The Value of EQ Feedback

Tai is known around his office as a “people person” and is a well-liked sales manager. His interpersonal skills are energetic and fun, and he’s incredibly empathetic and supportive to his team. During his end-of-year reviews, his director always comments on his emotional intelligence as a strength. But when it comes to Tai’s team’s sales performance this year, he’s starting to fall a bit short compared to the other managers around him. His team’s numbers aren’t keeping up and he doesn’t know why. He feels like he’s always hearing how important EQ is, but now it’s failing him.

Tai is falling prey to a common misconception about EQ: he thinks it can be boiled down to likability, social skills, and empathy. In reality, EQ is made up of a broader set of competencies. While Tai and his director both see how well-liked he is and attribute this to a high EQ, Tai’s EQ is actually imbalanced in a way that’s hurting his performance.

How can Tai better recognize his blind spots? Like athletes watching footage of themselves after a game, or novelists using beta readers before they publish, the fastest way to improve your EQ skills is to get feedback from an outside perspective.

One way is to simply ask people around you what behaviors they see are getting in your way. One person’s perspective may be biased, but a group of observations can help level out biases. For Tai, this might mean asking members of his team or his director. The problem with this approach is that the questions he asks, his relationship with each person, and the way he asks his questions will influence the responses he receives.

A second way to try to improve is to watch how other people succeed. For Tai, he could compare his approach to that of more successful sales managers to see what it is that they’re doing well. The problem with this approach is that what works for one manager with one group of people may not work for Tai with his group.

A third way to get at your tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses is to take an emotional intelligence self-assessment (link) which helps you break down specific elements of emotional intelligence compared other working professionals so that you can better see what you’re doing well and which EQ behaviors to improve. Often, by breaking emotional intelligence down into its parts, you begin to see areas that need your attention or that you hadn’t considered previously.

Perhaps the best way to gather feedback is through a 360 assessment which evaluates both the way you see yourself and the way everyone around you sees you. Your leaders, colleagues, and direct reports assess you on the same emotional intelligence behaviors that you rate yourself on. They also write up comments on your emotional intelligence based on their experience working with you. The results allow you to draw a direct comparison between your self-evaluation and the way others see you. This brings your blind spots to life with both data and specific examples from work. For Tai, he will discover through a 360 assessment that while he’s brilliant at connecting with people, his team doesn’t feel like he really understands their long-term goals or gives them the tough feedback they need to grow.

From Insights to Actions. The good news when it comes to emotional intelligence is that research has proven it’s a highly learnable skill. When you assess your EQ, you immediately begin to build your awareness of your tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses, which all offer a means by which to practice and improve. For a leader like Tai who already has the trust and respect of his team, this heightened self-awareness will set him up to excel as a well-balanced, high EQ leader.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmartEQ’s emotional intelligence products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at

How to Reflect on 2020 and Make Your Goals Stick in 2021

“Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.” -Audre Lorde, Poet

Reflection at the end of a year is as tumultuous as 2020 has been intimidating, but it’s through tough times that we learn the most about ourselves. Reflection is not about disingenuous silver linings, phony optimism, or cheesy “life hacks” to solve your problems. Reflection is about getting real with yourself and coming to understand your experiences for what they are—for better and for worse. This year take some time to honestly and seriously consider your experiences, so you can set more impactful resolutions that you are more likely to work at and maintain.

Consider Mónica who reflects on some of her most frequent challenges faced while working in 2020. The one thing that immediately sticks out to her (and to so many people this year) is distraction. She worked longer hours than ever, but she knows she spent some of them distracted. The problem, she realizes, isn’t so much her family, the news, or her phone; the problem is that she isn’t balancing her working life and her home life remotely. At work, she did everything in her power to concentrate so she could leave by six, drive home, and have dinner with her family. At home, she finds herself checking email and staying online even after dinner. The result is a steady stream of weariness, minimal time where she’s actually disconnected, and difficulty feeling “fully engaged” and present with her family at dinner. That’s her honest reflection.

Goal setting is the next step after reflection. Goals that stick are specific strategies or practices you can apply daily. The more specific and clear the behavior, the better. For Mónica, she knows that a sensible goal might be to work on restoring her sense of work-life balance. Rather than just writing down this big, vague goal and giving it a go, she needs to get precise so she can spot what to do differently. Otherwise, she will just fall back on old habits. She remembers how when she worked in a physical office, she would head out the door at six and rarely ever check email or do work once she was in the car and at home. To get more strategic with her goal, Mónica recreates the feeling of leaving her office at six. Each day at six, she will get up from her desk and go for a 30-minute walk before having dinner with her family. That’s a more impactful resolution.

Staying on track with your goals is the next easiest place to falter. Every year 80% of people give up on their resolutions entirely by Super Bowl Sunday and only about 5% succeed through the year. Why? Because creating new habits is surprisingly difficult. Below are three strategies to follow as you try to turn your goal into a habit that sticks by April, May, August or November.

