Step 3: Empathy - Working Out the Core Emotional Drives of Others (Part 1)

Last Updated Feb 17, 2009 1:55 AM EST

While self-knowledge and self-control are important steps in developing Emotional Intelligence it is probably the other two steps of empathy and relationship management that are more important for success in life.

How do you work out the core emotional drives of other people? How do you develop the social skills to make others more effective? Empathy is commonly defined as identifying with or experiencing of the feelings of another. Typical advice to people trying to improve their empathy is to listen twice as much as you talk and ask questions. Stephen Covey has a great quote: "Seek first to understand, then to be understood". NLP practitioners will tell you to look at another's eyes. To develop empathy I believe you need to know a personality system. For example I use a different system that is based on the Humm-Wadsworth of seven emotional drives.

However, even if you use another system I believe the following framework is a good approach. It is summed up by the acronym TOPDOG which stands for Talk-Organisation-Position-Dress-Office-Gambit. Today I will cover the three factors that you can work on before you meet someone and in the next blog I will cover the other three components that you use when you start the meeting.

"What do you do for a living?" would have to be one of the most common conversation starters --- and with justification, for the decisions a person makes about the career and organisation can be very revealing about his or her personality. Working at a McDonald's is very different from working at a bank, which is different again from a firm of lawyers. Even within an industry there can be major differences in the corporate personality and, on the whole, people will tend to work for an organisation that fits their personality. How do you work out the personality of an organisation? Simple, you just need to look at the cover of the annual report, which for many organisations is on their website, typically under investor relations.

Next consider the position of the person you are going to meet. Does he or she have to make a lot of decisions, work with lots of people, ensure that systems are followed, work on commission, have visual skills, or need ensure project completions? All these factors will potentially provide clues to the person's emotional drives.

Finally, consider the gambit. I have taken this term from the game of chess, where it is used to describe the opening moves. In a similar fashion someone may keep you waiting for a meeting or they might be punctual. Be especially attuned to when he or she first uses your first name. People who are late but quick to use your first name are energetic optimists. People who are late but address you formally are typically highly assertive. People who on time but use your first name quickly are friendly but may be risk adverse. Punctual, formal people typically live by the rule book and need some precedent before making a decision.

Do you emotionally fit in with your job and organisation?