There’s a terrific book written by Daniel Goleman that you may have heard of called Emotional Intelligence – why it can matter more than IQ. In his book he argues that our emotions play a far greater role in thought, decision making and individual success than is commonly acknowledged.
Daniel tells of a powerful experience he had whilst travelling on a bus up Madison Avenue. As he stepped onto the bus he was startled by the driver, a middle-aged black man with an enthusiastic smile, who welcomed him with a friendly, “Hi! How you doing?”
As he walked further down the bus he noticed that the driver welcomed each of the passengers with a similar enthusiastic greeting. The passengers appeared to be just as startled as Daniel but, as they were so locked into the morose of the day, didn’t return the greeting.
As the bus began its journey up Madison Avenue a slow, magical transformation started to happen. The driver started to give a running monologue for the passenger’s benefit…A lively and entertaining commentary on the passing scene around them. His enthusiasm and delight for the cities attractions started to become infectious. By the time the people got off the bus they had shaken off their solemn demeanour and when the driver shouted “So long, have a great day!” they all, one by one, gave him an enthusiastic, smiling response.
You see the driver knew a thing or two about influence. He knew that if you want to influence someone you have to go out of your way to make them feel good.
He knew that if you want people to change and transform it’s no good just telling them…you have to make an impact on the way they feel. Above all though, he knew that this process starts with yourself.
If you want someone to go somewhere you have to go there first.
If you want someone to experience happiness, you’re going to struggle if most days you can’t even raise a smile…If you want someone to get off their but and do something it’s going to be pretty difficult if there’s no energy or enthusiasm about you. At the end of the day no-one wants to hire a depressed happiness coach…
No one wants an overweight fitness instructor who teaches Zumba and can’t dance.
You don’t have to be perfect but you do have to possess a certain amount of the thing you want to influence.
When I was 18 I went on an outward bound course in the North of Scotland and we were ‘encouraged’ to get up at 05:30 in the morning and go for a run and a dip in a nearby river before breakfast. Apparently (or so they said) this was one of the most refreshing and invigorating ways to start the day. The fact it was the middle of November and the temperature was a lovely comfortable 2 degrees though, meant that most of us weren’t exactly convinced.
The one thing our instructor didn’t do though was come out in the same emotional place as us.
He came striding out looking as if he was ready to climb Mount Everest! You could literally see the enthusiasm and motivation emanating from him.
Now I’ve got to be honest and say that, at first, I found this a bit irritating. Then, bit by bit, his enthusiasm began to wear off on me until eventually I was finding it very difficult to protest.
He knew that if you want someone to go somewhere you have to go there first.
A more dramatic example of this happened during the Vietnam War. An American platoon was situated down in some rice paddies in the heat of a fire fight with the Vietcong when, All of a sudden, a line of six monks started walking in between the gun fire. They didn’t look right or left towards either of the soldiers they just walked calmly and peacefully across the battle field. One of the American soldiers recalled the incident as “incredibly strange, because nobody shot at them. And after they walked past suddenly all the fight was out of me. It didn’t feel like I wanted to do this any more, at least not that day. It must have been that way for everyone, because everybody quit. We just stopped fighting”
The monks ability to be able to pacify the soldiers in the heat of the battle is probably one of the more dramatic and courageous examples of how contagious emotions can be. On a more subtle level, though, emotional exchange occurs in practically every conversation we engage.
Think for a moment about a person in your life that generally has a happy, upbeat, positive attitude. How do you feel when you’re with that person? Do they lift your mood? Do you like being around them?
Now think of someone who complains constantly about life…Someone who bitches, moans and constantly brings people down. How do you feel around them? Do they affect you negatively?
The real question though is this – Which part do you play in this emotional exchange? Are you the emotional vampire that sucks the life out of people or are you a shining ray of light that makes others feel good in a way that they can’t quite explain?
What are you projecting? How are you influencing without even realising it?.
It’s true that if you want someone to go somewhere you have to go there first but it’s also true that you are always ‘somewhere’ and that ‘somewhere’ doesn’t just stay in you…it affects the people around you…it changes how they feel, how they think. It’s a big responsibility I know but it’s yours whether you like it or not…you have it by default.
Like I say, you don’t have to be perfect…not by a long shot. Just don’t be an overweight fitness coach teaching Zumba who can’t dance…
All the best