  1. Make the new habit convenient. When something is easy, we do it more often. If there’s always a beer in the fridge, we are much more likely to drink one. Or, if our phone is beside our computer instead of across the room in a drawer, we’re much more likely to check it. For Mónica, walking after work is easy. She can just get up from her desk and walk out the door. If she chose something a bit more difficult, like going to the gym or phoning a friend to go with her, even these little extra steps can get in the way of forming a habit.
  • Substitute part of the old habit with something new. One of the best ways to change a habit is to replace part of the existing one. For example, if you finish your work each day and crack a beer, you might replace the beer with a lemonade or iced tea that’s waiting right there when you get home. A similar substitute works well because you don’t have to create a whole new habit. Mónica substituted her old driving commute with a walking commute.
  • Piggyback your habit onto an existing habit. Our brains tend to respond well to piggybacking because it doesn’t require an entire overhaul of what we were doing before. Instead, you just train your brain to associate your new habit with an existing one. For people who want to use their phones less, they might just drop their phone in the same bowl as their keys then go about their day. For Mónica, stepping out her front door piggybacks off the existing habit of stepping away from her computer at six, and it is effective because she is physically away from her computer when an email comes through her phone. To be sure she’s not tempted when she returns, she can also turn her computer off, not just put it to sleep.

From Insights to Action. From now until January 1st 2021, reflect on that one nagging thing that’s been holding you back, even during this incredibly difficult year. You may be surprised what kinds of honest conclusions you reach and specific solutions you come up with. By choosing only one nagging thing, you’ll also be sure to stay focused and motivated in your effort to change. We’ll try our best to join you. Good luck to us all in the new year to come!

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at

Better EQ, Better Performance

In January of 2020, EQ had already topped LinkedIn’s Yearly Report on the Top 5 Most Desired Workplace Skills, and this was before workplace and life challenges faced us all when the pandemic struck. Organizational leaders with savvy insight doubled down on EQ making it an organization-wide priority to help give their employees the tools they need to face the unprecedented in a healthy, productive way.

When we connected with Reid Swanson, a certified EQ trainer at a major southern Californian medical center, he shared exactly this sentiment with us: “As we move to virtual trainings,” he said, “I have a smaller budget this year than what I’d budgeted previous years. But especially with everything going remote and with all the disruptions right now, EQ is one of the things that we especially need to keep emphasizing and making available.”

Swanson’s sentiment is one shared by many of our clients, both old and new, and to help show people why this is the case, we wanted to step back and highlight some of the most important ways that training people in EQ skills can benefit individuals, teams, and organizations:

Better EQ, Better You: EQ skills can radically alter your life. High EQ people perform better at work, make considerably more money, are more effective in their relationships, and they literally live happier, healthier lives.

Performance: At TalentSmart, we tested emotional intelligence alongside 33 other important workplace skills and found that EQ is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs. Of the millions of people we’ve studied at work, 90% of top performers are high in emotional intelligence. On the flip side, just 20% of bottom performers are high in emotional intelligence. High EQ people earn an average of $29,000 more per year than those with a low degree of EQ. The link between emotional intelligence and earnings is so direct that every point increase in EQ adds $1,300 to an annual salary. These findings hold true for people across industries, at all levels, in every region of the world.

Quality of life: EQ literally saves people’s lives. Negative emotions like stress, anxiety, and depression weaken the immune system. Because high EQ people more skillfully recognize and understand their own emotions, they’re more likely to recognize negative emotions and potential stressors. And because they are more skilled at managing negative emotions, they have healthy habits in place to deal with their negative feelings. One study looked at tension, fear, and anxiety in women over the course of twenty years and found that those less skilled at managing their emotions experienced higher levels of stress, and over the course of twenty years, they were twice as likely to develop breast cancer as those women more skilled at managing their emotions. EQ skills not only prevent stress-related disease, but they can also increase the speed of recovery from cancer and heart attacks. EQ skills have also been linked to happiness. People high in EQ know how to make the most of their positive emotions by doing things like savoring good moods, practicing gratitude, learning to view failure as an opportunity to grow, not letting small things interfere with big picture happiness, and learning to derive their happiness from within not without.

Better EQ, Better Team: The bulk of work at organizations is done by teams, and teams are made up of people with varying levels of EQ. This can present a problem on teams that don’t successfully work to improve their group’s emotional intelligence—they may stumble on politics, unnecessary bureaucracy, internal and external conflicts, and miscommunications. But, on high EQ teams, performance of the group can become seamless, full of good ideas and innovations, and can easily exceed the capabilities of any one person alone by playing to key strengths and weaknesses.

Team performance: Teams skilled in EQ are more successful at achieving their goals, problem-solving, and completing tasks quickly than less emotionally intelligent teams in healthcare, technology, and engineering professions.

Team dynamic. Because team EQ skills help teams overcome the complexity of interactions on a team level (between individuals, subgroups, and team-to-team communication), it has easily been linked to a number of team-level skills. Some of the most important include the ability to collaborate cross-functionallydevelop in-group trustestablish group cohesion, and manage stress as a team during emotionally charged situations

Better EQ, Better Organization: Building emotional intelligence into the organization from top to bottom gives everyone a universal framework and vocabulary with which to approach work, and it also improves the bottom line.

