How’s your emotional intelligence? You know – Those qualities that include self-awareness, empathy and the ability to persuade others. The decision makers I’ve interviewed over the past 30 years all display various forms of these three attributes. They tie this emotional intelligence in with their intuition and understanding of context. This formula enables them to make the thoughtful choices that standout in any environment.
But there are more obstacles now, than ever before, to developing these qualities. We can begin with the influence of digital communication. As we have become more transactional in the way we interact with each other, our skills in interpersonal communication have become impaired. For many of those under 30, the inability to read non-verbal cues is a considerable deficit. I’m not speculating here. There is ample anecdotal and research-based evidence to demonstrate this.
Then there’s pace with which we are now compelled to process information. As a result, we have become “snippet thinkers.” Forget the context and depth of understanding. Tell us what we need to know in 300 words, 30 seconds, or 140 characters. Don’t forget to make it entertaining and for heaven’s sake, don’t make us think too hard. Is it any wonder we elect the politicians we do?
Finally, there’s our love affair with impatience. One-click purchasing and its successor technologies have been both a blessing an a curse. So have services that promise instant weight loss, college degrees in less than a year and five-minute meals that allow us to return to the rat race, albeit with heart-burn.
As a result, most of us navigate through our work, family, and leisure lives as “satisficers” – not making the best decisions, but the decisions that are good enough. For most daily decisions, this may be acceptable. But when the decisions are significant, we shouldn’t settle and rationalize the outcome when it’s less than ideal.
Many of us are surprised, however, when someone says, “Wait, let’s stop this merry-go-round and think this through.” It feels awkward. It breaks our rhythm. It compels us to reflect on what’s really happening. But pay attention to the people who do this. Chances are, they are making the best decisions in the room. They have the courage to stop the rat-race and employ their self-awareness, empathy and understanding of context to persuade others which way is the best way to go. Consequently, they experience better outcomes and others look to them for leadership.
Are you one of these people? Anyone is eligible. The best decision-makers don’t possess special powers. They just spent the time and effort to develop and use their emotional intelligence.