I know that most of my blogs deal with helping children and students, but what I have learned is that sometimes it's Mom and Dad who need a little tutoring too. It is not always the kiddos who need to re-learn, or learn for the first time, the rules of engagement. In this situation, I am speaking about the rules of engagement of adult socialization.
During the summer, I attended my girlfriend's birthday party. It was a fabu celebration at a great venue. Almost everyone who attended was highly educated and many were very successful. A few attendees I had never met, but most I have either known or met before. They are the type of people who love "Downton Abbey" (who doesn't!), watch "Anderson 360" on CNN (again, who doesn't) and who all know the difference between a bear and bull market. Overall, it was a group of people who you would assume have equitable EQs to their IQs. Ummm, not so much.
EQ stands for emotional quotient, and generally measures a person's adequacy in such areas as self-awareness, empathy and dealing sensitively with other people. Basically, it defines how perceptive you are. I am a huge believer that EQ is just as important in life as IQ is when it comes to achieving success and attaining happiness. They are two sides of the same coin and balance each other. I am always stunned, though, at how many fairly smart people, IQ-wise, have such low EQs. I have come to the conclusion that a high, or even moderate, EQ is not an innate quality in most people, and that having the social ability to "read your audience" is NOT a given. I bring this up because at this birthday party, I had several conversations that made me cringe. These conversations made me think that there had to be rules that adults need to learn in order to be good, and even tolerable, socializers; rules that could increase one's EQ. Here are the social rules that I think many of our adult peers need to learn and commit to memory.
1. Put a sock in it! Just for a moment, take a breath and stop talking about yourself. Stop talking about your job, your children, your success, your vacation, your house, etc. Stop rattling on about your kids as if I know their names, their grade levels in school, their funny little stories and as if I find these nuances all that interesting. Yes, what you have to say may indeed be cute and entertaining, but when all you keep doing is going on and on, the intended message loses its luster. It is really hard to be engaged in a conversation that goes one way. Look, I'd rather hear about you than talk about myself, because as my Mom always says -- I already know all about myself, but at least give me the chance to pipe up and join the conversation if I want to. Take a short blabber break to see if anyone else has something interesting to add.
2. When you come off like a Mack truck in conversation, it just tells me you are insecure. It doesn't tell me you are funny, or powerful, or strong, or have a voice. It simply tells me to escape the conversation before I become road kill on your truck's highway!
3. Ask other people questions. Learn how to bring others into the conversation. I suppose you need to stop talking about yourself to do this, but nonetheless, learn how to ask questions. Along this train of thought, learn how to be genuinely interested in the answers to those questions. This quid pro quo lends so nicely to enjoyable conversation.
4. Last but not least, learn how to compliment whoever you are speaking with. Learning how to give someone a genuine and unsolicited compliment is really a skill. It disarms people, it places a feeling of kindness into the conversation and it is just plain nice to do. I believe that from the 20s through the late 40s, people are competitive and this level of competitiveness rears its head in many social situations where everyone is trying to prove how great he/she is. (Side note -- I think this is why your 10-year high school reunion super stinks and is fake, why the 20-year gets a tad better with people a bit less showy, but I can imagine that things don't really get genuine and sincere until your 30th and 40th reunions.) But I digress. Giving someone a sincere compliment lessens the air of competition and tends to put people at ease. You will be surprised how less competitive most people get when granted a flattering observation.
One of the best quotes I have ever heard was actually told to me by an 11-year-old student. The quote is, "He who talks the most, loses." When I asked my student what this quote meant to him, he answered, "Kelly, it's why God gave us two ears and one mouth. It means we are supposed to listen more than we talk." Could not have said it better myself, little guy. Makes me think... perhaps I need to carry these rules over to a blog that targets our little ones as well. Because let's face it, all of these adults with low EQs were likely children who were not taught to know any better. The child who constantly interrupts, talks nonstop and doesn't listen will one day become that adult at the party who can't stop talking, and who makes you want to do another cocktail run even though your glass is still full.