Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is a hot topic in this day and age. You can hardly get online, read a paper, or watch a TED talk without hearing something about EQ and what a good thing it is for all of us to strengthen ours. EQ is a critically important driver in the quality of relationships within families, and as family advisors, we are excited about the extra focus on this important topic.
What has been known for some time is that Emotional Intelligence represents another ‘set of abilities’ beyond IQ (or Intelligence Quotient) that drive success in life. For example, the Carnegie Institute of Technology conducted research showing that 85% of people’s financial success is largely due to skills in “human engineering,” personality, and communication, including the abilities to negotiate and lead. Similarly, Daniel Goleman, the architect of Emotional Intelligence, stresses that while “IQ predicts, at most, 20% of successes, about 70% of successes can be predicted by examining “another set of abilities” in order to judge whether an individual will be successful (i.e., emotional intelligence).
Unlike IQ (which is largely unchangeable), it was thought that EQ could be improved with practice and patience. Much of the changing landscape around EQ is due to advances in neuroscience which is now proving that through a process called neuroplasticity, we can indeed improve our EQ. We now know that if we change our behavior into different patterns of habitual behaviors, our brain will change its pathways to then support the new behaviors, or as the neuroscientists say, ‘what fires together wires together,’ meaning the more you practice behaviors, the stronger that circuit becomes. This is a breakthrough, and of course, this is why more and more is being written and understood about EQ.
So, what is Emotional Intelligence and why is it particularly important to the field of Family Advising?
There is plenty of research about EQ helping people in business and at home—in relationships—because we are ALL in relationship ALL the time. Emotional intelligence is an important gateway to building and maintaining strong relationships with others. As advisors of Galliard Family Business Advising Institute, much of what we do is steeped in relationship with our clients. How we ‘are’ when engaging with our clients models behaviors and skills that will create trust and cohesion in their families.
So, as a review, Emotional Intelligence, simply put, is the way we recognize and manage emotions in ourselves and others. The four commonly recognized components of emotional intelligence are:
- Social Awareness/Empathy
- Relationship Management
EQ is also useful in being resilient, especially under stress. As advisors we are valuable assets to families in business. We provide independent perspective, act as sounding boards to the family/business, and serve as stabilizing influences in times of crisis. Obviously it is essential for family advisors not to be caught in automatic patterns of their own behavior (i.e. triggers). A critical competency for advisors, then, is Emotional Intelligence.
Let’s look at EQ’s critical components in greater detail:
Self-Awareness is the capability for self-examination, which allows us to be aware of judgments, biases, triggers and emotions that can arise when working with a client. It provides us with more clarity in order to overcome the day to day, see more strategically, seize opportunities, negotiate more effectively, mitigate risks and make decisions that mean something to the people around us – especially our clients. Self-awareness really starts with the idea that we are separate from other people and that we can take responsibility for our own actions and reactions. We have our own intentions, thoughts, wants and feelings and it is important to acknowledge them. We really need to ‘experience’ our emotions—all of them—so pushing down or ignoring emotions doesn’t work.
Self-Regulation is the ability to monitor and control our own behavior, emotions, or thoughts, managing them in accordance with the demands of the situation. The opportunity for self-regulation occurs when we are able to understand and identify some of our emotions, and as a result engage in dialogue with ourselves about how we want to proceed when these emotions arise. For example, just because we feel anger does not mean that we need to allow the anger to take hold and cause us to behave angrily towards another. Our emotional ‘hooks’ or ‘triggers’ are often set up early in life. We don’t always know we are carrying them. Working with families often thrusts us into highly charged and emotional situations. We must be aware that our own ‘triggers’ can become a ‘lens’ that may color our responses and reactions in situations. This simply means if we don’t maintain neutrality and curiosity, we may see injury and insult when none was intended.
Social Awareness/Empathy is how people handle relationships and are aware of others’ feelings, needs, and concerns. It is our ability to relate to others one-on-one, in a system and towards others, not necessarily being gregarious or social. Empathy is not an action, it is an internal experience and does not actually determine whether we will or will not do something. However, it is, a measure of attunement and resonance that does, in fact, require differentiation (or boundaries) from our client’s experience.
- Empathy accuracy might be called a sixth sense because it is most easily described as the ability to ‘get into another person’s head’ and involves accurately identifying what the other person is feeling, thinking, wanting and intending.
- Empathy compassion is the ability to feel another person’s pain or joy and deeply know what it must be like to be them. It implies a strong connection without losing one’s emotional boundaries.
Relationship Management is the skill or adeptness at inducing desirable responses in others. This could arguably be defined as the advisor’s competency since many of these skills have to do with influence, leadership, coaching, communication, relationship building and conflict management. Before we begin to manage relationships, we need to notice and manage the impact people have on us as well as be aware of what they are feeling and how we may have contributed to that. Of note, though, if we are going to manage relationships effectively, we need to use every bit of self-awareness, self-regulation and social awareness to understand what is going on and how it’s affecting us (or not).
How to Start
The first and most important step in changing our neuropathways is to start seeing your world differently and start responding to your world differently. Here are some starter tips to ‘change up’ the way you perceive and behave. Try them; we think you will be surprised at the results!
- Listen beyond just what is being said to the meaning of what is being said.
- Practice (look and sound as if you are) conveying care and concern when interacting.
- Do not confuse your reaction with those of your clients.
- Stay mentally alert and objective—stay focused.
- Respond to a situation with courage.
- Practice ‘mindfulness’ by using your feelings as data and keys to solutions (don’t let your emotions ‘stop’ the communication).
- Be personally reflective by building in a ‘feedback loop’ to check on your and their responses.
- Be aware of and take care of yourself—physically and emotionally.
- Take an EQ assessment to know your EQ starting point!
EQ has probably contributed to your success as an advisor already, but you may still encounter clients or relationships that are ‘hard’ or where you perceive yourself having automatic responses no matter what the circumstances. We promise, intentionally examining and strengthening your EQ is worth the investment and worth the journey.