About Justin Bariso
Justin Bariso is a well known author, known for his work, "EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence”. He uses the perspective of Emotional Intelligence, to understand the stories, businesses, and the entrepreneurs who pioneer them.
A celebrated columnist on Inc. com, he has been featured in world-class publications like TIME magazine, Business Insider and Forbes.
We have the pleasure of welcoming Abha Banerjee today to our interview series. I'm Aishwarya Jain from the peopleHum team. Before we begin, just a quick introduction of peopleHum. peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated Human Capital Management Automation Platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work with AI and automation technologies.
We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.
Welcome Justin, we are thrilled to have you!
Hi Aishwarya, I'm thrilled to be here. Thanks for inviting me.
Thank you so much.
So the first question I have for you, Justin, was, you know, we would really like to know about your journey, how did you come about to EQ Applied and what was really your inspiration to write so passionately about, of all the things, emotional intelligence to the world?
Sure. So I'll try to make it short. You know, a lot of people talk about following a different path or having a different type of journey, but I feel like I really did have a different type of path. So I started out, about over 20 years ago, working for a nonprofit organization, and it was the headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses.
So I used to work as a volunteer, helping to make Bibles, work in a printery, very, very different from a business environment. I had no interest in business whatsoever.
I was working there at basically the headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses, and we're all volunteers. We didn't really get paid. We got just a small stipend every month, but this was a great part of my life, I learned a lot of principles in dealing with people empathetically, you know, good communication skills, good motivation skills because you couldn't motivate with the carrot, right?
There is no extra bonus or anything like that, but I learned these principles. So when I finally left there and, what happened was my wife and I had children, and so I stumbled across entrepreneurship accidentally, because at that point I said to myself, “let me take all these skills that I've learned of good communication and dealing empathetically in the workplace and let me create a consultancy” and that's what I did.
I moved to Germany because my wife is from Germany, and I would help German executives with their communication skills and dealing, with their management skills, because what happens here in Germany is, the level of English is relatively high.
But there's a lot of miscommunication with other English speakers because Germans tend to speak very directly and very, very bluntly at times, and then also managerially, there's a German phrase loosely translated to something like if we don't curse you out, then that's all the praise that you need.
So the managerial style is not really to give commendation and praise. It's just to tell someone when they're doing something wrong or say nothing at all. You know, trying to bring some of these principles of appreciating people in the workplace and showing that appreciation and working with them on a very human level that people here like that very much.
And so I started writing about that experience. I got the column with Inc. magazine, and that's really where it took off and started getting, you know, more and more business in the emotional intelligence field and that led me to write a book on the topic, which, thankfully, has gone very well, and we've just been expanding the platform since then.
Wow, that is wonderful. And, you know, it's great to see somebody working on such an important aspect that we kind of tend to forget or tend to, just not having a perspective, right? I’ve read your article on, emotional intelligence - What is human emotional intelligence?
And it's very beautifully put out.
I understand it's about social awareness and self-awareness, but looking at all of our senses getting filled up now with so many things, and with so many distractions in the workplace itself, how do you still remain socially aware, and how do you practice being self-aware at workplaces now?
Yeah, I mean it. It's not necessarily an easy thing to do.
We all have blind spots when it comes to ourselves. We all have blind spots when it comes to others, it's actually one of the problems that I found with traditional tests and emotional intelligence, for example, somewhat scientifically validated tests will rate the way that a person interprets pictures of a person's eyes and a person's face. And you have to say, based on these pictures, if you feel the person is angry or if they're happy or if they're sad and no doubt there's some advantage and being able to do that and there are certain standards or norms.
But you know, there's so much that can influence that, too. You know, you can have a happy smile. You can have a sad smile You could have been influenced through cultural upbringing, that makes the way we manifest feelings differently, you know, from person to person, how we show those feelings differently.
