When I was in the eighth grade, I had a teacher who would start each class by writing a famous quote on the chalkboard. I’ll never forget my favorite one, by Isaac Newton: “Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.” Tact — which can also be called “forthright diplomacy” — is one of the indicators of emotional intelligence. This week, Michael L. Stahl, author and President of Motivational Concepts, tell us how forthright diplomacy and other aspects of emotional intelligence can have a huge positive impact on any leader or business.
Build your success with stronger emotional intelligence
What did John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. all have in common?
All of these men had powerful emotional intelligence. While there are several commonly used definitions of this now widely used term, emotional intelligence is the “ability to perceive, assess and manage the emotions of yourself, others and groups to create optimal results.” It involves the potential to feel, use, communicate, recognize, remember, describe, identify, learn from, manage, understand and explain emotions. In short, emotional intelligence is your ability to play well with others, listen and communicate in such a way that promotes commitment and passion from yourself and those with which you interact.
Indeed, JFK, Ronald Reagan and Martin Luther King Jr. all possessed an “electric” and powerful aspect to their personalities. They communicated with mesmerizing effect and created amazing commitment and passion from those around them. Even more importantly, in part because of their prolific emotional intelligence, all three of them made extraordinary contributions to our free society and the way we live today. Whether or not you agree or disagree with the various ideologies these three great men subscribed to, it is hard to argue against their ability to create focus, purpose and passion in others.
So what’s the secret? Is emotional intelligence something that you just have or don’t have? Does it stay static like our IQ does or can it be grown and developed? Well the great news is that emotional intelligence most definitely can be learned, grown and developed. Fundamentally, according to Dr. Dan Harrison, there are nine behavioral quadrants that have a bearing on emotional intelligence. They include…
For emotional intelligence to even remotely approach the level of results and magnetic presence of the three men previously mentioned, there must be balance in all nine of these areas. When it comes specifically to business results, balance, along with discipline, focus and purpose go together in a structure like the strands of a spider web. The stronger each one of them is, the more powerful the whole structure becomes.
It takes discipline to balance your behavioral traits in all of these areas in order to realize your potential – both personally and professionally. It is true that our natural tendencies and behavioral preferences themselves may not change much. Yet, the good news is that every human being can choose different behaviors in certain areas in order to yield more positive results – even if their natural tendencies predispose them to act in a way that does not produce the best results in that area.
For example, according to Dr. Harrison, the two behavioral traits that make up a great communicator are frankness and diplomacy. Neither one is more important than the other. If a person communicates with extremely high frankness and low diplomacy, this is going to lead to blunt behavior – perhaps even offending and insulting people without knowing or intending to do so.
On the other side of the coin, if a person communicates with very high levels of diplomacy and low levels of frankness, this leads to evasiveness or constantly “beating around the bush.” This hyper sensitivity to not offending anyone else leads to virtual gridlock in terms of getting things done and achieving optimal business results. If a person chooses to communicate with low levels of frankness and diplomacy, this leads to a person simply not wanting to or making the effort to communicate at all.
So the answer to create the highest level of emotional intelligence in this area is to balance out frankness and diplomacy to become what is called a “forthright diplomat.” This is a person who communicates with such balance that what they think and feel and why they think and feel that way is made abundantly clear. Yet, it is done is such a way so as to be tactful and respectful of others. To achieve optimum emotional intelligence and thus the best business results and personal happiness, all nine behavioral quadrants have to be balanced.
Staying with the example of how you communicate, let’s say a person has a natural tendency to be blunt. This behavioral preference is strong and may remain as a powerful tendency. However, once a person realizes that they are not getting optimal results because of this, they have the power to choose to raise their level of diplomacy to balance that frankness. It is not about lowering the intensity of a trait. Achieving optimal results and the highest level of emotional intelligence possible only involves raising the trait that is weaker in your profile. This balances out the dominant one in any of the nine behavioral quadrants.
Realistically, and according to this writer’s experience in management consulting and training, even if you do step outside your comfort zone and engage in a process of positive behavioral change, new habits simply do not form overnight. It has been said for many years that it takes the human brain 21 days to develop a new habit. So then change of any kind has to be done in small, bite-size pieces.
There are three steps to achieving balance in all nine behavioral quadrants (thus achieving the highest level of emotional intelligence)…
Examine your performance and your interactions with other people on both a personal and professional level. Are you getting the best results possible? Are you creating commitment and passion with the people in your life or just compliance to appease you? Once you become aware of imbalances it allows you to reflect on situations that occur in your everyday life. You can say things like, “In that situation here’s what I said and did and here’s what I could have said and done which would have yielded a more positive result for everyone.” This process leads to the final piece of the puzzle – self-management. This is where you are so aware of imbalances in your behavioral traits and you have reflected on these to such a degree that you can now manage your behavior in a much more positive and results-oriented fashion.
Very few of us will reach the level of emotional intelligence that JFK, Ronald Reagan and Martin Luther King Jr. had. Yet, the great news is that we all have potential to improve and grow our ability to understand emotions and interact with others for better results.