Theability to relate well to others and to manage your own emotions isoften referred to as “emotional intelligence.” A raft of studieshave shown that possessing a high emotional intelligence quotient(EQ) contributes at least as much to career success as intellectualabilities, and it may actually be far more valuable than analyticalskills for people in leadership positions or customer-facing roles.
Becausethe training lawyers receive emphasizes knowledge of the law and notpsychology, the value of getting along well with others often goesunrecognized. EQ represents a tangible set of skills that can bemeasured and, to a certain extent, learned.
EQinvolves not just relating to others, but understanding andregulating the self. Psychologist Daniel Goleman, who popularized theconcept of emotional intelligence with a series of bestselling bookson the subject, has defined EQ as a set of related competencies thatsupport the ability to create and manage relationships effectivelyand to communicate and interact appropriately in a wide range ofsocial situations. Goleman has identified two broad categories ofemotional intelligence: personal competence and social competence.The main aspects of personal competence are self-awareness,self-management, and motivation; the primary components of socialcompetence are empathy and social skills.
Self-awarenessinvolves knowledge of your emotions. If you are conscious of what youare feeling, you can take action to handle those feelingsconstructively. Being in touch with your own emotions enables you tobetter empathize with the feelings of others. In addition, developingself-awareness entails making an accurate assessment of yourindividual strengths and weaknesses. When you know yourself well, youare more likely to seek out projects that call for your particulartalents, while approaching with greater caution projects you wouldfind more difficult. Identifying your areas of weakness can alsoalert you to the need to improve in certain areas.
Themost obvious element of self-management is self-control. The abilityto control your temper when angry or remain calm under pressure isclearly useful in workplace situations. But self-management alsoimplies trustworthiness and conscientiousness. A person who istrustworthy demonstrates a high level of integrity in all dealings,while a conscientious person shows up on time, works hard, and takesresponsibility for mistakes. Good self-management also includes theability to adapt to changing circumstances and to stay open to newideas.
Inyour dealings with people, possessing a high degree of empathy willserve you well. Clients facing legal problems are frequently anxiousand upset. While your training may lead you to seek the best possiblethe legal remedy for your client, you should also be aware of theclient’s emotional state. By listening carefully to the client’sviews on the case, you can better craft an approach that is in linewith his or her expectations. Even if these expectations prove to beunreasonable, knowing the client’s motivations can help you tooffer better advice and guidance.
Amongthe core competencies of the emotionally intelligent attorney aregood communication skills and the ability to influence others. Youcan persuade others by appealing to their emotions, not just throughrational argument. This requires a willingness to listen andcommunicate your views in a calm and convincing manner. Conducting ormediating a conflict so that the discussion remains fair andconstructive, and finding a way to deescalate a conflict when it getsheated, is a key part of a lawyer’s job.
Finally,an emotionally intelligent lawyer has the confidence required toinspire and guide others. A leader listens to dissenting views andtakes the bigger picture into account, but he or she is also capableof making decisions. Even if you are not yet in charge of others, youcan hone your leadership skills within teams or other groups.
Becauseeach of the components that make up EQ is potentially challenging,you may want to consider which types of skills you wish to developfirst. Becoming emotionally intelligent is a lifelong undertaking,but ongoing awareness of the tasks involved can help you excelpersonally and professionally.