One Social Skill to Be a Great Leader
February 27, 2014
TopicsEmotions, Leadership, relationships, social skills
"The greatest gift that you can give to others is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance."
- Brian Tracy
Inspiring speeches evoke change for one reason: they make you believe you matter. You shift from doubt towards the belief a different future is possible no matter how bad you feel.
Feeling a belonging, an acceptance, a validation drives self-esteem, contribution, and motivation. It’s the feeling that what you do and who you are matters. By developing this social skill of leadership, you don’t develop people, but help people develop themselves.
I believe feeling important is as much about self-belief and validation of your experience than anything to do with ego, compliments, and games. It is an unstoppable human trait that has lead great accomplishments.
As a leader or hopeful leader, how can you improve this one social skill? In my helping shy men build their social skills for over 8 years, there is a three-step process. It is one of the most powerful social skills you can develop as a leader of people when someone has a problem.
The key is to emotionally relate to people. The understanding helps people feel centered then capable of progressing forward.
Firstly ask, “What is the problem?” You are not understanding the problem purely for your own sake as much as getting the person to think what is their problem.
The second key question to ask is, “How does that make you feel?” Men tend to ramble about the problem failing to mention any emotion. Anger, sadness, and despair - these are emotions. You can often see emotion in their body language as they describe the problem. If they meander from your question, bring them back: “I see. How does that make you feel?”
Once you see the problem and their emotion, the third step is to relate at an emotional level by sharing a story you experienced. If the person feels sad after a divorce, you don’t need to be divorced to emotionally relate then validate their experience. Look for an experience where you lost something valuable, ideally a relationship, then felt sad. It could be a non-marriage breakup, death of a loved one, an old friend leaving overseas forever, or a pet dying.
The point here is the emotion you felt needs to reflect their emotion and be close to its intensity. If the intensity isn’t there, you can preface your story with, “This isn’t as intense as what you’re going through…”
What you have done in these three steps is "relate." You have built the relate-ionship. You have validated someone’s experience. You have provided a nurturing context for development, change, and growth. Therapist Virginia Satir said, "We can learn something new anytime we believe we can." That is the essence of leadership.
I loved reading this, and I love ‘winning people over ‘ by relating with them or getting them to reciprocate! I have also recently felt like giving up on someone I can’t get to communicate in this way… so it was a great reminder of just how important this is. Thank you!
Glad it helped you Kim. It’s a powerful three-step skill for close relationships as well.
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I agree with the basic premise that good leadership is about building relationships. However, I am am a bit skeptical about the advice to share our own stories, which would need to be done with great care. One can demonstrate empathy without doing so, and the risk is in drawing the focus on oneself, rather than the story of the employee. Sometimes a simple, “Oh, that must feel awful,” without your own story can go a long way.
The example you shared Audrey is sympathy, which is short of an emotional understanding, but better than what most leaders do. It provides validation and is weak in empowerment.
The only risk in drawing the focus on oneself through sharing an experience is if you don’t relate. People reassure and comfort with experiences all the time as a means of AVOIDANCE – failing to use it as a way of relating.