Anthony Gell- Empathy, lets pick up on that for a second. Daniel, in your first book you mentioned about empathy and how important that is and obviously there’s different types of empathy. But talk about the spectrum, if you’ve got on one level of the spectrum you’ve got the sociopath and on the other one you’ve got somebody that’s just absolutely besotted by other people’s feelings, is it important to have a balance? Obviously you can be too far toward the sociopath spectrum, but can you be too far [the other] way?
Daniel Goleman- Yeah, you see that in people for example in the helping professions- nurses, say- who are taking care of people who are suffering, who are in pain, who are angry. Who pick up those emotions and can’t metabolize them. It changes their internal state instead of them changing the patients’ state, because of, you could say, this too empathic stance. What’s missing there is self-management, self-regulation as we say. That is to say, the people who are most effective don’t tune out in order to protect themselves, and turn off to other people. They stay open but they’re able to pass that through, to manage their own inner state at the same time as they’re being receptive. That’s the best.
AG- OK, that’s great. So you can be in an empathetic situation but not allow it to be to heavily on your shoulders, take it too personally.
DG- It’s more than that. It’s that you don’t let it change your state. You stay stable in the positive state you need.
AG- And therefore you wouldn’t be as stressed as you would be.
Daniel Goleman- I’m basically a writer and a thinker. And I like to think deeply about topics. And I got very excited about this new area of brain research called social neuroscience. Which explains that newly discovered circuits in the brain create a very intimate person to person linkage when you’re interacting with someone. This is the super highway for simpatico, for chemistry. For love. For business being effective. It has so many implications, I explored as many as I could in the book Social Intelligence, but I found there was a lot more to say when I was done with the book. This is the problem with writing books. The book ends, but your thinking doesn’t. So I wanted to keep exploring more deeply into the whole range of implications. So I realized what I can do is get together with people whose research fascinated me. Or whose thinking really pushed the edge in this area, and have a deep conversation with them and do it as an audio conversation. So the Wired To Connect series is 6 or 7 of these going into areas that include everything from the various kinds of empathy and how each of them matters or what we can do to enhance the brain’s ability to be socially intelligent. To be emotionally intelligent. And what’s the neuroscience behind creating better skills in this critical set of human abilities. What does it mean to have good work? That is, work that you feel really satisfied by? That’s intrinsically fulfilling? And what are the ingredients of that.
Another one that I found really fascinating was how does the social brain interact with the virtual world, with email, with communicating by phone. Why is it we have of our best interactions face to face, and more disastrous interactions on email? And what does that mean if you’re managing a global team? How can you orchestrate a face to face interaction versus working at a distance so that the team is a high performing team? These were many of the areas that I was able to go into, and I feel really, very satisfied with the series both in terms of being able to extend my work in social intelligence, and also I found a way to explore new ideas without having to write a whole book about it.
Anthony Gell- In terms of predicting who is going to be in the top 10 percent of performers, ie: the sort of star performers, you say that EI, emotional intelligence, is a better gauge than IQ. Why?
Daniel Goleman- The answer is very simple. Study after study shows that in order to be in a top profession, in order to get an MBA, in order to get an MD, or be a top executive, you need an IQ that’s about one standard deviation above normal, or higher. That puts you at about 115 IQ. But then studies show there is no correlation between your IQ and actual effectiveness or success in that particular line of work. Whether you’re a CEO, academic, engineer, doesn’t matter. Why? Because that is the IQ level you need to master the technical skills, and is the cognitive capacity you need to handle that profession. But after that, think about it. Once you’re in the field you are competing with people who are about as smart as you are.
Throughout school, IQ is huge advantage for grades. In the workplace, after reaching that criterion level, it has no added benefit and what makes the difference are your personal abilities. How you manage yourself- Do you stay focused? Are you adaptable? Are you self aware? And interpersonal abilities. Can you read other people? Do you know how to get along well? Are you a good team player? Can you be a leader? Those depend on emotional intelligence.
AG- Daniel, I’ve got no doubt that people watching this are sold on your premise of emotional intelligence, but the big question I think they’ll be wanting to ask is, “Once you know your EI level can you improve, or can you become more emotionally intelligent?”
DG- The good news is that you can improve emotional intelligence competencies. These are learned abilities that build from fundamentals. So, for example, emotional self control, being calm under pressure. This is a capacity that can be learned, the steps are quite well known. But you have to want to get better. Listening, listening well, listening deeply is critical, and if you have poor listening habits- the common cold of leadership- then you can improve but, again, you need to be motivated. Why? Because in adulthood you have to undo, at the brain level, over-rehearsed habits, that’s your habitual way of reacting, and build a new one until it becomes more strongly practiced than the old one. Then you’ll do it naturally. And that takes real effort and motivation.
AG- Daniel, talk about self motivation. What’s the core essence of being self driven and motivated to move forward as an individual?
