. There are three levels of listening; superficial listening -when you’re only pretending to hear what the other person is saying; selective listening – when you’re only hearing the things you want to hear and attentive listening which requires drawing on all of your EQ skills to listen live in the moment. Listening attentively takes real effort and concentration to read the other party’s body language and tone of voice so you can understand the true meaning behind their words.
3. Make a connection
Empathy is described by Dr. Martyn Newman as “the emotional glue that creates interpersonal connection.” You therefore need to build on the information you have gathered by asking the right questions and listening attentively to the answers to establish any common ground. This will help you create a balanced relationship based on trust, loyalty and shared experiences.
Finally, it’s important to bear in mind that people like doing business with people they like. As with any relationship – both parties are in it for what they can get out of it. So it’s crucial to create wins for the other side. By harnessing your EQ to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and showing them that you value their perspective, you are more likely to build trust and achieve a win-win situation.