So I think that's kind of, you know, you have to be careful about trying to test emotional intelligence. But what I really encourage is just that people take the time to look back, you know, it's great if we can identify, you know, these blind spots ahead of time, but realistically it's very hard to do that. But all of us have had instances where we make a big mistake where we say something or do something that we later regret.
We send the angry email, for example, or we misread someone totally. And I think there's a lot of benefit in taking advantage of the times after those situations to now reflect back. What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? What mistake did I make? When we take time to really reflect on those mistakes, that's when we start to improve and be aware of where our blind spots are.
Right! So it's more of introspection and retrospection and then, breaking it down in slices. So slice and dice kind of concept and then, you know, what we did well and then what we could do better, right? It's sort of like that
Exactly, Exactly just taking their time, That's something that we don't do so well anymore. I mean, it's always been hard to do to, block out some time and to do some introspection, to do some reflection. But you talk about today when we're used to constantly looking at our devices or constantly being on our computer. I just read an update on LinkedIn today. Actually, it was a friend, a colleague, and she said, 'You know, there was a time when we turned the computer on when we had a specific task to do, and then we turned it off. And that was a long time ago.'
So just recognizing that and buying out those moments for the reflection, that's the first step, I think
Absolutely. I think getting you to know, getting that “Me time” is very important. And, you know...
Do you think waking up early in the morning really helps with that, with just kind of taking out time for self, early in the morning, and reflecting self here?
I mean, for me, it does. But for everyone, it's kind of different, right! You have the night owls, you have the morning people. I was traditionally always a night owl, but then when I had children, I found I couldn't be a night owl so much anymore, because the problem is, you finally get that peace and quiet once everyone goes to bed.
But you're just so dead that, you know, you don't have the mental capacity anymore to do deep thinking. So I try to also wake up early because then you have these quiet moments. But also your mind is very fresh after a good night's sleep.
We just had our third child. She's about a year old. So good night sleep are few and far between right now. But that definitely for me that's the time early in the morning, peace and quiet and taking time to reflect and to jot something down to journal and to really meditate on certain things and that that's really helped me a lot over the years.
Absolutely, I think it would also really really help a lot of leaders out there who are struggling or grappling with how to empathize with their team, especially in such circumstances, Right? And, um, you know,
Talking about this ravishing pandemic, with the perspective of emotional intelligence and the power of emotion to drive good. Can you tell us how organizations are you expected to hold on? What are they supposed to do right now?
Yeah, I mean, it's a super tough situation, as you know, with COVID 19 right now. And you know, organizations are struggling with their budgets and on, you know, trying to do whatever they can. So it's gonna be different for every organization what they can and can't do. But, just getting to a very fundamental level, listening to your people since everyone is dealing with a lot of anxiety.
And so we can encourage our managers to give people a chance to actually speak, to let them know what their worries are, what their concerns are because that's the first step. Some of these people don't have anyone to speak openly and freely with and just having that already build some of the trust there in the work environment and with the relationships that allow a person to feel more comfortable with their work.
And, of course, a lot more work is being done remotely, which we'll talk about more later, too. But that just makes those communications skills much more needed. So giving the person the chance to speak freely, listening to them, and then we talk a lot about empathy when it comes to emotional intelligence and one thing that I like to share with others, and that I also learned from, Chris Voss, who is another best selling author. He was the lead kidnap negotiator for the FBI for many, many years, and he taught me that empathy does not equal agreement.
So just because a person thinks or feels different from us doesn't mean we can't empathize with them. In fact, that's the very definition of empathy is being able to feel those things that you were not necessarily feeling so.
For example, we talk about the pandemic right now, you know you as a manager or as a business leader. You may be listening to one of your persons on a 1 on 1, and there may be a tendency to say, Well, you know, what are they complaining about? This other colleague has a much worse situation than them or do they don't see all the troubles that I'm going through.
I'm trying to balance this and this and this, and the key is to kind of take those feelings which are also valid, but take him away for a minute and just focus on listening and just focus on relating to the person because we all have our bad days. We all have what we're going through.
