Dr. Dilips Diamonds Email Newsletter
Emotional Intelligence 2.0

Recommended Reading

By Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves
The importance of emotional intelligence in a person's success is now widely accepted. However, not many people know exactly what it is and how they can get a feel for where they are in the EQ scale and what they can do to increase their EQ capabilities. In this book, Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves give very practical pointers that are easy to read and comprehend. For the purpose of my e-newsletter, I found the chapter on relationship management strategies particularly meaningful. The authors offer advice on how to be open and curious, avoid giving mixed signals, take feedback well, align your intentions with your impact, and tackle a tough conversation, in addition to several other topics. This is an ideal book for the layperson who wants to get a handle on Emotional Intelligence.

Quote to Think About
"If we take control of our stories, they won't control us."
-- Paterson et al, Crucial Conversations

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The Art of the Difficult Conversation – Part IV of a Four Part Series

Do Your Feelings Control Your Actions?
In Part III of this series last month, we discussed strategies that could help us re-establish a mutual purpose with another person when communication and trust breakdown. In this edition, let’s look at ways that we can lessen the chances of a breakdown in our relationships. We start out with a simple question: Do your feelings control your actions? Most people would answer, “Yes” to this question. Consider two different and opposite ways people often respond when they get upset. When Jane gets strong negative feelings, she has a tendency to clam up and withdraw. The question, “What’s wrong?” get’s answered with “Nothing!” Joe, on the other hand, has an opposite reaction. When he feels upset, he will express his displeasure to those around him. When taken to an extreme, Joe can hurt people with his words or actions. These two opposites can be described as responding with silence or violence. Patterson et al., in Crucial Conversations, reveal to the reader that there are two other processes taking place before we let our feelings affect our thoughts and thereby our actions.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves
Most people think that feelings lead us to act in a certain way. We can show it as: Feel → Act
What leads you to feel that way? It’s something you see or hear. We can show it as: See/Hear → Feel → Act
Now here’s the key to an insight that can give you more control over your feelings than you ever thought possible: When you see or hear something, in order to make sense of it, you tell yourself a story. That story leads you to feel a certain way. We can, therefore, show a more accurate process as:
See/Hear → Tell a Story → Feel → Act
Although we can’t always control the things we see and hear, we CAN control the stories we tell ourselves. Since those stories affect our feelings and ultimately our actions, one of the greatest skills you can master when you are engaged in a difficult conversation is to exercise control over your stories!

Patterson et al classify stories into two types:
Clever Stories: Victim (poor me – I am a victim); Villain (all of the fault is the other person’s); Helpless (there is absolutely nothing I can do about this).
Useful Stories: Stories that add to the pool of mutual understanding/meaning. These stories enable dialogue.

In a difficult conversation, try these questions that can to retrace your path:
  • Am I in some form of silence or violence?
  • What emotions are causing me to act this way?
  • What story is creating these emotions?
  • What evidence do I have to support this story?
Try these questions to reverse a clever story:
  • Am I pretending not to notice my role in the problem?
  • Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do what this person is doing?
  • What do I really want?
  • What would I do right now if I really wanted these results?


Dr. Dilip Abayasekara
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Companion Piece Coming in October Edition
I hope that you, my reader, has gained real value from this series on The Art of the Difficult Conversation. Although this is the last in the series, due to several requests, next month’s newsletter will carry a companion piece. It is my prescription for how to deliver bad news.

In the August edition of this newsletter, I invited readers to send me their comments if they found the tips and insights I have been sharing to be helpful. I was gratified by the response! I will carry several of these reader responses and photos in the next issue. Watch out for the October edition of my newsletter!

To find out how you and your organization can benefit from an in-house workshop on the Art of the Difficult Conversation, contact Dr. Dilip at drdilip@centralpenn.edu. For more information about workshops and speech coaching, visit www.drdilip.com.

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