EQ (emotional intelligence) 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. This travel hack has to do with building good relationships. Let me share some background and more about the importance of emotional intelligence.
A Client, Turned Mentor, Turned Friend
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.
Finding Something In Common
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.
My Client Finally Responded
“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.
Leaving Work Behind
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.
Develop Your Emotional Intelligence
High emotional intelligence (EQ) 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. Don't believe in the discriminatory personal scores Harvard University assigns people by race. We all have the ability to improve.
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.
Developing empathy is incredibly important for developing emotional intelligence.
3) Learn a second language or travel.
You don't have to learn a second language well to boost emotional intelligence. 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 to appreciate how little food millions of people have. 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.
As someone who has run this personal finance blog since 2009, I've received thousands of e-mails and comments from readers. Many are just looking for an answer to one of their many problems. To be able to spend a moment and respond can make a difference, which is why I continue to do my best to respond to everyone more than 14 years later.
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.
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. If you are a pickleball player, we'll probably have an instant connect because the sport is my current obsession! The more interests you have, the more you will develop your emotional intelligence.
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.
Don't be shy to write down a person's name in your phone or on a note pad after meeting them. Put in some notes and the date you met to better jog your memory.
9) Spend time apart and alone
After my wife went to Japan for a week and left me alone with the kids, I felt I developed greater self-awareness and self-confidence. I appreciate her more and all that she does for the kids. I also discovered some things about myself.
For greater emotional intelligence spend time alone and apart from your significant other.
Be Nice, You Never Know
The best travel and career hack is to simply be a good friend and a nice person. 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? How about offering something first?
2) When discussing a touchy subject. Have you taken into account where the other person is coming from? Did 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?
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