And if you can relate now to the other person if you can put those other feelings aside for a minute and say, 'It's okay, I’m just gonna focus on listening and trying to understand this person that I'm speaking to right now', and if they can feel that you're doing that. Because if we have all these thoughts going there are head of downplaying what they're going through, it's gonna come out whether we say it or not. It's gonna come out.
It's gonna come out in the way we look at them. It's gonna come out in the way we respond to them. But if we can really try hard to relate to the feeling, we just say, 'OK, regardless of what situation they're going through, they feel overwhelmed right now, and that's a valid feeling. I, too, I'm feeling overwhelmed, or I felt overwhelmed in these past days' and relating to that feeling and just listening to it and saying, 'Okay, Tell me more and saying, I'm sorry to hear that. Um, is there anything I can do to help you know?'
And now, when the person feels heard, then there's that connection and, you know, empathy brings in empathy. We say so when they feel understood. Now they're willing to listen and understand you and the issues that you have. And now you can explain to them exactly the trials that you have, you know, as the business leader.
Or sometimes as the employer, and then hopefully together, the employer and employee can find solutions to get through this time and hopefully get over the hump to the time when things start to go back.
Absolutely. So what you're trying to say is that you know, as leaders, you need to be more proactive, and you need to reach out to employees and to understand their situation and try and help them out.
And not just be reactive, because I think that's what leaders typically do, right. They’ve always just reacted, but it's also important to be proactive, and that makes no sense.
But also, you know, as leaders, how are leaders supposed to you know, cope with this. Where do they go when they feel emotionally low, or when they don't articulate the feelings that they're going through. Let's say it's anxiety or depression. What can they do?
Great question. So we all have to have somebody that we can go to. So, basically, even before this pandemic, one thing we always encourage and in that journey of emotional intelligence is having a coach or a mentor that you can trust. So sometimes that means a colleague right there in the office.
Someone that trained you or someone that you feel comfortable with, you know, going to it with your own, anxieties, your own problems. And they mean someone that you've worked within the past that you're still in contact with.
Other times it's a family member, you know, for me, my wife is probably my most trusted confidante and, many times going to her in the conversation, you know, we joke that she doesn't have to say much sometimes because sometimes it's just me talking out loud and getting these things out there. You know, these things that we wouldn't necessarily confide in others when we have that trusted, confidante, as we say things out loud, we kind of work these problems out for ourselves, too. And when we reach a point where we really don't know what to do, then getting that trusted feedback from someone that we trust can help us get through.
Everything really looks dark and bleak on one day, but once we have that type of conversation, we get these things out, we get some feedback, and the next day something sparks, and many times we are confined, if not the solution then the stepping stone to the solution.
Absolutely. I think that will definitely help a lot of people cope with what they're going through.
And, you know, in terms of the economy, if you believe in the gig economy, how is it you know going to evolve, especially when you consider the growing ranks of millennials in the workforce?
Yes, there's a lot of unknowns with the gig economy. I mean, I'm personally a product of the gig economy. When I started my consultancy and my consultancy originally was just me, it was a freelance consultant, working for a larger company. And eventually, I was able to build that out and start my own practice.
But I know exactly what it's like to go from being an employee, a small to medium, or even large organization because I've actually worked for all three, to having more control over my work, my workflow, my work environment.
Actually, I never would have seen myself working for myself. But once I got that taste, I knew I probably would never go back because, you know, as you said it in the world we live in now, where there's just so much blur between work, life, balance. I think the more control you can have, the better.
Also, it's a world of constant connectivity and online. And unfortunately, there's a lot of organizations that haven't gotten it yet and don't trust their employees. And so they're expecting their employees to cater to every whim to always be available, which is just not realistic. So I think we're going to see growth in the gig economy now.
There's a lot of unknowns with that. You know, governments are still trying to figure out how to regulate it, but I'm just seeing the way technology, government, and also the economy itself is developed. I think we can only expect to see more of it.
