“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.
The New York Times reports that in 2007 a school school based in a troubled neighbourhood in San Francisco implemented a transcendental meditation program among its high school students. “Over the next three years, Visitacion Valley’s suspensions dropped by 79 percent, attendance rose to 98 percent, and students’ grade point averages rose each year.”
And a 2015 review of the program which as adopted by several other schools “showed benefits across parameters including reduced stress, increased emotional intelligence, reduced suspensions, increased attendance and increased academic performance”.
These effects of meditation are well-documented and scientifically proven. So what are we waiting for? Implement one at your workplace!