When you have a high degree of understanding and acceptance of yourself, you are ready to move on to Emotional Intelligence in the Social dimension. These next fundamentals have to do with social interactions. If practiced faithfully, the techniques can elevate the level of success in the Social dimension and help you raise the Emotional Intelligence of those you lead.

  • Walk in Their Shoes. This exercise will help create empathy and understanding. Make yourself write a paragraph about anyone you are having difficulty with (a peer, a subordinate, or a superior). Write what you know about the person — their interests, their background, their difficulties, etc., and try to concentrate on why they may be acting the way they are. Write in the first person, pretending you are them. As you interact with this person, continue to try to find out more about them, and continue writing about them. You will find that you approach them with more understanding and empathy. As you interact with them more positively, their behavior toward you will likewise improve, and the interactions will become smoother.

  • "Process" Comments. Most of us focus our remarks strictly on content when we are interacting with others. Process comments, however, focus on the reasons underlying certain behaviors that we observe; these are comments that focus on the "why" or "how" of behavior, not the "what." When we comment on or point out the process, we help team members grow and deal directly with any possible conflict. A process comment focuses attention on some inconsistency ("The team is saying one thing, but it is doing another"); the method by which members work to solve a problem ("Some people do not seem fully engaged in this task"); or some underlying reason for behavior ("I wonder if this reluctance is because some of us are still upset about the new leave policy?"). When others do not seem to see that anything is wrong, a process comment can help bring out those things no one wants to mention. Good process comments usually begin with the leader's observation, stated as a description rather than an evaluation. A comment such as, "What's happening here?" or "Let's talk more about how we have been working together on this," can open dialogue. When a team begins to discover the ways it has been unproductive, members can resolve to change behavior and become more effective.

  • The "Three-Step" Method. The Three-Step method is an excellent way to deal with conflict or potential conflict. It works whether you are a participant in the conflict or a third-party peacemaker. The steps are simple:

    1. Offer to hear the other person's side of the story first. (For third-party mediation: Ask one party to go first while the other listens carefully.) Really listen, without interrupting or getting defensive. Agree with anything you can about what they have said.

    2. Tell them your side of the story without laying blame.(For third-party mediation: Ask the other party to tell their story. Each person must listen carefully to the other, in turn). The other party is likely to listen more closely if you allow them to go first and model good listening.

    3. Use a problem-solving approach: "How can we work this out so this doesn't happen again?" or "What can we do now to salvage this project?"

  • Look for Similar/Look for Good. To make interactions run smoother, we need to look for the characteristics in others that are the same as ours and that are good. These connections are often found at the emotional level. Much of our culture is strongly shaped by the mass media, which focuses our attention on what's "wrong," what's abnormal, and what's different.

    To improve Emotional Intelligence, we must look for common ground. After every interaction, force yourself to focus on the interaction just completed. What common ground did you see? Make it a game to always be able to find something, even something small, that you and the other person both share. Make it a habit to find the good that others are doing and comment frequently on those behaviors, being liberal with thanks and praise. Remember the importance of empathy and the need to be aware of what the other person is feeling so you can respond appropriately.