Organizational performance: In a seminal case study at L’Oreal, salespeople hired for their emotional intelligence outsold their counterparts by about $90,000 per year for an organizational jump in sales of $2.6 million. L’Oreal’s high EQ salespeople were also 63% less likely to leave their job. TalentSmart training programs in EQ have led to a number of organizational improvements including:

  1. A 40% increase in engineers’ ability to deal with change at a Fortune 200 defense contractor.
  2. A 67% improvement in problem employees’ ability to prevent setbacks from influencing their work at a Fortune 50 telecommunications company.
  3. A 93% improvement in leaders’ ability to handle conflict at a Fortune 500 medical center.

Organizational benefits: When it comes to companies that people tend to work at, stay at, and even recommend to friends, we like to attribute this to “company culture” or “intangibles.” In reality, we are often referring to a company’s ability to build an environment of inclusivity and growth from top to bottom. EQ on the organizational level has been shown to help unify people toward a common mission, encourage prosocial behavior and organizational citizenship, and to make employees less resistant to change. These types of organization-wide benefits enable employees to find mentors, learn new skills, feel like a part of something bigger, and forge deeper, long-term relationships at work.

From Insights to Action. To read more about the benefits of EQ, EQ strategies for improvement, and more, go to Or, to learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmartEQ’s emotional intelligence products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at

3 Research-Backed Ways that EQ Drives Sales Performance

Barry, takes a week-long sales trip to New York to visit clients. He bounces around the city doing client visits while also juggling his full weekly schedule—meetings with the home office, an existing high maintenance client with demanding last-minute requests, and a challenging new lead who researches online, asks tough questions, and shops as many simultaneous options as she can.

To succeed across this wide array of challenges and people, Barry needs an equally wide array of skills: He needs to be able to switch rapidly between clients and adjust his approach along the way. He needs to manage his stress through busy, high-stakes weeks. He also needs to communicate clearly, be persuasive, inspire clients, and respond flexibly to changing client demands.

To train salespeople like Barry in this array of “soft skills” takes significant time and resources for his organization. The good news is that all these sales skills, and many others, can be boosted simultaneously by practicing one skillset: emotional intelligence (EQ). Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions, and your skill at using this awareness to manage yourself and your relationships with others. Research shows that salespeople high in EQ outperform and outsell those low in EQ. Here are three research-backed reasons why EQ improves critical sales skills:

High EQ sales reps are better at interpersonal skills. To get through his week packed full of meetings and phone calls, Barry constantly relies on his interpersonal skills. He moves fluidly from a demanding client to a new lead to a long-time client who is affable, laid-back and just wants to catch up personally. Each client has their own needs, emotions, and style of communication, and it’s up to Barry to successfully create a positive outcome—whether that’s a sale, rapport-building, or even just inspiring some initial intrigue. In multiple studies on sales reps, high performers were found to be those who excelled at EQ. Like Barry, they read and manage emotions during client conversations, adapting their behavior to fit the situation and influence the buyer. The secret to their success lies in their ability to identify shared feelings between themselves and the buyer, then using these to move forward together.

High EQ sales reps are better at stress management. Leading up to his high stakes week of client visits, Barry is prone to feeling nervous and stressed. Instead of letting his nerves take over, he’s learned to remind himself of past successes. He tells himself that he often thrives under pressure. He just needs to be sure to stick to his usual self-care practices while on the road. He gets to sleep by 10:30, limits himself to just one coffee each morning, and sets aside an hour to exercise before dinner. It’s through his routine that he finds a positive rhythm and the energy to catch up on communications with the home office. This is thriving under pressure. Studies show that high EQ sales reps not only manage their stress more effectively, but they also report feeling less stressed than their low EQ counterparts. On top of that, high EQ people report feeling more positive emotions. This positivity, like Barry showed as he mentally prepared for his big week, is essential to sales reps as they navigate tough clients, tough weeks, and tough months.

High EQ sales reps are more adaptable and creative.When Barry sits down for dinner with a client hoping to close a big deal, the client almost immediately throws a big wrench in his plan. She shares that she’s going to wait three months for her new quarterly budget before she buys anything at all. Barry is upset and fears she won’t end up purchasing come three months from now. But, he recognizes that his future worries can interfere with this very moment. He takes a deep breath to set his worries aside, then asks her questions to learn more about her budget and how she intends to use it next quarter. This allows her to dream out loud and feel even more excited about the possibilities. By the time he leaves dinner, she has agreed to a substantially larger deal than before; he just needed to be patient. Where a low EQ sales rep might have pushed for early commitment in their fear of losing the sale, Barry was able to stay level-headed, see the bigger picture, and adapt his approach to meet the situation at hand.

