When I explain EQ, I tell people that it’s about using situational awareness and empathy to read your audience to know how to make temporary adjustments in yourself that meet the needs of the other person over your own. Note that I said over your own, not instead of your own. Many people ask if using emotional intelligence means you have to be a pushover (the answer is no and if you want to learn more about that, see my article here). If you are looking for ways to balance your own boundaries with the needs of others, read on.
In order to gain more influence and be more effective with others, you should be a selfless communicator. That means putting aside your own agenda or sole perspective to better understand the viewpoint of others. It does not mean you have to agree with that perspective to understand it, but you do need to be a generous listener. The goal is to make small adjustments to others while still maintaining your own needs, by being firm but appropriate.
Here are some ways to set communication boundaries with others:
2. Ask the person to give you the bottom line. Some people like to add a lot of unnecessary detail so don’t be afraid to say, “Can you first give me a high level overview of the problem? That allows me to ask for the specifics I need that will help me clarify my understanding without wasting your time.”
3. If the person is a chronic complainer, say “I have heard you complain of this before, what have you done to change the situation since we last spoke?” This puts some ownership back on them and allows you to then say, “Let me know how it goes after you try…” to send the message that I am done listening to this until you have tried something new.
4. Make empathy statements that validate their frustration but don’t allow them to take advantage of your listening nature if you are not the person who can help them. “I understand it is a frustrating situation but I don’t think I am the one who needs to hear this, why don’t you talk to…?” “I wish I could help you with this, but it is out of my ability to do so."
5. Misery seeks company. If they think you will join them in their negativity/complaining or even if you stay quiet while they do it, it will continue. If you start being very positive with statements like, “I’ve learned that things are never really as bad as they seem.” “Don’t worry, things always work out for the best!” “Isn’t life great how it teaches us via setbacks?” “There are always two sides to every story.” They will stop. They don’t want to be around someone who is too cheery, optimistic or refuses to perpetuate their drama.
It’s not always easy or comfortable to set boundaries with others, but the more EQ you demonstrate every day the more others will respect you and your needs. Healthy relationships have an equal balance of candor and support, don’t be afraid to tip the scales as needed.