Hacking Emotional Intelligence: A Simple Approach to Increasing EQ 

You must realize that whoever you're speaking or communicating with is not just listening to you but also listening for something from you.


Analysis is your strength. You're a great problem solver. You come up with great solutions and advice.

Yet, you're not as impactful and, therefore, not as successful as your intelligence, talents and skills deserve.

My friend and founder of 100 Coaches, Marshall Goldsmith, wrote the business book What Got You Here, Won't Get You There to address this conundrum.

Marshall explained how technical competence can get you to a certain level of success in your career. But when you cross over into having your success depend on other people and when, instead of motivating them, you offend and demotivate them — even when it's not intentional — you're unlikely to achieve your best results or realize your full potential.

In essence, he was speaking about how having a high IQ is not enough to compensate for having a low EQ.

EQ, or emotional quotient, refers to your emotional intelligence. It is about being aware of how you come across to people emotionally and aware of how people would prefer you come across to them, then adjusting your attitudes and behavior accordingly. When you're unaware of both of these, you're demonstrating a low EQ.

If you're reading this, you're probably already aware of the above. However, in spite of taking courses or reading books on the topic, you're still having difficulty. Although it makes sense — to be more impactful and successful, you should increase your emotional intelligence — it is still not working out for you.

I'm guessing that you're reading this article because of the appealing title, a simple approach that will enable you to hack and finally develop emotional intelligence.

If that is true, then guess what?

I just used that emotional intelligence hack to get through to you: grabbing your interest by sensing what you were looking and reading for and becoming curious about it.

The hack is realizing that whoever you're speaking or communicating with is not just listening to you, but they are also listening for something from you.

When you realize that a person is always listening for something, and you then become curious about what that is, why they're listening to you and why they're listening to you now — and you do it with an open mind — you are not only exhibiting emotional intelligence but also demonstrating maximum presence.

That is because, like beauty, presence is in the eye, ear and regard of the beholder. The more that beholder feels you are tuned in and in sync with what they're listening for, the more present you are for them.

It is, of course, helpful to be able to intuit what people might be listening for without their telling you. When you do that, you can often come across as a mind reader, which causes people to become curious about what else you might know or understand about them.

However, being intuitive is not necessary.

Just realizing that people are always listening for something from you and being sincerely curious by asking them what that might be — and furthermore, asking them why they are listening for it — demonstrates emotional intelligence. By doing that, you are authenticating and, even more, valuing what is on their mind. This is something that people rarely experience.

To synthesize and reiterate the above, as my demonstrating emotional intelligence with you, is it true that you're reading this article because you were looking for a way to improve your emotional intelligence? Perhaps because you have been told on more than a few occasions that you're lacking it, and that is getting in the way of achieving your greatest success and fulfilling your significant potential?

And is it also true that you're reading this article now because of a recent situation that cost you success professionally or personally, yet again, and you were frustrated enough by it that you decided to take another whack at developing your EQ?

How can you put this hack into action?

The next time you are having a conversation with someone and your instincts tell you that it's not going in the right direction, say to the other person, "Might we pause for a moment?"

This will catch them off guard, but also signal that you sense the conversation is not going in the direction they'd like.

After they react, with puzzlement and hopefully curiosity, and respond with, "Okay," say to them, "I think when we started talking, you were looking and listening for something to help you with a situation that you're in, and we didn't address that. What might you have been listening for, so that we can see if we can cover that now?"

As they begin to speak, focus on words or phrases they may use that demonstrate underlying emotion, such as "never" or "always" or "amazing" or "frustrating." Focus on when the intensity of their voice increases.

After they share, respond with, "Say more about the 'never' (or 'always' or 'amazing,' etc.)," because that will prompt them to go deeper and open up even more to you.

After that, ask them questions such as, "What has the impact of that been?" and "Is that something you'd want to do something about?" and "What would be the result if you were able to fix it (correct it, improve it, etc.), and what would be the result if you did nothing about it?"

This may be reminiscent of taking a consultative approach vs. a selling approach with others, and that is not a coincidence. I find that the more consultative a person is, the more emotional intelligence they are generally demonstrating.

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