I encounter many ‘conversations’, and in many different contexts.
There are the conversations I promised another but only when time permits, or the conversations I have to have with another which distilled much and created space for more imaginings. There are conversations which signaled change and endings and beginnings. These conversations are imbued with so much meaning, even as we schedule them as a matter of course as part of our daily life at work or in our personal life.
I hope these conversations have been true.
No matter the context, true conversations have a common thread. True conversations are arrived at with a willingness to listen, an openness to receive and embrace, and a genuine response and where required a loving rebuke.
True conversations happen with humility and love, supportive and encouraging growth.
We hold conversations through engaging with each other authentically. Maybe that’s why we don’t just have conversations but we hold conversations – the conversation as a space, a safe space held which allows each conversation-holder to be vulnerable and to express who we are to each other. Otherwise the interaction becomes inter-reaction.
Idealistic? Perhaps. Nevertheless, it ought not detract us from trying our utmost to being such a holder of conversation. After all, we have heard of the benefits of authentic listening. And “asking the beautiful question” that says “I have heard”, a beautiful question which touches another deeply, a beautiful question which invites a genuine answer.
How beautiful and uplifting our relationships can be when we hold true conversations.
A conversation is not the same as a friendly chat, a quick ‘how-are-you’ nor lengthy IMs. Nothing ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ about these – each serves a purpose at different moments.
It may not be possible to have true conversations all the time. It requires mindful intention and preparedness. True conversations are always filled with meaning, meaning-full.
When did you last have a true conversation? And with whom?
Life is change. I know this. Even the reliable turns of the seasons do not go as expected, do they? If we are to see, there is beauty in the everyday minutiae of change.
And I believe in progress, less of the advancement of human enterprise, rather of the mindful approach to our human experience –
towards greater awareness of who we are in the worlds we inhabit, whether personal or professional,
towards greater connection to these worlds,
towards greater understanding of our impact on them,
and to these, I have unwittingly been seduced since a young age, fuelled by an insatiable curiosity.
It is a beautiful seduction, though not necessarily easy or without pain.
This mindful approach requires an open mind and a vulnerable heart. And I am not without the scars to prove them.
The greater awareness to life also requires us to let go of the past and our ideas of the future, to have the willingness to be present without judgment and to see the world afresh. The wonder and intrigue that come our way when we allow ourselves to experience them.
Put aside the critical thoughts based on a past conditioning of what the future should be.
My daughter recently sang in a concert and for the first time, she did so in her school uniform. It was a school day after all. I remember when she eschewed the idea of changing from her school uniform, judgment flooded my mind questioning her dedication to her craft and fear that she wouldn’t be taken seriously. This lasted for a brief moment then I let those thoughts go. These are unwarranted worries and anxieties. My mind has always been an incredible trickster.
Her performance that evening was her best so far, for she captivated with her voice and composure, expressing her emotions from within. I looked around the room, and saw an audience rapt with attention, spellbound by her haunting rendition of “Burn” from the musical “Hamilton”. It seems she had developed a confidence grounded within herself; a fragile bubble at times for creative people. I am truly grateful that I did not prod at it with my unruly thoughts. To trust the process and let things unfold is not easy, but do-able.
Not all things change however… at least not at the speed or time that we expect them to. It is our expectation then which creates disappointment, hurt and pain.
Hope is present, expectation is merely a conditioned thought.
Expectations interfere with our connection to the world, for it is because of our fear for the myriad of unmet expectations – that our love will be betrayed, our vulnerability will be shamed, our curiosity mocked – that we distance ourselves from being alive in the moment to our work and relationships.
Identify a destination by all means, chart our course and trust that we have the capacity to undertake the journey. We do. Planning may be useful, but the fixation with each manoeuvre will inhibit our adaptability to change.
A mindful approach requires us to employ our senses in each moment, untainted by the past. Memories, “good or bad”, have their uses; we may not forget but we sure don’t need to be ruled by them.
Being mindful in a changing world requires trust, in ourselves and the unfolding life.
“Empathy is a distributed brain process” says the research team from the University of Colorado Boulder.
What does this mean? Empathy as an experience is not located in a specific region of the brain, rather it “utilises” the whole brain.
