people in a meeting

Over the past 5 weeks, we have been talking about Daniel Goleman’s four components of Emotional Intelligence and how to translate each into action. We have gotten wonderful comments and questions in response to the posts—thank you. One question in particular called for an answer and that question is:

“What if I just miss the people stuff?”

A number of you commented that, while you really appreciate Goleman’s work and our tips about how to implement that work, you still often miss interpersonal nuance—the people stuff. It simply doesn’t register for you.

There is an increasing amount of research that highlights the various and wondrous ways our brains work. Some of us see patterns in data, some in processes and systems, some in people, some in relationships, some in images, etc. Humans have an amazing array of perspectives and those perspectives are shaped by what our brains scan for.

The exciting part about these different perspectives is that they drive creativity and exploration. The challenging part is that they can seem divisive and people can take offense when someone with a very different perspective is calling the shots or leading the way. 

We have heard, for example, about the interactions of someone who is data-oriented getting very focused and missing the interpersonal impact; leaving the people they were talking with feeling run over by facts. At the same time, we have heard from people who are more data-oriented that they have felt almost violated by the quick intimacy that can come from some of their more interpersonally oriented colleagues.

On the heels of our recent series of posts, we want to highlight the need to respect the amazing differences in perspectives, and acknowledge that in our culture people with EQ (emotional intelligence) are often more successful—it’s an important skill to pay attention to.

So, if you are one of the people who asked us to address “not getting the people stuff,” here is a suggestion from our Leader In You leadership series:

When you are going into an interaction where you will need to be interpersonal savvy, ask yourself these questions about the people you are trying to lead:

  • What are they afraid of in this situation?
  • What do they do when they feel that?
  • What would they do if they felt safe / if they were at their best?
  • What can I do to increase their sense of safety / help them be at their best?


We know that this will be purely a guess, but if you pause and ask these questions you will begin to have a sense of the interpersonal dynamics that may be going on in the situation and you will be reminded to support them in feeling safe and being at their best.

This week, we’d encourage all of you to start to notice what you notice. What does your brain scan for? Then notice some of the people who you find challenging and see if you can notice what they scan for. It will give you a glimpse into how others think and give you ideas about how to work with them more effectively.