EQ is more important than IQ. I don’t care how smart you are, if you are a weird selfish prick, you won’t get as far as someone who is less smart, but gets along with everybody.
In a previous post, I discussed how I was able to stay at a $2,000/night hotel for a week for free. The travel hack didn’t involve writing a review about the hotel or using a gagillion credit card points. No I didn’t provide personal finance advice to Ryan Seacrest and Lukas Haas either. This travel hack has to do with building good relationships. Let me share some background.
I have a friend, who was once a client. He is one of the most successful people I know in the finance industry who also happens to be incredibly generous. For about three years while I was working, I tried reaching out to him to grab a coffee. I sent him e-mails and left him voice messages. And for three straight years I never got a reply. Why should he spend time with a peon like me when he’s on his company’s board and hob knobs with Fortune 100 CEOs?
I knew he liked tennis, but telling him “I’d love to go hit with you, and here’s what’s going on in the markets” just wasn’t cutting it. He had plenty of more important people to play with. I failed in making an emotional connection.
Then, in November 2009, Andre Agassi, my tennis hero, who had recently retired, published an amazing autobiography called Open. He was in San Francisco for a book signing, and I went. I waited in line at the bookstore for about 30 minutes with the mission to not only shake Andre’s hand, but also get several signed copies so I could give one to my father and one to my client.
Now, all I had to do was find some way to deliver it. I didn’t want to send it by messenger or mail because there was a high chance the autographed book with my personal note would get lost in the mail. He gets tons of sell-side research that gets tossed without being read. I was searching for a better idea when an opportunity presented itself.
Our group CFO was in town to visit company shareholders. One of those shareholders happened to be the very same client I was trying to get a hold of for the last three years. Because he was based in Europe, I didn’t know him from a hole in the wall. Nevertheless, I summoned up some courage, took him aside, and asked him if you could do me a favor and hand deliver the signed book for me.
He thought it was a terrific idea and agreed to do it! These investor meetings are generally quite monotonous. Thus, if our group CFO could make it more personal by sharing such a memorabilia, the meeting itself would be much more meaningful. Sure enough, just 15 minutes after the meeting ended, my elusive client finally gave me a ring.
“Hi Sam! Thanks so much for the book! I’m a huge fan of Andre’s and I really appreciate the gesture. When would you like to hit? I’d love to get together. How about tomorrow?”
I was in shock, but snapped out of it and immediately agreed to go hit disregarding everything on my calendar. After our hit, we went back to the locker room to shower and change.
There, standing in his underwear, he said something interesting that I’ll never forget. “I really enjoyed our hit. We should do it again. How come you never reached out before? I’m always reachable on e-mail.”
I wanted to tell him, “Well, actually, I’ve been e-mailing you for the past three years with no response.” But instead, I replied, “That would be great! How about next week?” It was December, and the markets were slow.
From that day forward, we became hitting partners, and more importantly, friends. He was always my first call when something pertinent was going on in the Asian markets, and he always put in a good word for me in their annual vote. Every time a senior colleague of mine came to town, he was always happy to take a meeting and say nice things as well. He displayed high emotional intelligence.
When I told him I was leaving my firm two years later, he was sad. He had enjoyed our professional relationship, but enjoyed our personal relationship even more. In fact, after I left, he kept telling the entire street to hire me, not realizing I had negotiated a severance and wanted to pursue my own thing. Until this day, he still recommends me for jobs because he’s worried about my financial well-being. I tell him I’m doing fine, but he is always trying to find a way to help.
Since I left work in 2012, we’ve hung out plenty of times. Not only do we still play tennis a couple times a month, I’ve gone over to his house to watch a Superbowl. We’ve attended concerts, charity events, and Warriors basketball games together. I even made a trip to London to celebrate his 50th birthday party.
You know who your true friends are when you keep hanging out with them after a business relationship ends. All I wanted was to spend time with a good buddy. I never asked for anything more than his company.
A Mentor With Resources
As someone who is over a decade my senior, I see my friend as a mentor. I try to listen as much as possible to his wisdom every time we meet up for a hit because he is so plugged into the global economy. In return, I share with him my perspective on things as well. But mostly, we just have fun on the tennis court and challenge ourselves to stop growing our guts so much.
Since 2010, he’s invited me every year to use some of his credits from his “destination club program.” Each year, he buys a certain number of membership days where he can book amazing properties all over the world. It’s a pretty neat solution for those who travel often, want to feel at home, yet don’t want the hassle of owning a vacation property.
I initially refused because these properties are large and expensive. With usually only my wife and I traveling, we don’t need a 5,000 square foot villa. I felt very bad using any of his credits, especially since I knew it would be very hard to match his generosity in return. See the estimated pricing details below.
Then one day my friend tricked me into believing that if he didn’t use all his days, he would lose them. Therefore, I might as well take some of his days. So I did, for two nights up in Lake Tahoe back in 2011. The experience was fantastic, But I felt bad staying in a huge house with just the two of us so I again declined his generous offer every year until 2016.
In early 2016, he said he had 40 days left to use with only one month left until annual renewal on June 30. He urged me to “help him” use his credits. He then sent me his login information and told me to book anywhere in the world there was availability. I was thinking the Almalfi Coast or a 10-day adventure to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, but the timing was off. That’s when I found the junior deluxe suite at the La Reserve Hotel in Paris.
At ~500 square feet, the suite was a perfect size for two. Further, there was availability during the French Open, my favorite tennis tournament in the world! With 40 days left to use in under 30 days, what a shame to lose all those days. So with his blessing, I booked seven nights.
