We all have our distractions. They're part of what makes us individual. How do you cut through someone's distractions to bring them onto your wavelength; to gain their full and accepting attention?
When we engage with another person we can say or do things that cause their interest or dis-interest. Emotional intelligence (EI) is about using your awareness of what their current distractions are and how to couch your approach in a way that they find they want to close off those distractions to concentrate on you and your message.
We all know the saying "wrong side of the bed". We can all recognise times when we needed to convince someone about something but they weren't listening. We may remember when someone was trying to gain our support or cooperation and we dismissed their needs as boring or not as important as our own. These are all examples of one person not being tuned into another; being distracted.
These 'distractions' have many reasons, some of which might be:-
Their prior experience with you has not been productive so they assume it'll be more of the same.
You introduced your subject in a way that made them think you were talking about something else (something that is low down in their list of priorities).
Your subject is low down in their list of priorities.
They have pressing deadlines and you are the distraction.
The first three of these examples are all within your power to change. The forth one, if handled sensitively, can provide a platform for you at a later date.
Each of our life experiences is perceived differently. This affects our reactions to specific triggering events.
We all like to categorise others, to put them in recognisable boxes and we use our perceptions to do it - Jill likes horses so you immediately picture someone that assumes privilege and will look down their nose at you ; John is football daft and your internal picture then is one of tribal aggression and confrontation.
If you have low emotional intelligence and either of the two just mentioned approach you to chat at a party you'll probably block them and never take the time to find out that Jill is a real people person and the designer you need to make your business more successful or that John is the planner that could help pass that planning permission you are looking for.
If on the other hand you are reasonably emotionally intelligent, you'll recognise that everyone has multiple lines of experience and conversational interest, (see Figure 1 above) if only you can take an interest. It's scientifically proven that people are predisposed to liking others that demonstrate similarities (which is possibly why we have the drive to categorise others) and that they are more likely to trust those that trust them. Think about people you've been introduced to and spent a bit of time with - how much of the conversation has been spent swapping similar stories? How comfortable does it make you feel to be part of a team or group? What is your perception of competitive teams or groups?
We're also built to recognise dominance and submission in others and we change our demeanour accordingly, or they change theirs - your choice. You can allow someone's projected self confidence to create an feeling of 'less than' in your mind and you'll find your body capitulates and starts to shrink in; to make you smaller and less noticeable. Or, you can stand tall and meet them as an equal (you don't need to compete, but you can if you're not looking to reach an equitable agreement).
EI can, and has, filled multiple publications but in brief it's about recognising the emotions that occur in ourselves; being aware of the feeling that comes with them, and from that being able to recognise those same feelings in others. Once you recognise an emotion in someone else you can adjust your interaction with that person accordingly. If Jill's worried about her horse is it time to engage her in design conversation or is it time to empathise? EI helps you to engage more effectively with others and in return your time is more productive.
In the 90's as computing power was increasing there was a often used expression. Paraphrased it reads " Data collected and structured appropriately becomes knowledge which in turn if organised and used diligently becomes power.' Awareness of the self and awareness of others provides the core data with which to create knowledge therefore the power to manage situations more effectively.
This content is an extract from out training on Emotional Intelligence.