And talking about, you know, technology. What do you think? What kind of role does technology play in all of this? And can it enhance emotional intelligence in any way?
Enhance, yeah, well, that's something that my company is really working on right now. We're trying to see how we can leverage the technology of mobile apps, Also artificial intelligence, which is still pretty nascent. It's been around for decades, you could say, but we talked about, um, it's growth.
It's really started to grow exponentially in these last two years. So seeing how we can use that to provide some type of training and coaching at scale, you know which a lot of organizations are looking for. That's something we're hoping to develop here in the next couple of years, but beyond something that we see right now is the communication tools so wouldn't say it's necessary, helping to grow emotional intelligence, but they can be used in an emotionally intelligent way.
So, for example, Google conducted some big research over a couple of years on how to manage remote teams, and they found that a lot of the core principles were the same. But now it was just applying them to, you know, the remote environment. So using these tools to have that communication, not just, you know, There's that balance between micromanaging your team and just letting them go completely.
They still want your feedback. They still need those check-ins. And in the past, if you were working far apart from your colleagues, you couldn't really see them, it was only over the phone. But now, with conference tools like this, I mean, we're talking in two different countries right now, we're able to see each other's expressions, and we're able to read body language. And so I'm using tools like this. And technology like this can help us to still manage and work in an emotionally intelligent way.
Absolutely. I think if we leverage technology in the right way. We can, you know, really communicate well. And especially, I think technology works really better for the people who are kind of closed and cannot talk very openly, they are not kind of social beings as such. So they could develop some kind of emotional connections over technology, and that's something that can help them in this isolated period of time as well. So absolutely, I think that makes a lot of sense.
So, you know, in your article you have kind of given some questions that you can ask yourself, How do you become emotionally intelligent? Can you kind of list that down. And, what is it that really drives you to become a better and more emotionally intelligent person?
Well, there's just so many benefits, you know, from improving the way you work to improving the way you work with others. I'll give some personal experience because that's what I know the best.
So, I used to be very reactive and not really identifying where my problem areas were. for example, I tell a story in the book where I'm in the park with my two children at the time, and you know, I'm looking after them, but I'm trying to respond to a work email at the same time. And what happens? the next thing you know, I get frustrated with them. I get upset, You know? I lose my temper, they’re crying.
I feel horrible, but what is the result of it, Is it that I'm just a bad father? No. Are they being bad kids? No. Is it that my work is not important? No, It's none of those things.
The underlying problem was that I'm one of the worst multitaskers in the world. I couldn't do all those things at one time, but like we said, having one of those breakdowns and then going back and saying I don't want to react this way I have what can I change? What can I do differently?
Having some of that introspection reflection, and so I realized that I couldn't multitask, and so I had to change things and say, okay, if I'm looking after my kids, I don't check my email at all. I wait until later to do that, or if for some reason, something's important, something's pending, then I buy out five minutes. I say, 'Hey, kids. Daddy needs five minutes'. I make sure my wife is taking care of them or whatever it is. And then I switch my attention to go ahead and take care of that work task.
So that was just fundamental learning of mine but then influenced so much more. It influenced also when I'm sitting at the desk and making sure now that I need to shut off all the notifications on my phone also because if that rings that it's it's taking my attention away from the flow from the task I'm trying to do.
That's just one example, you know, But we talk about social awareness and then the relationship management aspect of emotional intelligence. And that's also, you know, we've all used that example lot of the angry email because it's very relatable.
We've all sent that email where we get it. We read it, instead of thinking, No, they're totally wrong. I have to correct them right now. We sent it and we were just waiting five or 10 minutes and reading over what we had written. We never would have sent that email. He said, No, this is horrible, this is not the way I want to say it.
So, you know, something we call “The Pause”, which is very simple, it's just pausing for a few minutes, sometimes even just a few seconds before we say or do something.
