Friendly Survival

A world-renowned surgeon once said to me: “Here’s how surgeons build their practices – Affability, Availability, and Ability – in that order.”

My daughter went to an animal rescue shelter to get a cat. There were lots and lots of cats.  A small black cat looked into her eyes, reached out his paw, and touched her hand. He went home with her.

One night I was in bed with a bad back, painful enough to make me moan at times. I retreated to our loveseat recliner. Our old cat, Marble, normally quite aloof, came and spent the night with me. She couldn’t take the pain away, but her presence comforted me. She won my heart that night

60 Minutes recently did a story on dogs: “Survival of the Friendliest.” Dogs descended from wolves.  Tough animals, not to be trifled with. Not the friendliest, by any stretch of the imagination! In many parts of the world, wolves have become an endangered species. Dogs, on the other hand, learned how to relate to humans in a friendly, supportive, loving way. Dogs are not an endangered species.

A couple of blog posts ago, I told you about a man you have all met at one time or another.  He was brilliant but clueless. He used his brilliance aggressively, like a wolf, which got him fired. So he chose to become a dog. At his next job, he learned how to relate to people in a friendly way. As a result, they kept him, and his brilliance, around.

EQ coaches help brilliant, talented, productive individuals learn how to be dogs, in the very best sense.  They help them learn how to be affable, to be able to reach out, to be friendly –  essential skills for when work requires human interaction. By helping these individuals learn about how to deal with people, we also make their phenomenal talents available to their organizations, and perhaps to the world. We save careers.

Regular readers of this blog know that there are sixteen EQ skills that make the difference between just being smart and being successful. The two skills most relevant to this blog post are Empathy and Interpersonal Relationships.

Empathy has two parts – 1) reading others’ feelings accurately, and 2) caring about those feelings. As with those two cats, and dogs in general, these skills are hardwired into human beings, because they are essential for survival. But harsh life experiences often lead people to go against their nature. Those people don’t practice empathy skills, which then atrophy. EQ coaches help clients recover and build empathy skills. Often they assign structured exercises, like those found in the EQ Leader Program manual (EQ Leader, Inc.), so that clients can practice them in their real world. That’s where true change happens.

Interpersonal relationship skills often become stunted for similar reasons. Harsh social experiences lead many people to avoid interacting too much with others as a way of keeping themselves from being hurt. (How often would you put your finger in a light socket?) They need their coaches to help them discover that most people are kind, worth taking risks with. Then they are in a position to take a chance, to allow themselves to experiment with emotional vulnerability. In other words, they share their feelings with others, and discover that it is reasonably safe to do so.

EQ coaches can provide exercises, again like those in the EQ Leader Program manual, that clients can use to practice their under-developed relationship skills. When they can be vulnerable with others, and return the favor, allowing others to feel safe in being vulnerable with them, clients’ professional impact mushrooms. People start listening to their ideas, because it is safe to do so. They allow your clients’ brilliance to become part of the organization. Everyone benefits.

Survival of the Friendliest. It’s a simple construct, but it’s what separates winners from also-rans.

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