From Insights to Action.How you sell matters. What your process is matters. But how your customers feel when they engage with you matters more.” –Tiffani Bova

Perhaps the most important finding in emotional intelligence research is that it is a highly flexible skill. With practice, people who measure low in EQ can work to improve a specific EQ skill within six months to a year.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at

A Story of Remarkable Team EQ: The Maiden Crew

In 1989, Tracy Edwards put together the first ever all-women’s crew to enter the Round the World sailing race. After years of putting together their team, raising funding, and fixing up their boat, The Maiden, the Maiden team’s journey became one that would go down in history for its trailblazing, inspirational story. The team’s race was full of powerful lessons highlighting the power of team EQ.

The Trials. As a warm-up, just a month before the race in 1989, the Maiden team entered a short practice race. From the outset, Tracy (the captain) and Marie-Claude (the first mate) butted heads. Despite reporting to Tracy, Marie-Claude wielded her extra experience to make key decisions without Tracy’s approval. Their clashing boiled over when a crew member broke her wrist only to find that there was no medical kit on board. As they packed the boat before the race, Marie-Claude had gone behind Tracy’s back to instruct the medic not to bring the kit. Angry, Tracy lashed out at the medic who responded, “Quite frankly Tracy, we don’t know who’s in charge of this boat.” Without proper equipment to manage Jo’s injury, the Maiden crew dropped out of the race, and Tracy fired Marie-Claude. The team lost Marie-Claude, and they also lost all of her experience. It was too late to replace her before the big race, and the team was disheartened and anxious for what was to come next.

Team EQ Lesson #1: Speaking up is essential. When two members of a team clash, the whole team feels it. Emotions ran high when Jo broke her wrist, and because the crew was relatively new, they weren’t sure how to deal with the tension. The medic’s response to Tracy (that she isn’t sure who is in charge) was invaluable on behalf of a confused team. By speaking up, the medic shared a problem weighing on the whole team, and this was ultimately the moment that convinced Tracy to fire Marie-Claude. If the medic had been too afraid to speak up, the tense atmosphere may have never cleared. When a team’s emotions fluctuate, it’s a core tenant of team EQ that all members hold accountability for the team and speak up on behalf of the group. Otherwise, extreme dynamics and emotions may pass by or get brushed under the rug, until they come back later on and interfere with the team’s performance.

The First Leg. The team set off nervously on the first 6,000-mile leg from Southampton to Uruguay. They were already down two crew members from their trial run gone wrong, and the journalists, media, and other teams all forecasted, and even bet on, the Maiden crew’s failure. The crew blocked this outside noise and got to work. They assigned roles and split into two teams of five, taking turns on four-hour shifts to sail through the night. Various members, each playing to their strengths, filled in Marie-Claude’s previous responsibilities (like helming the boat). They got off to a slow start, but once the wind picked up, they didn’t just make it to Uruguay; they won the first leg. Then, they won the second leg too.

Team EQ Lesson #2: Team dynamic trumps experience. The team started the first leg nervous. Marie-Claude’s depth of experience made her a source of comfort despite her intensity and constant clashing with Tracy. What happened in the absence of the most seasoned sailor? Things went more smoothly than ever. The team’s internal relationship management became a strength instead of a weakness. Teams skilled at managing their emotions are able to develop a strong sense of trust so that people feel comfortable stepping up and playing to their strengths. Interviewed about the change from the trial to the first leg, the team commented:

  • “All of a sudden, people who weren’t necessarily allowed to step up, stepped up, and were incredibly good.”
  • “Team spirit was very good and became stronger and stronger.”
  • “Our fear that we couldn’t get somebody that could helm the boat in terrible conditions was completely misfounded.”

The Finish: On May 28, 1990, at the end of the last leg, the crew realized that despite their early successes, they wouldn’t be able to win. The team was devastated initially, but as they approached the finish at Southampton, they spotted a dingy full of 12-year-old kids cheering. Then another boat. Then another. A parade of boats escorted the Maiden to their second-place finish. Though they didn’t win the race, thousands of inspired people boated out to celebrate them.

Lesson #3: Team EQ skills elevate teams beyond immediate results. In an interview, Tracy reflected back on the finish of the race saying, “By that time we didn’t need to talk to do any of the maneuvers we did. We thought each other’s thoughts before we were even doing them. I didn’t feel the need to speak. It was just closeness.” This degree of closeness shows a team high in emotion awareness (knowing each other’s emotions even in silence) and internal management (their roles and movements are smoothed out to the point that barely need to communicate). Another team member, Tanja, described the end of the journey saying, “That was a special thing. We respected each other. We trusted each other. There was never an argument.” This describes a team that worked hard to manage their emotions in order to respect each other’s feelings and build successful relationships over time. Respect and trust of this degree has to be built slowly over time and it has to include everyone.This team elevated itself beyond just a high performing team; they became an inspiration to people outside their team. When a team operates from a set of core values, and does so with a high degree of team emotional intelligence, they will continue to grow and succeed even when they fall short of their goals.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at

How Emotional Intelligence Drives Innovation

When we think about innovation, we usually picture someone quirky and isolated, like Yoshiro Nakamatsu the inventor of the floppy disc. When Nakamatsu had a specific mental challenge, he would head down to the pool, dive in, and hold his breath until he was completely deprived of oxygen. When he surfaced, gasping for breath, he would madly scribble down whatever thoughts he had on a waterproof notepad.

