Are you really tuned into the people around you?

Just in case you didn’t know it, times have changed in a million ways in just the last few years.


Back in the 1980’s for example, it didn’t matter all that much if you had good people skills in the workplace. According to University of California—Santa Barbara economist Catherine Weinberger, all you needed was “smarts” or “cognitive ability” to do well financially. But now, she says, “The people who are both smart and SOCIALLY ADEPT earn much more in today’s work force.”


Dr. Daniel Goleman, the leading researcher on Emotional and Social Intelligence re-affirms her conclusion 100%. He says:


“Once you are in a field, Emotional Intelligence emerges as a much stronger predictor of who will be most successful, because it is how we handle ourselves in our relationships that determines how well we do once we are in a given job.”


What does that mean for you, right here, right now? To experience the most personal and professional success possible, you’ve got to tune into other people. You must realize that it’s NOT all about me, me, me.


So how can you do that more effectively? Here are a few ways you can improve your Emotional and Social Intelligence


► 1. Understand the meaning of Emotional and Social Intelligence.

When you’ve got people smarts, you’re able to focus on others, observe their emotions, and notice their actions and reactions. You’re able to read and understand the feelings of others.


You’re also able to ask questions, listen, and learn what other people are feeling. You’re able to understand their perspective and determine what factors influenced them for the good or the bad, even though their perspective and their experiences might be quite different than yours. You are aware of the other person’s needs and concerns.


Of course, you might say that’s all well and good. But how do you really know how good you are at those things? Ask five people for some honest feedback. Ask five people that know you well, both at home and at work, how tuned in you are to other people.


You could also…


► 2. Take an assessment of your Emotional and Social Intelligence skills.

There are lots of assessments out there. My one-on-one coaching clients, for example, take several tests that generate more than 50 pages of insights for them and then I conduct 360-degree interviews that turn into another 15 pages of feedback. And they all say the results are life changing. (If you want to talk about having me work with you as your own personal coach, feel free to reach out to me.)


Unfortunately, we don’t have time for all of that in my Tuesday Tip. But go ahead and take this short quiz to get some preliminary insight into your people skills on the job. Answer “yes” or “no” to each question.


  1. _____ Do you use sarcasm in your communications with your coworkers?


  1. _____ Do you frequently say “yes” to action items in meetings or agree to take on work … and then regret it later?


  1. _____ Do you feel the need to crack a joke or change the subject during tough conversations?


  1. _____ Do you find it easier to set the record straight or vent your frustration in an e-mail rather than in person?


  1. _____ Are your relationships with your coworkers superficial and limited to the task at hand?


  1. _____ Do you tend to take things too personally?


  1. _____ Do you ever find yourself dwelling on conflict with your coworkers, fantasizing about ways to get even?


  1. _____ Do you wish you were more charismatic or had more presence as a team leader, manager, or individual contributor?


Each “yes” response indicates an area where you could improve. And indeed, when you do improve in those areas, it will pay off for you, relationally and financially.


I would also suggest that you try some of the following exercises. They will help you to be more tuned into others.


► 3. Practice empathy.

Your ability to tune into other people is not genetic; it is learned behavior. Which means you can LEARN to be more empathic. You can improve with a little practice, like every other skill under the sun.


If you’ve ever had your spouse or partner say, “You never listen to me,” that’s a good sign your empathy or tune-in skills could be better. The same thing applies if one of your friends or a coworker indicates that you’re not listening, or seem to be distracted, out to lunch.


If you’re tune-in skills need some work, try one, some or all of these exercises.


  1. Try to see the world from the other person’s point of view. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine what they are thinking and feeling. Most people don’t do this.


  1. Try to understand the pressures, responsibilities, expectations, and demands placed on the other person. It’s very easy to be aware of your own pressures, but it takes more work to be aware of and then understand the other person’s pressures. And they do have them!


  1. Say “I’d like to know more about that” if the other person sounds off inappropriately or seems a bit confusing.


  1. Explore the reasoning behind the other person’s position or argument. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with that reasoning, but it helps tremendously to understand it. Remember, whatever the other person thinks, feels, or is doing seems right to them.


When you learn how to tune into others, you’re always better off than you were before.