In part one of emotional intelligence, we took a close look at ourselves. We asked, what causes us to react? And why do react in such ways? But that’s just half of what makes someone emotionally intelligent. Part two asks us to focus externally and understand the behaviors and reactions of others.

Making personal connections is a two-way street. And part of that street includes empathy and the ability to read others. While some people are naturally better at empathizing, it doesn’t mean that these skills can’t be taught.

If you’d like to connect better with customers and employees, you have to put yourself in their shoes, learn what their pain points are, and what they care about most. To do so, requires a little bit of emotional intelligence, beginning with social awareness.

Developing Social Awareness

When you think of emotional intelligence, social awareness often comes to mind, particularly, the word empathy. Empathizing is a critical skill of emotional intelligence, but it’s not just about comprehending people’s needs and concerns. It’s also about thinking through their motivations and the politics surrounding them.

Empathy

Empathy helps develop trust. Without it, you can alienate employees and drive away customers. If you don’t take the time to understand people, how can you be a successful leader or operate a successful business?

Empathy involves:

  • Listening
  • Reading body language
  • Responding appropriately

The first part of empathy necessitates that you actually pay attention to others. While it sounds simple enough, giving someone a few minutes of undivided attention has become increasingly difficult in today’s world.

Active listening takes practice and discipline. If you have a hair-trigger response every time your phone beeps with a text or your computer pings with a new email, this might be a challenge. All you need is to temporarily remove those distractions and be present. So if a customer calls while you’re at your desk, minimize your tabs, close your door, or put headphones on to drown out distractions.

People can tell when you’re not listening. And when they can tell you’re distracted, they often don’t feel important. When your customers don’t feel important, they won’t stick around for long, and neither will your employees.

While listening is a big part of empathizing, it’s not always what people say that matters. It’s what their body says too.

Body language

You communicate more through body language than through your words. Body language can tell us when someone is feeling uncomfortable, angry, and standoffish.

Like active listening, you may need practice in reading body language and observing others. Pay particular attention when someone’s words don’t match their actions. When this happens, it’s an opportunity for you to open up and ask questions. Even then, someone may not feel comfortable enough or want to share. That’s okay. Just having them know you care will begin to build trust.

Responding appropriately

Opening up and asking questions may or may not be the best way to respond in every situation. Sometimes it’s just about saying, “I hear you”. Validate your customers and then let them know what happens next.

For some, knowing they’ve been heard is enough. For others, they need concrete steps to know what you’re going to do to make the relationship better. You can give them power in the situation too by asking what they’d like to see happen next. Making it a collaborative effort lets them know you care and builds trust.

Becoming more in tune with your surroundings (i.e. being more emotionally intelligent) forces you to acknowledge that others have different life experiences. When you take the time to listen and observe your customers and employees, you can gain insight into their needs, emotions, and motivations.

But you need to be motivated enough and care enough to want to understand people. You have to want to successfully manage relationships.

Successfully Managing Relationships

Managing relationships covers all the skills we’ve learned thus far: self-awareness, self-regulation, and social awareness. Again, developing these skills take time, but they will help you forge stronger relationships.

Communication

To better manage relationships, your communication is key. It’s a building block of trust, which, in turn, lays the foundation for deeper personal connections.

If you want to communicate better, start by listening, being transparent, following up, and tailoring your communication for different audiences. Developing your communication skills also helps you become better at conflict resolution and at inspiring others.

Conflict resolution

Differences of opinion arise all the time in business. As good as it feels to prove you’re right, sometimes biting your tongue and acknowledging someone feels differently is the right thing to do. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but let them voice their opinions and try to resolve those differences successfully.

If you can come out the other end with a win-win, that’s great. But sometimes, the best and most mature solution is to say goodbye.

Knowing how to work with others, resolve conflicts, and navigate relationships is hard work, but it can be extremely rewarding. It’s especially rewarding when that hard work has inspired others.

Inspiring Others

Being a good leader means raising other leaders. To do so calls for a great deal of emotional intelligence and involves lifting up others, inspiring them, and moving them to action.

As we discussed in part one, this should be an altruistic endeavor. People will feel inspired only after you’ve developed trust. The danger is that not everyone has good intentions. Master manipulators can be amazing inspirers too.

That’s where we come full-circle with emotional intelligence. We need to recognize when we are using our new-found skills for selfish reasons and be able to see when others are doing the same. Used appropriately and for the right reasons, emotional intelligence can help us build better connections with our customers and our employees.

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