Stories like this of the “lone wolf” innovator are popular, but they overlook one of the biggest factors when it comes to innovation: people.

“Innovation is all about people. Innovation thrives when the population is diverse, accepting, and willing to cooperate.” ~ Vivek Wadhwa, Tech Entrepreneur

Even the smallest innovations (like a tweak to an existing process) often require a vast range of interpersonal skills. One idea typically entails an interruption of an existing way of doing something, winning people over to your idea through clear and persuasive communication, and a collaborative rollout of additional changes and tweaks as the idea comes into fruition. That’s why people high in emotional intelligence (EQ) are better equipped to innovate. They’ve already developed many of the necessary skills to effectively disrupt the people and systems around them.

High EQ people can clear their minds and get objective. Good mood, or bad mood, when emotions run high, they ultimately get in the way of our most creative and productive self. High EQ people experience emotions just as intensely as anyone else, but they are more effective at understanding and managing their emotions. This means when they’re faced with a critical decision or crippling problem, they can step back from feeling overwhelmed and gain that much-needed big picture perspective. This ability to get the bird’s eye view even when emotions run high opens up space for innovation and problem-solving. After all, it’s often when we are faced with problems that our temporary solution becomes a lasting innovation—like the Post-It Note which originated as a failed glue that 3M researcher Arthur Fry began to use at home as temporary adhesive for his sheet music.  

High EQ people lean into their discomfort. It’s hard to imagine how many good ideas have been left percolating in people’s minds because they were afraid to share them in the first place. To innovate you have to disrupt, and to disrupt, you have to get uncomfortable. People push back and even resent you when you change the status quo. Anyone who has heard the phrase, “this is just the way we’ve always done it,” has been on the receiving end of innovation pushback. One of the core tenants of emotional intelligence is to recognize that our habits and comforts can hold us back. On the other hand, when you get in the habit of leaning into your discomfort, a couple things happen: 1) Some discomforts become comfortable 2) You fail, and then you learn and grow. It’s a win-win.   

High EQ people craft emotionally-charged pitches. A dramatic example of the power of a good pitch is when Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) sought to keep his funding in a 1969 senate hearing before John Pastore, a congressman known for attacking television:

Fred Rogers had prepared to read a 10-minute testimony to Pastore, and just before his turn, Congressman Pastore announced he was tired of hearing people read testimonies. There would be no more reading out loud. Mr. Rogers pivoted and spoke directly to Pastore and the listeners. In less than 4 minutes, and with the lyrics of a children’s song, he addressed trust, expressions of care, and the ability to talk about and manage anger. He also landed 20 million dollars in funding. There’s a lesson to be learned when you watch Fred in action. He didn’t speak fast, he didn’t take the offer to read his 10 minute statement, he wasn’t flashy, and he didn’t use pictures. What he did was take us all back to the child within us and made the case for his innovative approach with children developing a world of future adults able to recognize emotions and manage them productively. Before you set out to win people over to your idea, ask yourself “Who will my idea help and how?” Answering these simple questions will make your effort at disruption more exciting, applicable, and real to your audience, whether it’s a board of investors a congressional hearing, or a five-person team.

High EQ people make the most of their feedback. Ideas and innovations, while often arrived at in a split-second, change and evolve greatly with time. As time passes, outside perspectives come in and unforeseen problems arise. People high in EQ don’t get flustered or discouraged by these nagging problems. Instead, they leverage problems and feedback to grow their idea. They don’t take feedback personally. They sift through it, identifying the helpful comments and the not-so-helpful ones. When high EQ people receive confusing feedback, they question and push to understand it more deeply. The result is that their innovations become more finely tuned more quickly, and they win over allies in the process as they involve other people instead of lashing out at them for differing opinions or pulling away.

From Insights to Action. It’s not just individuals who benefit from high EQ when it comes to innovation. On the organizational level, a high EQ workplace means trust, openness, and inclusivity. As a result, ideas, perspectives, and opinions intersect more frequently, and people, regardless of their level or background, feel unafraid to share, receive criticism, or fail. This degree of openness and trust drives innovation across all levels of the organization.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at

How EQ Powers Patient Care

“What is remarkable is not merely the consequences of a doctor’s negative emotions. Despite research showing that most patients pick up on the physician’s negativity, few of them understand its effect on their medical care.”
-Jerome E. Groopman, M.D. Chair of Medicine at Harvard Medical School

When it comes to patient care, there’s really no such thing as a simple interaction. With health and money top of mind, patients and their families’ emotions inevitably run high and health care professionals rely on an arsenal of interpersonal skills to navigate these tough interactions.

