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Emotional Intelligence

Physicians’ Emotional Skills Suddenly Matter

More people are expressing their opinions about doctors and healthcare services in reviews online. Actual medical competence is not on the top of their list.

How do you feel when you leave your doctor’s office, the hospital, or a medical procedure?  Public patient reviews are a level of transparency still alien to the medical community, but which are having an impact on the bottom line, and forcing physicians to recalculate the value and importance of what was once referred to as “bedside manner.” Especially because patients are far more likely to rate their experience as much or more on their overall experience – emotional factors being a large part of that – than on procedural or technical expertise.

In discussing the trend of social media sharing by healthcare consumers with ProPublica reporter Charles Ornstein, NPR host David Greene pointed out that related professionals like massage therapists and acupuncturists are consistently rated much higher than conventional medical practitioners, presumably because people generally feel good about those experiences.


I also think those professions are much more attuned to competing for patients, because those patients pay more of those bills out of their own pockets. I think that they are more attuned to social media. In fact, I think that they encourage patients to go and write reviews on social media, whereas doctors are just, sort of, really opposed to it. And, I think historically, doctors have not really had to compete for patients per se ... They hope that you will go to them for their competence, for their skill, and pay less attention to these other sorts of issues. But they’re beginning to creep in there.

Listen to the entire interview:

And read Ornstein’s full article here.

Maya Angelou: Making Emotional Connections

Here at the 7 Triggers we have a special affection for Maya Angelou, who died on Wednesday at age 86 in North Carolina. One of her most famous quotes provides an essential insight for the importance of the emotional connection in business and in life:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Although it may seem at first glance that the quote distinguishes feelings from words and actions, one concludes that Angelou was in fact suggesting a strong correlation, even a caution, about the power of words and actions to evoke an emotional response. And it is the emotional response that remains when words and actions are forgotten.

In addition to her role as one of our era’s most inspirational figures, Angelou was a genuine symbol of human achievement in a most original and authentic way. Born Marguerite Johnson, she grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and Stamps, Arkansas. It was her brother who first called her Maya, and the name stuck. Angelou left a troubled childhood and the segregated world of Arkansas and began a career as a singer and dancer. She toured Europe in the 1950s with a production of Porgy and Bess, studied dance with Martha Graham, and performed with Alvin Ailey on television. She wrote more than 30 books, the most famous of which was “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” an autobiographical coming-of-age story about strength of character, love of literature, and overcoming great adversity. Angelou was a Grammy winner for three spoken-word albums. She was a professor of American studies at Wake Forest University, and was honored with many literary accolades throughout her remarkable career.

It may be easily argued that Angelou’s achievements were based almost entirely on a unique ability to connect emotionally with people, her audiences, and perhaps never more so than in her writing and speaking. She had that unique gift – the gift of the greatest artists and communicators – to use their medium as a source of true kinship, as a way to bridge the illusory gap between us. Emotional connection is about using modes and formats in such a way that the means of connection disappear and all that’s left is connection itself.

Maya Angelou will continue to create those connections through her work for generations.

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Is “Connectional Intelligence” on Par with IQ and EQ?

Erica Dhawan suggests in her article at Fast Company  that we should add “connectional intelligence” to our understanding of brain-based acuity. Dhawan has some interesting notions about the special considerations and methods needed to generate passion and galvanize interest – in particular, public interest – around an idea or a cause. But do these tactics amount to an entire category of perception, judgment, insight, and aptitude?

Victor Hugo famously said, “There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” But as anyone who has tried to create traction around an idea will tell you, getting to that tipping point – that moment when momentum itself seems to be its own driving force – can be a long, hard slog. To accelerate the schedule, Ms. Dhawan offers three principles: Understand Your Context, Have a Courageous Conversation, and Build Your Community.

Here’s our take on these:

  • Understand Your Context – Although “context” is usually about the set of circumstances or facts surrounding a particular situation, Dhawan is talking here more about function than content. In particular: the mechanics of media, or what she refers to as “tools.” The point is to use communication channels and methods that conform with your intended audience.
  • Have a Courageous Conversation – As we know from our immersion into emotional triggers, people want to be liked. They want to feel they belong. Consequently, most people resist the inclination to rock the boat by being confrontational. This sometimes results in a kind of co-dependency on belief systems or assumptions that may be outdated or even untrue. It takes courage to shine a light on incompetence, injustice, mediocrity – and risk becoming unpopular. What many fail to realize, however, is that often the reverse effect is what actually occurs: People will suddenly rally around the truth-teller.
  • Build Your Community – It’s exciting and gratifying to realize that you’ve succeeded in generating interest, consensus, involvement, and dedication around an idea or an initiative. Then you realize that this is only the beginning. It’s critical to maintain communication and provide incentive and motivation for continued participation.

These are solid recommendations for how to leverage your chances for success in propagating a cause or an idea, particularly in a public context. But intelligence categories are another matter.

It would seem that the litmus test for whether a set of principles can be considered an entirely new and undiscovered form of intelligence would be whether or not they can be used as lenses though which to understand virtually any human interaction – not just those that involve certain objectives or activities.

It’s a fairly straightforward exercise, for example, to extrapolate how emotional triggers are involved in each of the so-called “connectional intelligence” principles proposed here:

  • Context –  This is a combination of the Consistency and Authority Triggers. When determining which channels or modes of communication are likely to be most effective with your intended audience, choose those that people use and trust.
  • Courageous Conversations – The Contrast Trigger, straight up. When there is a passionate recognition of “the truth,” it is almost always because it is either counter to prevailing assumptions or light in the midst of darkness.
  • Community – Consistency and Friendship Triggers. If people have expressed support for a cause or an idea, they have an emotional imperative to stay on-course with that determination. Doesn’t mean they’ll always pursue it of their own accord – the key to the Consistency Trigger is to remind people of their existing or previous determinations. It shores up our identity and sense of self. In a team, corporate, or public context The Friendship Trigger is about shared interests and mutual affinities. It’s what binds us together and engenders loyalty and trust.

If it’s time to get your initiative, cause, or idea launched into the public consciousness, then definitely check out Erica Dhawan’s most excellent suggestions. But the notion that “connectional intelligence” is truly a lens through which we can interpret and codify a comprehensive scope of human behavior seems a bit, well, facile. Kudos for the effort. But it’s not a cause about which we’ll be getting passionate.