There are broadly two types of people, those who preference thinking and those who preference feeling and this shows up in the way they make decisions, the language they use and how they value and process information. Do they ‘find the facts’ or ‘take soundings’ when faced with a decision? Are they data or people led?
So how do you start?
Well the first step is to understand what your preference is. Are you a person who prefers to use logic and reason or someone who uses feelings and values to take a decision? If you are not sure, imagine you had to decide between two competing and attractive job offers. Do you look to the measurable metrics to guide you - the salary level, job title or the size of the benefits package, or are you interested in the cultural fit, what the new boss will be like and well, whether it just feels right or not? Neither is right or wrong, it is just what you prefer, your default setting.
Listen to Language
If you listen to the way people talk you can pick up quickly what their preference is. People who preference thinking will have multiple words to describe their thinking process, they will say, they are ‘evaluating’, ‘deliberating’, ‘analysing’, ‘reviewing’, ‘considering’ and so on but ask them how they are feeling and generally they will be ‘happy’, ‘sad’ or most often just ‘fine’.
By contrast, people who preference feelings will have multiple words for emotions; they will rarely just be happy but likely to be ‘elated’, ‘over the moon’, ‘excited’ or ‘overjoyed’. But typically have a limited vocabulary to describe their thought process, using ‘thinking’ or ‘considering’ as their preferred
Build a Bridge
Once you have understood where you are on the thinking/feeling spectrum, it is easy to identify the next step you can take to build a bridge, connect, and engage. But a word to the wise, this must be done in a meaningful and authentic way. It is not something you can fake.
It helps to have a practical example, so let us use my client, who we will call Michael, who prefers logic, reason and objective facts. Having risen through the ranks to achieve the position of Chief Engineer, Michael found himself doing less engineering and more people management and stakeholder engagement, which took him out of his comfort zone. People were, as people are, unpredictable, and this caused him stress. Added to this his boss, the CEO, was starting to question if Michael had what it takes to deliver in a leadership role, so there was a clear imperative for change.
When making a change its best to start at the micro level, fix this, then amplify the success. Therefore, we started by looking at Michael’s engagement with one particular member of his team, who he described as ‘needy’. This took up a lot of his time, and frustrated him, as she seemed to want to discuss endlessly and go over matters that had in his mind, been resolved.
With my coaching support, Michael decided to try to build a bridge with this member of his team at the emotional level, to move from a position of ‘objectivity’ and ‘detachment’ towards a more ‘thoughtful’ and ‘concerned’ outlook, to start to engage. Although challenging and out of his comfort zone Michael was able to adapt his style and his language to build a bridge and uncover an unmet emotional need of reassurance that was driving the perceived ‘needy’ behaviour.
Since the member of staff was both competent and effective, Michael was able to provide her with reassurance, which met the emotional need and eliminated the unwanted behaviour. The member of staff felt valued and motivated, and Michael was able to eliminate his frustration. Meetings were shorter and more productive but more importantly he was able to feel the positive power his leadership could have on others.
Practice to Perfect
So select a professional relationship or a task you need to undertake that requires a level of emotional engagement beyond which you are comfortable with. Perhaps there is a member of your team, or an important stakeholder you are struggling to connect with, but need to get on side.
Having selected your target, identify a situation where you can safely test out a more engaged and empathetic approach. If you are science minded, like my client, think of it as an experiment, in which you are going to change one variable (your behaviour) and observe the results to evaluate the effect. Can you move yourself a notch or two along the spectrum towards the feeling side, to show empathy, understand how others feel, or perhaps sympathy and try to feel a greater level of emotion for others’ circumstances?
If you notice a positive effect for yourself and the person you wish to engage, can you amplify this and do it some more?
What I love about working with my executive clients on emotional intelligence, is what often starts out as ‘scepticism’ or sometimes even ‘derision’, quickly snowballs into realisation that far from being soft, this area offers one of the greatest opportunities for leaders to find a previously hidden and powerful dimension to their leadership.
I hope that this article sparked an interest in finding out more about developing your emotional intelligence. Sign up to the LE4DER blog for more articles like this or email me at hannah@LE4DER.com to set up a private 1-2-1 chat on building your emotional intelligence.e to edit.