The researchers differentiate between empathic care – where empathy generates care and assistance and occurring in the part of our brain associated with value and reward; and empathic distress – where it triggers avoidance, fear and anger, and occurring in that part of our brain dealing with mirroring.
While there is little difference person to person as to the patterns for empathic care and empathic distress, what promotes the care element?
(M)en decide far more problems by hate, or love, or lust, or rage, or sorrow, or joy, or hope, or fear, or illusion, or some other inward emotion, than by reality or authority or any legal standard, or judicial precedent, or statute.
If you are curious whose quote that is, it’s Cicero – the Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul, and constitutionalist. As it turns out, human nature hasn’t changed much in two thousand years.
We’re Emotional Beings
We’re still profoundly emotional beings. EI (emotional intelligence) has come a long way since Yale research (1990) and popular books by Goleman (1995). Like the study of “mindfulness”, EI has more mainstream recognition and a greater amount of professional “success” attributed to it than IQ and technical skills.
Mindfulness Training is Gaining Professional Recognition
Gone are the days where law firms and the corporate world recruits by academic achievements and IQ alone. So what in brief, is emotional intelligence good for in the professional workplace, business and law?
More team cohesion and client relationships
Higher sales and conversion percentages
Great work satisfaction in teams, leading to higher retention rates.
Improved customer or client service (due to improved listening and empathy skills)
Better organizational communication
More effective leadership (leading to a competitive edge).
Specifically for law firms and the daily lives of lawyers, EI can have a significant impact. Historically, the legal profession has been heavily influenced by the Stoic/Puritan frame of reference and an emphasis on ‘reason’, this is changing towards a more holistic model of human behavior.
The “Nimble Heart” in the Workplace
How might emotional intelligence help those in the Legal Profession?
The ability to correctly identify client values and motivations
The ability to suppress emotions that might cloud objectivity
Psycho-social identification & sensitivity, namely: active listening, empathy and compassion
Reading body language, non-verbal cues and facial micro emotions
Correctly matching persuasion strategies with the target audience
Manage stress and self-regulate effectively in high-pressured environments and long work-weeks
Conflict resolution, halting escalations and defusing negative emotions
Establishing rapport, trust and warmth
Facilitating easy exchanges of information
Adapting not just to frames of reference, but to people more effectively
Influencing the emotions of others through effective communication, feedback and motivational impact.
Clearly EI embodies a broad spectrum of rather holistic “soft skills” that are essential to all professional industry for leaders, managers, consultants and employees.
Can Emotional Intelligence be Taught?
In the “real world” of corporate hierarchies and law firm politics, given that candidates have comparable IQ, experience and technical skills, EQ then becomes the unique qualifying differentiator (UQD).
There’s a significant moment now for MBA programs among others, to actively integrate EI and soft skills training in their curriculum, sometimes called applied human science.
Graduate leadership programs continue to integrate EI training into their programs
Corporate training programs now specialize in EI training
Emotional intelligence has been correlated with leadership qualities
Professional efficacy is no longer solely correlated with IQ, so what then can it be attributed to?
A Most Vital Trait in a Top CEO
For CEOs and top executives, EI has a lot to offer in terms of global corporate identity.
EI underpins the ability to inspire discretionary effort—the extent to which employees and team members go above and beyond the call of duty.
This is an “intangible” of the charismatic CEO, who champions the corporate entity internally, much as some CEOs harness their personal brand for effective PR external to the organization and corporate brand.
To earn the respect and fidelity, and to motivate and mobilize talent, are what true visionaries do.
Many HR recruiters and analytics talk about a “skills gap”, EI could well be this “gap”. What we might be seeing as well is a “leadership shortage”.
Never in human history has Emotional Intelligence been at such a higher premium. Never has leadership been such a corporate differentiator in its ability to drive ROI.
[An earlier version of this article was published on LinkedIn.]
An article by Alain de Botton speaks of the need for us to be introspective and empathic in order to release our business creativity leading to innovation.
Introspection – because until we reflect on what we need or want or desire, ‘new’ creations cannot come alive. He quoted Emerson who wrote, ‘[I]n the minds of geniuses we find, once more, our own neglected thoughts.’
Empathy – because until we are able to imagine and appreciate someone else’ need or want or desire, innovation is unlikely to be successful.