When I got a hold of the destination club ambassador to coordinate my trip, I asked her more about the membership program as I was thinking of writing a post about such things. I specifically asked her about the unused days and she mentioned, “Don’t worry about the excess days. Your friend has the top tier membership. His excess days get rolled over to the next year every time he renews.”
Drat! I went back to my friend and told him I felt really bad using his days since they rolled over, but he still insisted I take them.
“Don’t worry about it Sam. I’m renewing for another 60 days next year and have way more than enough. You’ve been such a good friend all these years, it’ll bring me great happiness if you can use my days. Enjoy the trip! And don’t get too fat eating all those pastries!” he joked.
Despite my friend having a net worth at least 100X greater than mine, I still feel guilt. But at some point, it becomes impolite to constantly reject a friend’s offer. The courteous thing to do is to graciously accept if they keep on insisting, and reciprocate with something thoughtful. It’s hard to figure out what to get someone with tremendous financial resources. But I got just the gift with an autographed Roland Garros hat from Rafael Nadal for my friend’s son, who also plays tennis.
Develop Your Emotional Intelligence
High emotional intelligence can help you build better friendships, find more job opportunities, get promoted faster, build stronger communities, and even score you some free hotel stays. Here are eight ways I believe will help everyone develop a higher EQ.
1) Always give first. Do your best to give first without expectation of anything immediate in return. In the workplace, if you’re always volunteering to help colleagues beyond your normal job responsibilities, you’ll eventually get noticed and rewarded. In courtship, if you keep treating her to meals, showing her kindness, and making her laugh, there’s a high probability she’ll accept you as a partner. With blogging, if you keep publishing content that is entertaining or helpful without charging a penny, you might develop a large enough reader base where you’ll have readers invite you to stay at their homes or take you out for a meal (thanks Nicholas from Prague for the beer and the Sato brothers in Honolulu for the sushi!).Do things with the intention of helping others. The more you give, the more you will eventually receive.
2) Be a super listener. You cannot learn if you do not listen. If all you do is talk, you’re taking the stance that your way is the only way. It’s vital to listen to other people’s points of view. Otherwise, you’ll end up in a bubble that will eventually get you in trouble. If more people spent more time listening, the world would have a lot fewer clueless people. When you’re with someone, get off your phone. Look at each other. Digest what is being said. Be an active listener.
3) Learn a second language or travel. You don’t have to learn a second language well. But you should at least try. Learning a second, a third, or a fourth language will unlock tremendous insights into other cultures. If you’re too lazy to learn another language, try immersing yourself in different cultures. During college, live in the Spanish House. Travel to Japan on your next vacation. Practice Ramadan if you are overweight. The more you can speak, see, and experience different cultures, the more empathy you will develop for other people.
4) Volunteer your time. Giving money to help others is wonderful, but it’s one step removed. Try to also volunteer your time. Consider volunteering at a homeless shelter, participate in a demonstration against domestic violence, or be a big brother or big sister to a child with absentee parents. The more you see what’s affecting other people, the more you will help other people.
5) Expand your network. Take stock of your immediate social network. Is everybody in the same economic class? Is everybody of the same color or religious background? Does everybody do the same thing for a living? It’s comfortable to hang out with people who look, talk, and act like you. But without a more diverse group of friends, this doesn’t do much for your emotional intelligence development. We tend to fear and loathe those we do not understand.
6) Work in sales or service at least once. When you’ve got to constantly work with different types of people, you learn how to listen, adapt, develop patience, and solve problems. Don’t sit in your ivory tower and make assumptions. Get a tongue lashing by an angry customer. Provide excellent service and get zero tip. As soon as you realize how hard it is to please other people, you will be much more empathetic to the every day people who cut your grass, serve your food, and drive you to the airport. See: Spoiled Or Clueless? Work Minimum Wage Jobs As An Adult
7) Find a common interest. An emotional connection can be more easily formed when you find a common interest. Common interests are genuine and cannot be faked. Think back to how much easier you got along with someone who plays the same sport, follows the same team, went to the same university, grew up in the same city, or loves the same music. I’m instantly attracted to people who love to play sports, are super optimistic, and have their own business.
8) Say a person’s name. Such a simple gesture can go a long way. It shows you remember who they are. You’ll also gain another person’s attention more easily. Saying someone’s name tells the other person you matter.
Be Nice, You Never Know
The best travel hack is to simply be a good friend and a nice person. If your friend happens to have multiple vacation properties and a destination membership to share, fantastic. If your friend happens to be a regular person, that’s fine too. You can pool your resources to rent a place together for the season. Or if you guys each have underutilized vacation properties, you can simply swap. After all, you can only live in one property at a time.
Building relationships involves developing a strong enough emotional intelligence to be able to relate to all sorts of people, rich or poor, Asian or Caucasian, Millennial or Baby Boomer. Once you build good relationships with more people, life gets easier. Do not underestimate the power of guan xi.
At the end of the day, people want to help people they like. It’s impossible to be universally loved, but it is possible to be more patient, thoughtful, and kind. Give as much as you can first, and perhaps one day, someone will return the favor.
Common Scenarios Where EQ Is Needed
1) When you ask someone for help, especially someone you don’t know. Are you being considerate of their time? Did you properly introduce yourself? Did you find a common connection? Did you offer something first?
2) When discussing a touchy subject. Have you taken into account where the other person is coming from? Have you properly introduced your background? Have you made a logical argument of your own? Are you projecting your feelings instead of being rational?
3) When you’re at a social gathering and want to make friends. Are you smiling? Did you begin with a compliment? Are you looking into the other person’s eyes? Do you allow for a 50/50 dialogue split?
Readers, in building stronger relationships, how important is it to have a high emotional intelligence? Why is there such an emphasis on hard skills, and not as much on soft skills?