Monday, July 03, 2006

Emotional Intelligence


John wanted a particular week off this summer to attend a family reunion. It was particularly important to him for two reasons: for the first time, every single member of the family would be there, and it would be on Maui. He checked the office schedule and found that another member of his team had already booked the same time away. Disappointedly he told his family he could not attend. The answer he accepted was 'No'.

The truth was that the co-worker who booked that time off had chosen her week off at random. A simple request from John would have been all that was required for her to change her dates. What was going on here?

Our expectations in any relationship are based on history, on how things have worked in the past. Interestingly, we will even take someone else's history as evidence. Does this make sense? Sometimes, yes, and sometimes, no.

There are very few true 'laws'. People do not do the same things in the same ways with the same people in every case. Yet, often , we behave as though this is true. If it happened once, it will always happen! If it happened to someone, it will happen to me.

Sure, it makes sense to stay away from sharks. They usually attack and you look like food. As there is likely no good reason to approach a shark, there is no problem. What, though, if that shark had your daughter's arm in its mouth? You would likely take some action to get what you want.

The same is true at the office. When something is important to you and contributes to your well-being, it requires action. History may have told you that asking may be difficult, timing may be tricky and receiving may be unlikely, but, if you do not ask, the answer will always be 'No!".

It's true that we are most comfortable asking those folks we know least and those we know best for something we want. It's simply easiest! Folks unknown to you come with no expectation of outcome. Rejection from them is easier to handle. Folks you know well will either give you what you want or, at least, soften their refusal by taking care of the relationship. It's those in-between folks that are daunting.

When you ask someone for help, you are telling them that you believe they have the skills or experience to give you that help. Don't you feel good when someone asks for your help? Of course, we're not talking about those few folks who are always asking for it, those who are too lazy, too busy or too demanding.

You can enhance a relationship by asking for help. You open the relationship to become more reciprocal. That's a choice only you can determine is appropriate. If you do not want to be asked for something, best not ask yourself! But, if you do not ask, the answer is always "No!".

Some ways of approaching an issue are more productive than others. It's unlikely you'll get what you want by beginning with "I'm sure you'll say 'No', but..." You may have tried that one when you were a teen-ager. It didn't work well, did it?

First, be prepared. Be ready to ask clearly for what you want. Know why you want it. Be prepared with benefits to the listener for giving you what you are requesting. If possible, give them a plan that will work for them...and for you. When you do the work, you're more likely to get what you want.

Then, pick your moment carefully, then check. "I would like to discuss something with you. Is this a good time?" or "When would you have a few minutes free to discuss something?" If you are asking a supervisor or manager, they will likely want to know what the topic is. This is fair, however, how you answer is important. It can make all the difference between getting the meeting or not.

Phrase your issue broadly and positively . "I'd like to discuss the vacation schedule." rather than, "I need to talk to you about getting the dates I want for vacation." Give the overall topic, not your specific request. If pressed for specifics, again be positive, clear and brief.

Once in the meeting, first, thank them for their time. Give the benefits to the listener for giving you what you want, then ask. Ask clearly for exactly what you want. Do not apologize for your request. You have the right to ask as they have the right to refuse. Whatever the outcome, the relationship will shift slightly no matter who you ask for what! Be prepared.

You have probably heard the English proverb: 'Most things are lost for want of as king.' There is no need to lose anything for that reason. Simply ask. You may be surprised how easy this becomes with practice. Remember, though, if you do not ask, the answer is always 'No'. So ask!

Dr. Rhoberta Shaler is a 'people skills' expert--a [sic]international speaker, author, executive coach and founder of the Optimize! Institute in Escondido, CA. Dr. Shaler works with organizations that know their people are their top resource and with leaders who know that building relationships is a top priority. She is the author of What You Pay Attention to Expands and Wrestling Rhinos: Conquering Conflict in the Wilds of Work as well as more than a dozen books and audio programs. Her books are currently in nine languages and her articles are published in more than 17,000 publications. Visit Take the remarkably insightful core values profile and learn more about what motivates and inspires you and your colleagues at Use it to strengthen workplace teams.

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