A TalentSmart certified trainer from a major medical center in California shared one example of patients coming into an imaging center for CT scans. Before they even come in, many patients are already frustrated, angry, and scared. And on top of that, it’s not uncommon for imaging departments to fall behind schedule or experience a mechanical issue. For staff, this means trying to keep patients calm and comfortable throughout their wait and appointment, which often entails long periods of time in a claustrophobic environment. Doing so requires empathy, active listening, immediate connection, a high degree of professionalism, and the ability to adjust their approach to meet each patient’s feelings and needs.

The good news is that all of these necessary “soft skills” can be improved simultaneously by practicing one skillset: emotional intelligence (EQ). Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions, and your skill at using this awareness to manage yourself and your relationships with others.

HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems), the standard patient care survey administered across hospitals, includes 16 questions (of 25 total) about behaviors that can be connected directly to EQ skills. And research over the last decade shows that this overlap of HCAHPS behaviors and EQ skills is more than just a coincidence. EQ drives successful patient care across a variety of positions and experience levels in the hospital environment:

  1. Nurses: Nurses high in social competence are better able to attend to their patients’ comfort. They’re also better equipped to work with a patient’s family or advocate by showing understanding and addressing concerns and questions.
  2. Nursing teams: So much of the work done in the hospital is done by teams, and patients feel the dynamic of the whole team during their stay. It’s incredibly important, for example, for a patient to feel comfortable through the transition from one nurse’s shift to the next. And, it’s important that the patient feels like the team is communicating behind the scenes so that the patient doesn’t have to ask the same questions or repeat the same responses. Teams of nurses high in EQ, especially in the skill of emotion management, are rated by patients as having better overall quality of care and as being more cohesive as a group.
  3. Physicians: Physicians high in EQ have been found to deliver an overall higher level of patient care than other physicians. Physicians who are self-aware and can self-manage are better able to do things like listen actively, choose their words wisely as they share difficult news or complicated information, and deliver thoughtful care.
  4. Surgeons: High EQ has a very positive effect on patient-surgeon relationships. Specifically, this study found that surgeons high in EQ built greater rapport more quickly because they were better able to empathize with patients and express empathy in a way that resonated with the patient.
  5. Medical students, residency, and beyond: Beginning with medical students, studies have found that students with higher EQ ratings scored more highly in patient care surveys. The trend persisted through residency and up into the level of doctor. For medical students, EQ skills can help them establish trust and professional respect from patients. It can also help them learn by developing strong relationships with doctors and other staff.
  6. All hospital staff: One of the most interesting findings with emotional intelligence in healthcare comes from a study in Greece where they found that different staff relied on different aspects of EQ to succeed on the job. Physicians relied heavily on self-management to deal with stress and workload, nurses on self-awareness and social awareness to manage their constant stream of human interactions, and administrative staff on relationship management skills to navigate the variety of conversations from patients and other staff.

From Insights to Action. Perhaps the most important finding in emotional intelligence research is that it is a highly flexible skill. With practice, people who measure low in EQ can work to improve a specific EQ skill within six months to a year.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at

3 Lessons in Team EQ from a Plan Gone Wrong

Whether it’s in the office, on Zoom, on a mountain, or in a boat, the performance of a team lies in that team’s ability to effectively recognize, understand, and manage its emotions. A climbing team in Yosemite found this out as they ventured out to climb Cathedral Peak.  First described in Laurence Gonzales’ book Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, here is a close look at their climb with attention to the role emotions played in their team’s performance.

Their Plan

David, his brother Rob, and their friend Steven were all set to climb Cathedral Peak in Yosemite. They each came into the climb with varying degrees of climbing experience. The route required six rope lengths and Rob had never climbed more than one. That said, the 10,940-foot peak is considered relatively easy, well within his capabilities. As an experienced rock climber, David approached new climbs with his existing mental model of how climbing worked for him. He knew, for example, what types of ropes, anchors, harnesses, carabiners, and quickdraws to use in different situations. The experienced one, David devised the plan for the group. There was another significant element at play though: David approached the climb with a set of positive memories and emotions from past successful climbs. These memories and emotions motivated him to climb again, to try this new challenge with his brother and his friend. Feeling good, he anticipated favorable conditions and success in reaching Cathedral Peak. Due largely to their trust in David, Rob and Steven also felt confident and excited.

Their Climb

Of course, things did not go exactly as planned. The climbers woke up at 4am to find that someone had stolen their food. The plan had been to hike to the base of the peak by 8am, but it took two hours to buy food and this pressured them to catch up to their original schedule. They estimated they could still make it to the summit by 3pm, but to do so, they would have to cut everything a bit closer than originally planned.

They checked the weather board at the rangers’ station and noticed it hadn’t been updated. The day before, the board had forecasted good weather, and a cloudless sky seemed to confirm that. Caught up in their excitement and urge to catch up to their schedule, they ignored an important possibility: Mountainous terrain lends itself to rapid, unpredictable changes in weather. They started their ascent two hours late at 10am and felt good, moving up the face relatively quickly. Once they’d made it two lengths up, a thick layer of storm clouds filled in across the valley. They’d been awake eight hours at this point, and each foot of altitude meant less oxygen to their brains. Feeling the stress growing, friction surfaced between them about the plan. The climb was only getting more complicated, but they ultimately agreed to stick to the plan.

