Adore is between you and me so please open up!
I have a small extended family. In my family growing up I had two sisters. While one sister (deceased) never had children, my other sister has four (two girls and two boys). My wife also grew up in a family of three children. She has two brothers. Her one brother never had children, and her other brother did not first marry until into his fifties, to a woman who had three daughters. We really do not have relationships with these young women.
Effectively, I have two nieces and two nephews.
One of my nephews recently observed, “I think we’ve all always known that our family and your family were very different from each other—having different beliefs, different temperaments, even a different socio/economic status.” He is correct. The way our families behave is quite different. We previously gathered as one large family every now and again, especially at Christmas when the children were growing up, but that ceased when the glue of our family—Grandma (my Mom)—passed from this earth in December, 2015.
Since then I have used texting as a means of keeping in contact with my nieces and nephews. In sorting through old files I discovered drawings they had given me, when they were young, as well as letters and cards. I scanned these and texted these images to them. In addition, I frequently texted photos of my family members, shared what I was up to, and passed along quotes from what I was reading.
In my mind, I was being an uncle who wanted to stay connected.
Ann Landers once said, “Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.” True! And trusting your own opinion of yourself is even more unreliable!
Wake Up Time
In August of 2020 I was in the midst of planning the Fall Webinar season with the non-profit I serve. My team and I had exciting opportunities to conduct Leadership and Emotional Intelligence Training for university students in Romania, Ukraine, Latvia, Poland and Russia. I sent my nieces and nephews an enthusiastic text about all the work ahead of us.
What was I expecting to receive in return? I don’t really know. What I did not expect is what I received from one nephew. He wrote:
“That’s nice. Congratulations. And I appreciate this as an attempt to stay in touch with us, but I can’t help but feel that a conversation requires inquiries as well as statements. We receive updates on your life and your children’s lives, but I don’t believe you’ve ever asked what any of us are doing.”
Whoa. Whatever it was I thought I was doing was not at all being received as I had hoped.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
I train university students in emotional intelligence, which of course includes self-awareness. Huh. I thought I had some. Self-awareness, that is.
Look again at the Knock-Knock joke. It is funny, right? Except, it is also instructive. Sometimes there is a door between us and other people. Sometimes, it is “adore” that separates us. Our English word “adore” comes from the Latin adorare which combines ad—“to”—and orare—“speak.” What we adore we tend to “speak to” or “speak of.” Apparently, when it comes to my nephews and nieces, what I adore is me, mine, and myself.
My son-in-law tells his three daughters this quip when they argue over toys: “Sharing is caring.” I thought that was what I was doing—showing care by sharing. Turns out, we show care by showing we care.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is based on two factors: 1) What we see; and, 2) What we do. EQ is about seeing and managing ourselves, but also seeing and managing relationships with other people. There are the four components of EQ:
- Social Awareness/Empathy
- Relationship Management
Awareness is seeing. Managing is doing.
In regard to my interactions with my nephews and nieces, I was neither seeing myself, nor them, and managing neither myself nor our relationship.
EQ and You
If you are in independent insurance distribution, or an independent financial professional, your business is people. EQ is a requirement!
A study by the Association of Financial Advisers found that what differentiates leading advisers in the eyes of clients are actually the interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence that complement the adviser’s technical skills. “Clients rated capabilities such as empathy, listening and understanding client needs a massive 82 percent above professional reputation, quality of advice and other factors.”1
Earlier this year, thought leaders in the financial planning space gathered online for the AICPA’s 2021 Personal Financial Planning (PFP) Summit. “Looking to the future, the vast majority of attendees said it will be more important for financial planners to manage their clients’ emotional state moving forward than it has been in the past. And to be successful in the future, the top three most-cited skills planners will need, in addition to technical skills, are emotional intelligence, interpersonal communication, and adaptability.”2 (Author’s emphasis)
I like this definition of EQ:
“Emotional intelligence is that ability you have that allows you to be smart about your feelings and emotions. Those who are emotionally intelligent are also smart when it comes to sensing the feelings and emotions of others.”3
It helps to begin by looking at the background of the word “intelligence.” The term comes to us from two Latin root words legere—to “choose or select”—and inter—“between.”