Learning techniques, something we called “The Pause”, which is very simple, it's just pausing for a few minutes, sometimes even just a few seconds before we say or do something before we send that email. I'm going for a short walk, getting a drink of water, and that allows us to get our emotions in balance. Emotions aren't bad. We're not saying that we want to completely control our emotions or that we want to be robots, that that's not what we want.
It's not possible, but it's keeping those emotions and balance because many times our emotional reaction goes a lot like this. And if we wait just a few seconds for a few minutes, then they start to calm down a bit. And now we can make decisions that are more in harmony with our values, that are more representative of the way we really think instead of the way we think in that moment. That's actually gonna change in just a few seconds or minutes.
Yeah, absolutely. So it's actually coming to terms with your temperament at that point of time and just, you know, taking a pause and kind off reflecting on what you can do to make it better, right?
But you know what happens is that when you want to convey emotions to somebody else, especially you know, when you're typing or when you're texting, it might come across as very, very different than you, actually want to convey. So, like, what do you do with that? How can you solve that?
Yeah, well, there's, you know, it depends on the audience. I'm actually a big believer and using emojis and emoticons and written communication because it adds another element. You know, you say something and you put a little smiley face extra, and now they know you say it with good intention, or maybe you're joking.
You know, there's so much you can add using that. But you know, older generations may not be ready for that type of communication. So, first and foremost if it's an important conversation where there's a lot of potentials to get things wrong, always do a video conference or call.
You have to do that because I've seen so many times you know that one of the major advantages of written communication is the convenience of it and that it saves time, right? That weakens right in our own convenience that they can respond to their own convenience.
But now, when you have to write 2,3,4 times as much to actually communicate your point. Or if there's a big miscommunication that now causes problems where a five-minute phone call would have solved it to the beginning or to begin with, then you could see how sometimes just forcing ourselves to pick up the phone or to do the zoom or Skype call can actually save us a lot of time in the long run.
But when it's normal, everyday communication there's still a lot of chance for things to get misread. And that's why you know as I said, I encourage the use of emojis to help clarify the message. But if that doesn't work with your audience than just checking back in.
So, you know, again it depends on who you're speaking with, but you might ask them to relate back to you what you've said to see if they've understood clearly. Or you might state in different words repeated and different words to make sure you know the messages coming across clearly and just having more communication. So checking back in just to make sure there is no miscommunication when there's potential for that.
Oh, all right, all right. I think that would be really helpful to a lot of people, because of the misunderstanding between the baby boomers generation and in the millennial generation that just kind of, you know, just because of one emoji that you don't use, it might create a lot of misunderstanding
And also Justin, you know, do you believe that emotional intelligence is more important than IQ. Is that something that you've seen, like change over the years or do you yourself believe in that?
Yeah. So a lot of EQ to practitioners and consultants, they try to make that claim that the EQ is more important than IQ. I don't believe that. And actually one of the founding fathers, we might say Emotional intelligence by Daniel Goldman. His book really kind of kicked off the movement. He doesn't believe that either. You know, IQ is where you get your foot in the door.
This is where you get many times the position that you're looking for. Where EQ comes in is when you have a lot of high IQ people, or you have a lot of people that have the position already.
What the research shows is the ones with higher emotional intelligence are the ones that are gonna excel at that job. Those are the ones that are gonna be able to manage people because people management is about understanding emotions and how those play into how other people work and how you work with them.
So I wouldn't say that EQ was more important than IQ. I also have written extensively about the dangers of emotional intelligence, you know, we define emotional intelligence as being able to identify, understand and manage emotions, and there are people that use these in a dark side, so to speak, to emotional intelligence.
They can use it to manipulate other people. And that's another reason why we encourage people to build their most intelligence to know when others are actually trying to take advantage of that or manipulate them. So, you know, along with IQ, EQ also comes with a high standard of ethics and morality.
And I think with all these things coming together, that's where you really have, the employees that most organizations want the ones that have the high IQ in their field of expertise, they have high intelligence, and you know what they're doing the job for and then EQ is only gonna help that if it's done in an ethically sound way.
