Being able to relate well to people is a high priority for great leaders. One of the best ways to cultivate people skills early on is through the practice of active listening. Have you ever come away from a conversation with someone feeling valued, heard and affirmed? Did it surprise you how well they listened to you and how many details they remembered from your last conversation? Maybe you wondered how they did it.
The secret of great leadership is emotional intelligence.
A person with emotional intelligence anticipates the needs of others. They can judge how a conversation is going behind the scenes and pick up on cues. It feels natural to converse with an emotionally intelligent person because they’re showing real interest in what you’re saying, nodding their heads, mirroring your body language, and asking lots of follow up questions. They are showing that they care through their actions.
In theory, we all want to get better at this, but we don’t exactly know what it looks like. I’ve put together 5 ways we can practice emotional intelligence in our everyday conversations with people. It doesn’t require any special skill or secret, just a little extra effort and paying attention to the right things.
Ready, set, go!
1. An emotionally intelligent person uses your name a lot when talking to you.
Whether it’s the first time you’ve met them or if you’re a long-time friend, someone with high emotional intelligence will continually repeat your name in the conversation to make you feel known. This is a skill that can become almost second nature if you practice it enough. While it might seem like it goes unnoticed, it is hugely important for building relationships with people. Using someone's first name makes them feel comfortable and understood, and it’s so simple to do! Use this simple step to start building trust in all of your relationships. People will notice the difference and feel recognized by you. And if they’re someone new, you are much less likely to forget their name the next time you see them around!
2. An emotionally intelligent person asks follow-up questions.
The best conversations take shape naturally. Asking good follow up questions requires active listening. Don’t be looking at your phone or thinking about something else. Stay present in the conversation! Asking follow up questions requires learning what the other person is passionate about. It’s amazing the things that we miss when we don’t actually focus on the other person. How a person says something is just as important as what they say. You can learn a lot through tone and facial expressions that can lead to a deeper understanding of the people in your life. When you feel the urge to check your phone on a date, ask a follow up question. The phone will always be there; the person is what counts.
3. An emotionally intelligent person knows people’s boundaries and respects them.
A good conversationalist knows how to make others feel comfortable. A tenant of having good people skills is knowing which topics are appropriate to bring up. Boundaries are a healthy part of life and relationships, and those who don’t have a filter can have a hard time gaining other people’s trust. Don’t be a loose cannon! Know your surroundings and the people you are with enough to identify their sensitivities and respect them. When in doubt, be professional. It’s better to be careful than to have to apologize to someone later for saying something harsh or inappropriate.
4. An emotionally intelligent person gives positive feedback frequently.
Giving frequent affirmation to your team and coworkers is powerful. It fosters trust, respect and creates an atmosphere of excitement when good work is recognized. There’s nothing better than well-deserved praise or a timely compliment. It encourages loyalty. When we wait too long to give others feedback, they tend to doubt themselves or wonder whether they are performing well in their current role. More feedback is much better than not enough, even if it’s not always positive feedback. Communicate clearly in all your relationships and you will reap the rewards.
5. An emotionally intelligent person can anticipate a person’s needs.
When we practice active listening and emotional intelligence over time we will eventually learn how to anticipate a person’s needs. We will begin to recognize patterns in conversation, cues from a person’s tone of voice that will tell us what their words don’t. The goal in all of this is to improve our relationships, with the ultimate goal of making other people feel valued, heard and more effective. When this happens, everyone wins. Learning the art of having good conversation helps boost our emotional intelligence. What seems simple like dropping someone’s name in a sentence or listening with both eyes and ears will do wonders to improve our current relationships.
Let's all pursue greater emotional intelligence,