There are many notions conjured up by the term coined by Daniel Goleman in his seminal book “Emotional Intelligence“, particularly compassion, understanding, and even, love; however, for most of us, EQ is predominantly something that we feel rather than something we are aware of doing. It is subtle and yet we are comfortable when it is being demonstrated and uncomfortable when it needs to be improved.

Nevertheless, there are ways to improve one’s empathy without being manipulative, and it’s simple when you use David Brent, and his monolithic faux pas. I am sure you can think of your own examples of inadequate emotional intelligence from both work and family.

Nevertheless, to improve and develop emotional intelligence a simple model can be rapidly applied:

Happy and Sad

People express a form of delight when they have their needs met and express a form of discontent/hurt/sad when their needs are not met.

The ability to identify how others feel is crucial to both a harmonious and productive professional and personal life, because, for many of us, things may not always be what they seem; however, they are always how they feel.

Helping others, and yourself, identify the state of what you’re feeling and what the causal need is that is being met or being missed will accelerate improving your emotional intelligence in the shortest time.

In America work and school culture encourage us to be goal oriented and competitive at all costs, therefore, reading the other person’s feelings is secondary to the goal. Life in Asia, Africa, and even Europe children are taught to modify their goals according to how other people around feel about it. However, here we are taught to plow on through irrespective of those around us, instead it’s only reaching the goal that’s important. The process and productivity are more important than the person or people. This approach leaves room for improvement.

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The next step is to realize and identify that people are always, and all times, exercising the best strategy they can come up with to have their needs met.

Anytime someone’s behavior is upsetting or unsettling, simply ask yourself – this appears to be the best strategy “Brad” can come up right now to have their need met, how must they be feeling to reach this? What would he be feeling if he’s already having that need met, or, alternatively, not having it met? When this is clearly the nature of the upset can be uncovered, what is underlying their behavior, whether it is a people problem or a money problem (I talk more about this distinction in my book).

This is an approach that’s been very effective in the rough and tumble of corporate boardrooms, conferences rooms, and, perhaps, most importantly, living rooms.

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1. Goleman, D., (1995) Emotional Intelligence, New York, NY, England: Bantam Books, Inc.

Remember, this isn’t psychiatric or medical advice, its just my insights.