The language we use to describe our emotions affects how we feel. I see this often in my work, and this is the basis for a common call to “reframe”. There is more to mere “reframe”.
But first, can we identify our emotions now? How do we do this? What words do we use, and why? Words are culturally-informed, and we use words as a tool for social conformity, in our instinctive desire and attempt to belong.
(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.]
Recent research from Indiana University Bloomington shows traditional stereotypes of masculinity are linked to mental health challenges. The greater the conformity to these masculine “traits” of “a desire to win, need for emotional control, and risk-taking” and “playboy behaviour or sexual promiscuity”, the higher the risk of mental health issues.
In 2015, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, film-maker, was inspired to direct “The Mask You Live In” to bring to light the narrow definition of masculinity in US society, and and its negative impact on men’s mental health and social dysfunction.
We can choose re-write the story of who we are and who we want to be, to be rid of the bonds of these unhelpful “traits” and “stereotypes”.
To read about men’s experiences of this, go to this article from the Guardian.
Show up to your emotions. Sometimes we have to confront and get through or let go. The constant pursuit of happiness as a goal and the flip side of constant evaluating how or if you are ‘happy enough’ is counter-productive.
Susan David, Harvard psychologist and author of ‘Emotional Agility’, says in Business Insider,
“… ‘showing up’ is stopping any struggle that you might have within yourself about whether you should feel something, shouldn’t feel something, should think something, shouldn’t think something, whether it’s a bad thought or good thought.”