How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on November 19, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The term 'emotional intelligence' refers to a person's ability to show empathy and understanding.

This is an area where lawyers often need improvement. The truth is, high-stress lawyers aren't exactly prone to being empathetic. Fortunately, unlike IQ, which seems to be pretty much set, EQ is something that can be worked at around the edges.

Here are a few suggestions for increasing your emotional intelligence, as proposed by Preston Ni at Psychology Today.

1. Physician, Heal Thyself

Perhaps nothing is important for improving EQ than learning to manage your own negative emotions. Personal experience should tell you that this extraordinarily difficult, and there's some debate as to whether or not this can legitimately be done.

Ni's suggestions revolve around re-characterizing an experience in more positive terms. For example, a rejection by one employer can be rephrased as "oh, well -- there are others for which I am more than qualified." Manage your own emotions as best you can before you move onto empathy.

2. Keeping Cool With Physiological Tricks

Handling stress is as much a mental trick as it is a physical one. If you're nervous, splash some cold water on your face. If you're heart is racing, burn off some of that excess energy with a quick jog or get some other form of exercise. The endorphins should help you feel calmer.

3. Disagreeing -- the Right Way:

Ni reintroduces the XYZ technique which allows people to assert disagreement without being too disagreeable. This is an artifact borrowed from marriage counselors. The basic structure is, "I feel X when you Y in situation Z."

Apparently, saying "You do such and such" is one of the worst ways to manage an already tense situation.

4. Developing Close Relationships

Lawyers obviously shouldn't go overboard on this one. No one is recommending you go into a love-fest with clients and co-workers. But verbal bidding in the form of "How are you" and "Thank you for your time," go a long way to maintaining cordiality.

Some people might feel that such statements are merely courtesy fillers, but with the use of effective body language, you'll find yourself actually being a more empathetic and effective attorney.

EQ can be an difficult to pin down, but the thrust of Ni's message is clear. Give it a shot. It certainly couldn't hurt.

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