Right, and it also makes up the high levels of Maslow’s hierarchy. So, you know, once you've conquered the 1st 3 levels, now it's about self-actualization and self-esteem. So, yeah, makes a lot of sense
And, you know, in terms its employees experience right? What are your ideas on emotional intelligence being, changing the way we look at employees' experience as a whole?
I’d like to start even before an employee gets hired. So I came across a job applicant with a company called Digital Ocean, and she actually didn't get the job. But she was praising this company for the rejection email that she got because it told her exactly why she wasn't being hired.
They appreciated her experience in the area X and Y, but they were looking for something specifically with Z, and she was praising them because she said so often, you go through this experience where you have no idea why you didn't get the job and you're treated like just the numbers, or name instead of a real person.
And she was praising this company, Digital Ocean, for the way they had handled, even rejecting her for this job. And so I wrote an article all about how you could improve even your recruitment process and how good that was for them to spell out things that she might be interested in learning if she's interested in a similar position in the future, that kind of thing. so that's the start of it.
But then now, within the company, empathy plays a really large role because we're talking about being able to understand others and put yourself in their place because, as we mentioned earlier, when you build that trust with others. There's a lot of research out there about psychological safety, which a lot of your listeners probably have heard of. And psychological safety is defined as being able to take risks, being able to speak your mind, being able to be yourself in the work environment. But really, that definition of psychological safety comes down to being all about trust.
If we have trust in our work environment, then it's okay to make a mistake. You know you don't have to fear that you're gonna be ridiculed or possibly lose your job because you have made a mistake.
As long as there's the culture of learning from those mistakes, we've all made those mistakes, and we all know if we make a big mistake, and if there's a culture of learning in place, then, you know we're not gonna make that same mistake again and infact other employees will also benefit from your mistakes.
So that's one place where you can see psychological safety or trust can really help build, you know, a great culture at work and then also, you know, you talk about being able to make mistakes, also being able to take risks, being able to suggest a different way of doing things. There are some company cultures where many of your listeners may familiarize things or may be familiar with that, well that's just not acceptable.
We just do things this way because they've always been done that way, and that's not a very trusting relationship. But if you have that atmosphere of trust where someone can say, Well, how about we try this? You know, it's not that every single idea is gonna be taken or is gonna be followed through on. But at least those ideas are considered that it gives an opportunity for more innovation, and for finding a better way of doing things
Right, Right. I think innovation is driven when you come out of the comfort zone, you can really trust the other person, even if you're making a mistake, you have to trust that, “All right, I can still get up and I can move ahead.” So yeah, I think I think, that makes a lot of sense.
So just the last question. Any other important sound bites that you would like to be our viewers with?
Sure. Well, you know, we have this. We have the long definition of emotional intelligence, or it's talking of identifying and understanding and managing emotions, and that's all worth understanding and getting it the deeper meaning of. But I like the simple definition, which I try to use. Whenever you know, I speak to others about this topic. Emotional intelligence is making emotions work for you, instead of against you.
Because we all have, as we said, we're all emotional creatures that are what makes us human. And emotions are not bad. We need emotions to inspire us to speak up when we see a situation that's not acceptable. There's nothing wrong with getting angry. It's just being able to manage that anger in the right way, being able to manage our emotions and balance them.
And so there's a lot of sound bites we could talk about little, What I try to do for those who are interested in learning more, you know there's the book EQ Applied available, and I also write a weekly column, and I tried to really boil things down into very bite-sized pieces. So even if you just read an article, you could take away one thing of 1 to 3 steps that you can actually put into practice today to start increasing your own emotional intelligence.
Absolutely. I think all our leaders and all our listeners would really like to read that.
Thank you so much, Justin, for your time today. It was really a pleasure talking to you today,
and I hope to really have more conversations like this with you! It would really interesting.
Thank you Aishwarya It was my pleasure. Thanks for having me.