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How to better understand the people around you

Daniele Lima
Daniele Lima
28 June 2017 4 minute readShare
Different emotions, colorful, faces, people

You have nothing in business, or in life, without key relationships. Making them the best they can be requires an understanding of emotional intelligence, writes Daniele Lima.

We know from the seminal work of leading emotional intelligence advocate and world-renowned psychologist Daniel Goleman that relationship management is the fourth key aspect in the five aspects of emotional intelligence.

Specifically, this component involves looking at your ability to understand another person’s emotions and be able to act in a way that is appropriate to that situation (i.e. to be able to adapt your own behaviours in a way that will produce the most productive outcome for that person based on the circumstances at hand).

This ability then allows you to better understand the emotional needs of others and their emotional states, and be able to translate that understanding into a set of behaviours that will allow for a more harmonious relationship.

This capacity is critical in establishing a required level of comfort that is fundamental to the formation of any personal relationship between people: in business or otherwise.

Through this connection, you will more likely be able to deal with any conflict that may arise more effectively, while speaking and acting in a way that recognises others’ needs and attempts to manage personal exchanges in an appropriate and positive fashion.

These outcomes are arrived at through your ability to inspire and influence the other person, through authentic communication that builds genuine connections between them. The result is that you can then positively influence the other person to make changes, grow as a person, develop additional skills and abilities, resolve existing conflict or drive enhanced collaboration.

To achieve these types of outcomes, there are several proven strategies that can be effectively integrated into an individual or team performance plan that will, over time, produce real change and improvement through individual skill enhancement:

Strategy 1: Insight-driven responses and behaviour

Once you are in a discussion with a client, it is important for you to have your metaphorical ‘emotional antenna’ switched to high. By observing the persons’ signals, adapt your approach in terms of the verbal responses you provide and accompanying behaviours to those signals that are being sent out.

This approach will ensure that you are reflective and, by extension, measured in what you say and do. This is particularly important when you’re involved in discussions that have a higher level of importance and perhaps perceived levels of personal stress attached.

Your first step here is to examine your own personal drivers, namely those factors that stimulate desire in you to continually be interested and committed to behave or act in a certain way or to achieve a goal or desired outcome.

This can result from both conscious and unconscious factors. It is reasonable to say that motivated people usually act in a way that goes beyond what a reasonable person would do, based on the available external factors present.

So for example, a firm may offer a monthly prize of a $30 voucher for the sales representative that has the highest call rate of any rep nationally. Within this scenario, one rep, by spending an extra half-hour a day, consistently wins this bonus despite having to work an extra 10 hours a month.

In this scenario, the outcome may be winning the award, but the true motivation that drives the individual’s commitment to achieve this goal is not the $30 voucher, but rather the need for recognition and managerial acknowledgement and/or perhaps the respect of their other sales colleagues.

The ability to identify your personal motivations and to look for supporting behaviours that validate them is critical, and requires a reasonable degree of self-awareness as a key foundation for all emotional intelligence skills.

For you personally, what are your true, sustained and most powerful personal drivers? Is it achievement, recognition, the need for competition, variation, winning or proving others wrong that most fuels your desire?

Strategy 2. Build relationships through comfort and trust

One of the most valued outcomes you can obtain using emotional intelligence is the ability to drive mutually beneficial results for you and the customer. This enviable outcome is prefaced and made possible by developing greater levels of comfort with that person and consequently building on that comfort to develop greater levels of trust.

This trust in turn can then be leveraged to positively influence others to steer them to better needs focused, solutions that put customers in a more advantageous position compared to where they are now, where the alternative outcome achieved delivers additional value: whether it be cost effectiveness, greater quality, better services or better all-round value.

In each case from a business perspective, if a sale is accomplished and you can demonstrate these types of customer benefits, then as a sales person you can be confident and feel profoundly satisfied with the fact that you are being true to the real meaning of the word ‘selling’, whose historical linguistic roots come from Scandinavia and means ‘to serve’.

Strategy 3. Be prepared, open and receptive to feedback

Within any frank dialogue between two people, the possibility that one or both people within the discussion provides the other one with some feedback is a genuine possibility.

The real question is when you receive feedback, which for the sake of argument may or may not be constructive and delivered in a thoughtful, measured and useful manner, how are you likely to react to that feedback?

In my experience, being involved with and observing discussions where there is a high degree of influence trying to be exerted to persuade, influence and ultimately convince someone to change an opinion, belief or a behavioural norm, there is a greater chance that any ‘friendly advice’ that comes down the line to you will be anything but sympathetically delivered and may in fact reflect resentment felt by the person saying it.


Daniele Lima is the managing director of Road Scholars Training & Strategic Consultancy and the author of The Practical Guide to Selling with Emotional Intelligence.

How to better understand the people around you
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Daniele Lima
Daniele Lima

Adam Zuchetti is the former editor of MyBusiness and a senior freelance media professional, specialising in the fields of business, personal finance and property. In 2020, he also embarked on his own business journey – inspired in part by the entrepreneurs and founders he had met through his journalistic work – with the launch of customised pet gifting and subscription service Paws N’ All.

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