Combined, these words literally mean “the ability to choose between” options and to make the better choice.
What is the impact of emotions on our ability to make good choices?
- Managing ourselves: During normal, unemotional times, we can see many options available to choose between. But when a strong emotion rises up in us what happens? That emotion can become so strong it blinds us to other choices so that we only see one option.
- Managing relationships: Using social awareness and empathy, we can create strong relationships. Making appointments with other people virtually or in person is what we do to build relationships. Practicing empathy is how we do it.
Test Your Level of EQ:
1. Are you someone who listens with your eyes as well as your ears? Do you listen beyond just what is being said by paying attention to the manner in which it is being said? Are you hearing the meaning of what is being said?
2. In your work or practice are you asking questions that convey care and concern when interacting with others? (What I obviously failed to do with my nieces and nephews.)
3. Are you able to distinguish between your personal reactions to facts and circumstances and the reactions of your clients and associates?
4. Are you in the moment, and very present when speaking with others? Or, when they are speaking, are you thinking of what you are going to say next?
5. Do you control your anxieties, anger, frustrations, and disappointments such that they are not influencing what you can see in others?
6. Do you control your own biases? Do you keep yourself from assuming what someone else believes by actively seeking their viewpoints?
Leaning into Empathy
I think the response from my nephew hit me hard because I saw my failure to demonstrate empathy. Empathy is purposefully tuning in and sensing the emotions of others.
“There are three main types of empathy: Cognitive, Emotional, and Compassionate.
- Cognitive empathy means putting yourself into someone else’s place and their perspective.
- Emotional Empathy means when you feel the other person’s emotions alongside them, like you have their emotions.
- Compassionate Empathy is described as feeling someone’s pain and acting to help.”4
Empathy is where independent financial professionals, brokerage general agents, and wholesalers can add a lot of value to the people they serve. The better we can understand why people feel, act, and do what they do, the more successful we will be.
- Begin taking written notes of how the people you are working with handle relationships.
- Take special note of how other people express their feelings in words, how they describe their needs, and what concerns are top of mind.
- When relating to others one on one use a system that orients you towards others, not necessarily just being friendly and personable but rather curious and compassionate.
- Practice persistence. People admire someone who does not give up, lose patience, or simply move on.
- Control your impulses by not interrupting, not filling in another person’s word when they pause or not completing another person’s sentences.
- Look for opportunities to insert humor and hope.
- Remember that empathy is not an action. Empathy is an internal commitment that causes you to experience something from another person’s standpoint.
- When you discern someone’s emotional pain, stand with them, sit by them, and lend just your presence.
The title of this article is “EQ=2xTC.” This stands for: Emotional Intelligence Yields Twice the Number of Trusting Clients
In May of 2020, the MDRT published a study that found that Americans deem emotional intelligence the most trustworthy quality in an advisor.
“Americans would be more likely to trust advice from advisors who:
- Listen to and acknowledge their clients’ needs (57 percent)
- Communicate in easily understood ways (57 percent)
- Follow through on their word (55 percent)
- Show they care about their clients as people (52 percent)”5
Bottom line: Unlike IQ which we are born with and cannot change, EQ can be improved. It starts with internal reorientation, redetermining purpose, reevaluating priorities, and choosing to change.
In our roles in financial services we want to influence or inspire others. This begins with being transparent and genuine, by being our true selves. More than friendliness, trust is required. Trust is built through empathy. Empathy leads to genuinely discovering the best outcomes in each situation and finding common ground with people of all backgrounds.
My nieces never contributed to the conversation last August. I have made no progress in their direction. However, I listened to my two nephews. Since I do not live near them, last September I invited them to speak with me over Zoom. Starting then we began to meet for 60-90 minutes on Saturday afternoons twice a month. They appreciate the fact that I am asking questions about them. I promised them that I would act differently than before and am following up on that. They are both avid readers. I asked them if they would enjoy reading a book and discussing it on our Zoom calls. They said they would and suggested the book, “To Begin Where I Am: Selected Essays,” by Czeslaw Milosz.
Not only has my self-awareness improved, but I have also gained close relationships with these amazing young men!
What about you? I invite you to join me in growing your EQ!