DG- I think motivation has to be true, that you need to align the desire to improve with your own sense of values of purpose, what you really feel is important. What are your dreams? Where do you want to go in life? Is something holding you back? Can you change that for the better. That’s the kind of genuine motivation that helps people really make the change.
Anthony Gell- Daniel, you talk about how important it is to bring consciousness back into emotion, to sort of push time between impulse and action is critical before you react. Is that why emails can be dangerous?
Daniel Goleman- When we’re face to face with someone, part of brain, which I describe in the book Social Intelligence and then more deeply in the series Wired to Connect, the part of the brain called the social brain, is monitoring person we’re with continually, moment to moment, microsecond to microsecond, and telling us, unconsciously, “Well, this person is responding that way to what you just did, so what you should do next is the following to keep things smooth, harmonious, on track, on the same page.” This is what makes interactions go smoothly, this part of the brain. That part of brain, however, is crippled online. When you’re sitting there in front of your video screen there is no feedback loop. All you have is the words you send. However, there is a sort of optical illusion in the mind where you assume that all of your little emotional signals that go with whatever you say or do face to face, are going along with your email, but they’re not. And there is an actual negativity bias in email where senders think that a message was positive, but that’s because they assume all the other cues went along. It’s an unconscious assumption. Receivers think that positive email was more neutral. When the sender thinks it’s neutral, receivers tend to think it’s more negative. In other words there is a negativity skew to email, generally. That’s baseline.
But then there’s another problem:
Very often in face-to-face interaction you get an impulse to do something or say something and your social brain says, “Uh-uh-uh! That’s not going to be effective.” But that message never comes back to you when you’re sitting writing an email, because there’s no feedback loop. The result is what’s called flaming. Flaming has been known since the earliest days of email. It’s when you’re worked up about something, and you sit down and you furiously type up a message, you hit send. And for a split second you have a feeling of satisfaction, and then this morbid sense of, “Oh my god, why did I do that? Why did I say that?” hits you. That’s a flame. It’s a disaster. And it’s a disaster that would not have occurred face to face, most likely.
Anthony Gell- Daniel, you talk a lot about empathy in leadership and how important it is, and you bring up different types of empathy including cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, etc. Could you give insight as to how empathy is so central to leadership success?
Daniel Goleman- Empathy is one of the critical components of social intelligence and leadership abilities. But in the conversation I did with Paul Ekman, who is a world expert on empathy, in the Wired to Connect series, I realized there are 3 kinds of empathy. Each has strengths that are critical for effective leadership, but in different ways, and some of them have liabilities.
1st is cognitive empathy. That means I understand how you think about things. I can see from your perspective. That can be effective for giving performance feedback, or communication, because I know how to put it to you in a way you’ll be able to hear, that makes sense to you. That’s the upside. The downside, is the people who only have cognitive empathy and have twisted motivation, if you will, can use it to manipulate people. If you only care about yourself and you don’t care about the other person, you can use that to your advantage. You see that in narcissistic leaders, you see it in Machiavellian types. You see it in outright sociopaths. They use their understanding of the other person to manipulate them because they don’t have the second kind of empathy.
2nd kind of empathy is emotional empathy. “I feel with you.” If I don’t care how you feel then I don’t mind making you feel terribly. Or I don’t mind taking great advantage of you. But if I feel your distress it’s much harder for me to do that. Emotional empathy is also critical for leadership, for any job where you relate to people. Client management, sales management, teamwork. Because emotional empathy creates chemistry, creates the sense of being in report with other people, creates simpatico. And it’s in those moments when things go at their best. Top performing teams have this sense of harmony and emotional connection with each other, for example. So emotional empathy is absolutely critical. However, downside here, is that if you are the person in HR who has to go around and tell everybody that they’re fired, or you’re a nurse working in pediatric oncology and all day long you are with children who are in great pain, who are going to die, these are powerful situations emotionally and you pick up what others are feeling. If you can’t metabolize that, if you can’t manage it yourself it can lead to an emotional exhaustion which is prelude to burnout. And you feel “I’ve got to get out of this field, I can’t do this anymore.”
The counter to emotional empathy, and what allows you to use it effectively, is emotional self management skills, which is one of the 4 parts of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is self awareness, self management, empathy, and relationship skills. So the different components work together.
3rd type of empathy is empathic concern. This is the felt sense that when I see that you’re in trouble I spontaneously want to help you out. This actually is what makes leaders outstanding. These are the leaders who, for example, take the time to help people develop further strengths. Take the time to give feedback. They see that, and are concerned about, helping people get better, learn to do better. And that of course strengthens whole organization. It’s also what makes people outstanding organizational citizens. These are the people who aren’t just “me first and that’s all I care about,” but are good team players, willing to help out other people and so on. In a dark time economically, the leaders who will be most effective have all three capacities going at full strength.
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