emotional intelligenceEmotional intelligence is the ability to determine the emotional state that others, and ourselves, are in and change that state. If you’re involved in a negotiation or mediation, understanding and shaping the other party’s emotions could be very important in resolving differences.

Different emotions require different approaches.

Different emotions require different approaches. Someone in a good mood may be very open to negotiation while someone who’s angry may need to vent to purge that emotion out in order to be in a more cooperative frame of mind. If the emotions among the parties are strong enough the best thing to do may be postponing the negotiation or offer until the parties are emotionally in a better, more open, mood.

Humans were probably much better at reading one another’s emotions when most of our communications was done face to face. We had so much more practice before we communicated through writing, telegraph, telephone, up to today’s instant messaging and text messages. One UCLA study found that children with more “screen time” with electronic devices had a harder time reading the emotions of others.

One potential aid in reading others’ emotions is a pair of computerized glasses patented, but not yet produced, by Microsoft according to the Wall Street Journal. The idea behind the glasses is that a camera on the frame will view the facial expressions and physical gestures (sitting straight, slouching, fidgeting) of an individual or group and a microphone will analyze the language, rhythm and loudness of what’s spoken and a built-in computer will determine the emotional state of the person or people being viewed, with the results projected on the glasses’ lenses.

You could wait until these glasses come out (which could be a very long wait) or you can help your clients by improving your emotional intelligence the old fashioned way, by doing some research and practicing. An article in the business magazine Fast Company has some suggestions on how to improve your emotional intelligence:

  • Become more self aware: If you can’t read or understand your own emotions, you won’t be able to do it with others.
  • Develop a sense of appreciation: What are you grateful for? How many others can you thank for enabling you to do what you do?
  • Improve your listening skills: We all want to be heard (especially those of us filing lawsuits). Through better listening we can get more crucial information and connect with others by better understanding meanings and messages behind the spoken word. Don’t listen with the goal of formulating a good response, listen with the goal of understanding the other person.
  • Show a genuine interest in the person.
  • Learn to manage your own emotions and the emotions of others: Don’t react to emotions. Learn about their source and why they’re being felt. Recognize the emotions and respond after thinking about what you’ve learned through better listening skills.
  • Start reading metaphors.  Research has shown that reading metaphors helps people to understand and evaluate emotions better.

You’ve worked on many other types of intelligence to get where you are. You’ve learned about practicing the law, the area that you specialize in, litigation and how to resolve issues through negotiation and mediation. Improving your emotional intelligence could reap dividends as well.