So often we miss the cues others are giving to let us know they are feeling something, an emotion that we are missing.  If we are not picking up on this, we may miss opportunities to see, hear and understand others.  If we are not understanding what is going on for others right now, how can we connect effectively to develop the relationships we want and need.

For the past two weeks, I have talked about emotional intelligence (EI or EQ). I have described the first two elements:  self-awareness and self-regulation of emotions.  Relationships are made up of at least two people.  If we are to show up as emotionally intelligent with others, we also need to be aware of their emotions and use this awareness to build relationships.

How do we ensure we are able to read the emotions of others accurately?  If we misinterpret their cues we could actually do more damage by making an inappropriate comment.  We need to ensure what we notice is accurate.  If we can establish this, we can respond with empathy and compassion when appropriate.  Or we can be joyful and open to sharing their excitement.

We all have emotions and it is important that we feel, accept and acknowledge our feelings.  In Susan David’s 2017 TEDWomen Talk, she describes our emotions as data, not directives.   She goes on to say ‘we own our emotions, they do not own us’.

When we use this logic and transfer it to others, we see that their emotions can be data for us as well as them.  Data that will help us better understand where another person is in the ‘here and now’.

Here are 4 strategies you can use to better notice the emotions of another:


1. Be Present:

If we are thinking about tonight’s date, we are not going to notice the emotional state of the person we are talking to.  If we are present in the conversation, we are more likely to pick up on their emotional cues.

2. Check Non-Verbals:

Face the person you are talking to, make eye contact and look at what is not being said.  Check their body language, the tone of voice, eye contact.  Mehrabian’s Communication Study found that 93% of communication, when emotions are involved, is non-verbal.  This means in emotional situations only 7% of what is being communicated is through words.  Notice what else is being massaged.

3. Be Open and Non-Judging:

Yes, we all believe we are great listeners and we are not.  It is an acquired skill, one for which we receive no training.  When listening to another, stop and focus on what they are saying.  Be open and non-judging, focused on the person.  Listening, focused and open to the other will help you develop an awareness of their emotional state.  Then you will be able to assess and make a judgment (instead of judging) about their emotional state.

4. Be Self-Aware:

You may feel uncomfortable as you become aware of the emotions of another.  You may become excited.  These are your reactions to your emotions, which may be surfacing.  Become aware of what you are feeling.

Acknowledge and own your emotions and then manage them so you can be there for the other person.

Using these strategies you will become more aware of what is going on for others so you can connect in a way that will work for both of you.  You will begin to see, hear and understand them.

Next week I will talk about taking your awareness of the emotional data of another to the next level, where you can build a more effective relationship.


Kathy Taberner

Kathy Taberner

Co-Founder of The Institute Of Curiosity

Kathy Taberner is a retired occupational therapist, Professional Certified Coach (PCC) with a MA in leadership and training.  With her daughter, she is a co-founder of the Institute of Curiosity and co-author of the ‘Power of Curiosity’. She is committed to supporting women to strive to become the dynamic and successful leaders they want to be.  Her research project for her Masters explored the leadership styles and emotional intelligence of senior female leaders in BC.

She and her husband of many years, share their time between the Okanagan and Vancouver.

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