Considering the innovation process, this is a subject I have been thinking about for sometime, there are many notions conjured up by the term coined by Daniel Goleman in his seminal book “Emotional Intelligence“, particularly compassion, understanding, and even, love; however, for most of us, EQ is predominantly something that we feel rather than something we are aware of doing. It is subtle and yet we are comfortable when it is being demonstrated and uncomfortable when it needs to be improved. Understanding this is at the heart of customer acquisition.

Nevertheless, there are ways to improve ones empathy without being manipulative, and it’s simple when you use rapid reasoning

The shortest path to develop emotional intelligence, when you’re talking to a potential client or a difficult customer, is to enquire along the lines of:

“Are you feeling A because you need B?”

For example, “are you upset because you want to solve this faster?”

We are all familiar with those cringe-worthy moments in which someone’s lack of self-awareness brings about discord, upset or humiliation, everyone knows “one of those” or “that guy” who fails to acknowledge other people’s feelings. When I think of the worst example, I think of Ricky Gervais’ character from the British version of The Office, David Brent, and his monolithic faux pas. I am sure you can think of your own examples of inadequate emotional intelligence, not to mention the leader of the German Third Reich whose actions lead to World War II and the Holocaust.


Nevertheless, to improve and develop emotional intelligence a simple model can be rapidly applied:


People express a form of delight when they have their needs met and express a form of discontent/hurt/sad when their needs are not met.

The ability to identify how others feel is crucial to both a harmonious and productive professional and personal life, because, for many of us, things may not always be what they seem; however, they are always how they feel.

Helping others, and yourself, identify the state of what you’re feeling and what the causal need is that is being met or being missed will accelerate improving your emotional intelligence in the shortest time.

In America work and school culture encourage us to be goal oriented and competitive at all costs, therefore, reading the other person’s feelings is secondary to the goal. Life in Asia, Africa, and even Europe children are taught to modify their goals according to how other people around feel about it. However, here we are taught to plough on through irrespective of those around us, instead its only reaching the goal that’s important. The process and productivity are more important than the person or people. This approach leaves room for improvement.


The next step is to realize and identify that people are always, and all times, exercising the best strategy they can come up with to have their needs met.

Anytime someone’s behavior is upsetting or unsettling, simply ask yourself – this appears to be the best strategy “Brad” can come up right now to have their need met, how must they be feeling to reach this? What would he be feeling if he’s already having that need met, or, alternatively, not having it met? When this is clear the nature of the upset can be uncovered, what is underlying their behavior, whether it is a people problem or a money problem (I talk more about this distinction in my book).

This is an approach that’s been very effective in the rough and tumble of corporate boardrooms, conferences rooms, and, perhaps, most importantly, living rooms.

If you are interested in reading more, sign up here

1. Goleman, D., (1995) Emotional Intelligence, New York, NY, England: Bantam Books, Inc.

Remember, this isn’t psychiatric or medical advice, its just my insights.