This week I want to discuss the last two components of emotional intelligence; empathy and social skill. These two areas have to do with managing relationships with others. If weak in the first three components; self-awareness, self-regulation and motivation a person will struggle to manage relationships with others well.
Empathy is the ability to think through how others may feel and react to a comment or decision we will make. It involves trying to step into another’s shoes and consider their perspective. Empathy impacts how a leader decides and the way they word the decisions they make. Taking into account how a difficult choice may impact the team, doesn’t mean backing down from it, if it’s what’s best. It means the leader shares that decision with care and compassion. If we don’t have an awareness of our own emotions, it’s difficult if not impossible to understand someone else’s. If we also don’t have self-regulation skills, we may have an inappropriate display of emotion when someone doesn’t respond the way we want. This bleeds into the next area of social skill.
Social Skill is about being outgoing, thoughtful and kind but not just for friendliness sake. It has a purpose. Leaders with strong social skill have a clear understanding that no man is an island and to accomplish the mission at hand takes a team effort. The ability to socialize and connect with others is good, but this is more than that, this ability involves being able to motivate others to move forward towards a common goal. Social skill is the culmination of all the other areas involved in emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman states, “People tend to be very effective at managing relationships when they can understand and control their own emotions and can empathize with the feelings of others.” He points out that socially skilled leaders “…are expert persuaders, which is a manifestation of self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy combined. Given those skills, good persuaders know when to make an emotional plea, for instance, and when an appeal to reason will work better.”
Our emotions are such a critical part of who we are and taking time to understand them; what’s at the root of the emotions we have and where did we learn our coping mechanisms, is important. This journey of exploration requires taking an honest look within, starting with our families of origin. A great tool for doing this is a genogram. Genograms are a family diagram that looks at such things as relationship dynamics, generational blessings and curses, communication and conflict styles, themes within the family and so on. I had to do such a diagram in my master’s program at seminary. I remember standing before the class and filling three chalk boards with all my family’s stuff. It took a lot of space to fit in all the marriages and divorces. It was a powerful moment for me to step back and take it all in; themes of work hard/play harder, alcoholism, anger, abuse, love, loyalty, manipulative communication styles, extreme insecurity all spread out in chalk. It’s not an easy task, but a great tool in helping us understand ourselves better, which leads to growth, if we choose.
The saying, “know thyself” comes from Socrates who believed people who tried to know ‘things’ before knowing themselves, ‘appear ridiculous’. Shakespeare’s famous line, “to thine own self be true” was spoken by Polonius in Hamlet, in which he is saying by knowing thyself, one can’t be false to any man. Likely he had a strong EIQ!
What about when our spirit is crushed and we don’t have the energy to change?… I hope you’ll read my next blog.
Goleman, Daniel (reprinted 2004) What Makes a Leader? Harvard Business Review, Jan. 2004 (https://hbr.org/2004/01/what-makes-aleader)