Rain filled in across the valley, and they paused again to discuss whether they should continue. They agreed to press for the top. With emotions and adrenaline running high, they felt driven by an overwhelming impulse for forward-moving action. They agreed to stick to their goal, to press for the top, but now in a nervous race against the weather. The weather caught up to them at the sixth and final length. The rock wall slickened, and hail obscured their vision and chilled their hands. David made it to the summit, but Rob and Steven had one last stretch. Suddenly, Rob and Steven felt all their hair stand on end. A thunderhead had locked onto their bodies, and there was nothing they could do. “Everything around us started to buzz,” they described later. “It was the most terrifying sound I ever heard.” Acting entirely on instinct, Rob and Steven scrambled up the wet face to an overhanging rock in case they were struck. Lightening slammed Rob into the wall in front of him. He heard Steven moan and saw David up at the summit, unconscious. Rob scrambled recklessly up the rest of the face to the summit to help his brother. It was getting late, and they had no way to start a fire, no way to treat David, and no waterproof clothing. What saved their lives in the end, was another climber at the base, planning to climb the next day. He heard them above yelling and radioed for help. They did all survive.

The emotional dynamic in this team nearly killed them. Here are three important team EQ lessons in their near-death experience:

Team EQ Lesson #1: Emotions, good and bad, can get in the way of a team’s performance. David, Rob, and Steven were so caught up in their excitement about the climb that they overlooked multiple signs of potential trouble: the missing forecast at the ranger station, the clouds filling in, and even the rain across the valley. If they had stepped back from their excitement, they may have waited to ensure a safe weather forecast. At organizations, this might include releasing a new product not fully tested for safety, or announcing a deal that isn’t yet signed.  

Team EQ Lesson #2: Norms set the tone, especially in times of confusion. Their plan, though carefully devised, didn’t include a bailout. As a result, they put their lives at risk for a climb they could have done the next day. At organizations, neglecting an “escape plan” can result in work being rushed to a bad finish because the group refused to reevaluate their work. It can also lead to unnecessary or rigid rule-following and enforcement.

Team EQ Lesson #3: Leaders, exercise humility; followers, disagree openly. David was the leader, and as such, he should have been the first person to raise doubt when he realized they were facing real danger. He carries the responsibility to know that his enthusiasm would be contagious to Rob and Steven who relied on him as the experienced leader. Although Rob and Steven were less experienced, two voiced concerns might have sparked more prudence in David, and earlier. This same dynamic happens in organizations. When a leader ignores changing conditions or fails to consider potential risks in a plan, and the team doesn’t feel comfortable voicing their critique, avoidable mistakes will occur.

To learn more about increasing your team’s emotional intelligence, and TalentSmart’s products and programs to facilitate team development, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit

How to Keep Your Cool

“Anger doesn’t have the same way of goading minds as the other vices do; it drags them away, deprives them of self-control, drives them into longing for a harm that will afflict all, provokes rage against not only its target but whatever comes in its way.” –Seneca, On Anger

Seneca’s quote, though 2000 years old, is timeless because it describes something everyone has felt at some point in their life: a total loss of control under the spell of anger. The reason we’ve all experienced anger this way is that anger is hardwired into our brains as a survival mechanism. Anger triggers fight or flight reactions by activating a region of the brain called the amygdala and releasing a surge of hormones. Of course, in the working world and our day-to-day lives, fight or flight survival instincts are much more likely to get in our way than to help us. Left unchecked, anger will cause us to do things like yell in a meeting, pound our fist on a conference table, or walk out of the room in frustration.

Psychologist Dr. Jennifer Lerner found in her recent research on anger and decision-making that anger makes us temporarily more confident, more likely to blame specific individuals, and more prone to dangerous risk-taking. To try to stop our angry impulses, we need to learn to rely on the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for reasoning and decisions. It’s through the prefrontal cortex that we can slow down and contextualize our anger before we act. To help you practice staying calm under the influence of anger, we can look to this ancient philosopher’s work On Anger for six still incredibly relevant strategies.  

1. Take your time. “Sometimes false things give the appearance of truth. One must take one’s time; a day reveals the truth.” Time gives us the mental space we need to avoid acting impulsively on our anger. Sleeping on it, leaving an email in draft form for a few hours or for a trusted friend to read first, or even just counting to ten all present opportunities to use anger more intentionally. You can never take back something you’ve already said, but you can always say it later.

2. “Being deceived is better than being mistrustful.” It’s too easy to assume the worst about someone and then slowly fill in a story proving your mistrust.The problem is that this takes energy. It consumes your thoughts and soon you will find yourself angry over random actions as you mistakenly assume each one is pitted against you. Save your energy, and trust until trust is broken, rather than sapping your energy and patience by making everyone earn your trust.

3. Let the petty things go. “Nothing nurtures anger so much as luxury that lacks restraint and can’t stand setbacks.” The road to an unbearable life is paved with “all the small things.” Instead of wasting time and energy sweating the little stuff, learn to expect that life is imperfect, changing, and downright weird sometimes.

4. “None of us is without guilt.” When you find yourself getting angry or frustrated with someone, remember your own wrongdoings. Then, forgive people the way you would want to be forgiven.

5. Befriend your enemies. “How often has someone thrown theirself at the feet of the person they earlier spurned? What is more glorious than to change one’s wrath into friendship?” A more contemporary take on this is Abraham Lincoln’s “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” What better way to move past anger than to try to fully reverse it and befriend the person you’re angry with.

6. Know your vulnerabilities. “This one wants consideration for high rank; that one, for good looks. One longs to be thought highly refined; another, deeply learned. One can’t abide arrogance; another, stubbornness…One thinks it an injury to be asked for something; another, an insult not to be asked.” We all have different vulnerabilities that trigger our anger. Becoming aware of these triggers can help us pause or slow down to avoid reacting badly in the heat of the moment.

From Insights to Action. “What joy is there in proclaiming our grievances and wasting our brief lifespan, as though we were born to live forever? Why not rather hoard this brief space of life and make it peaceful for yourself and for others?” In other words, turn to the big picture things, good and bad—like family, health, friendships, mortality, and nature—to reframe your perspective. The further you zoom out from your problems, the more trivial they seem. Or as Seneca put it: “Draw further back, and laugh.” 

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at

Empathy Erosion: 5 Strategies to Rebuild Yours

That bitter, older manager in the office who’s always grumbling about the younger generations being “all selfies and no respect” might actually have a bit more bite to his bark than you think. A Notre Dame study tracked empathy levels in college students beginning in 1979 and found that over the course of 30 years, average empathy levels in college students had dropped nearly 50%.

No one is sure exactly why, and speculation runs the gamut. One theory is that people are spending less and less time interacting with each other and more and more time with electronics. Another theory from Australian philosopher Dr. Roman Krznaric is that “digital culture has created an epidemic of narcissism and exacerbated political polarization that divides rather than unites people.”

Whatever may be contributing to this decline in empathy, the good news for all of us is that we can get ahead of this trend personally and even help turn it around. Empathy is something anyone can improve with effort regardless of their baseline. Below, we’ve compiled five strategies you can apply to help strengthen your empathy muscle.

Be curious. “Remember to look up at the stars, not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist.” –Stephen Hawking

Perhaps the best way to grow our empathy is to be genuinely curious about everyone around us. They may not live the way we do or make the same decisions, but each person is their own universe of complexity with unlimited opportunities for learning.

Be aware of “empathy erosion.” You might snap “not now” at your kid as they climb onto your lap during a meeting or shoot off a callous email one evening on your way out the door. These lapses in empathy are examples of what Cambridge psychologist Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen calls “empathy erosion.” Our empathy wanes when we get caught up in an “I” mode of thinking, obsessing over our own thoughts and feelings at the expense of the thoughts and feelings of the people around us. Empathy erosion is the quickest and most common way for even highly empathetic people to act unempathetically. Being more aware of this possibility gives you the choice to remain connected to the thoughts and feelings of the person you are with.

Look deeper in movies and books. “Nearly everyone in the world has appetites and impulses, trigger emotions, islands of selfishness, lusts just beneath the surface.” John Steinbeck’s East of Eden

Beneath every tree is a network of roots equaling the size of the tree. People are like this too—so much of who we are is hidden beneath the surface. As you watch movies or read books, try to see what lies beneath the surface for each character. What problems, successes, emotions, thoughts, values, and beliefs, make them the person they are?

Catch your own confirmation bias. “People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for.” –Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

We tend to confirm what we already think, and this includes our preconceived notions of others. Whether we realize it or not, we constantly judge people, and then when they speak or act, we organize their actions into preconceived boxes. Instead, we should strive for a “tabula rasa,” treating each person we meet as a blank slate and each of their actions as a fresh mark to interpret.

Try compassionate meditation. In a two-week, daily meditation study at University of Wisconsin-Madison, one group of people practiced “compassionate meditation” while another group practiced “general positive meditation.” In the compassionate meditation group, participants focused on specific individuals they knew (some they liked, some who were acquaintances, and some who they were actively in a conflict with). Regardless of the relationship, they meditated on that person repeating the phrase “may you be free from suffering.” After two weeks passed, they measured participant brain activity and everyone was asked to spend money to help a fictional person in need. Those who engaged in compassionate meditation offered to donate more money to help. And the area of their brain associated with empathy showed an overall increase in activity. In other words, their empathy grew both in action and neurologically! Try repeating “may you be free from suffering” for your friends, acquaintances and those who pose challenges for you.

From Insights to Action. “Empathy is really important. Only when our clever brain and our human heart work together in harmony can we achieve our full potential.” –Jane Goodall

Empathy is at the core of who we are, and practicing it will restore you, not deplete you. Try the strategies above, and you might be surprised to find that the more empathy you exercise, the more full your life begins to feel as you inspire others and begin to replenish the empathy decline.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at