People place a lot of value on book smarts, and while intellect can definitely enrich your life in many ways, I’d almost venture to say that emotional intelligence is even more important. Being able to manage your emotions, pick up on other people’s, and respond accordingly is what allows us to form meaningful relationships and really connect with the people around us. Sadly, a lot of people lack this know-how and don’t really seem interested in developing it.
If you’re someone who does want to up your EQ and find common ground with new people (and the ones you already know) more easily, here are a few phrases to add to your vocabulary.
1. “It’s nice to meet you.”
This isn’t just good social etiquette when you’re introduced to someone new, it’s also a great way to show that you’re open to getting to know them. People are very insular these days — blame the fact that our entire lives are online and we spend 95% of our lives interacting via screens — and as a result, we’ve gotten super awkward when we actually have to talk to people in person. A simple “nice to meet you” is an old-fashioned icebreaker that can actually pave the way for deeper conversation.
Emotionally intelligent people know that good manners are a prerequisite to getting off on a good foot with the people they meet. It’s respectful, and courteous, and makes you seem accessible and open. All good things.
2. “How’s your day going so far?”
How often do we really inquire how things are going? Whether this is a colleague, a friend, or even a sibling or parent, sometimes it’s just nice to be asked. Even if the other person doesn’t have much to report, sometimes it’s cathartic to have a little whine or just to know that someone else cared enough to ask.
If the person is having a tough day — maybe they’re feeling stressed, overworked, or have a lot going on in their life right now — this simple question could help them feel slightly less alone and like someone notices and cares about them.
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4. “Tell me more.”
Emotionally intelligent people know that one of the core desires of human beings is the need to be heard. For instance, I used to work in customer service and whenever people came in to complain about things, I realized they often didn’t necessarily want me to fix or change things — instead, they wanted to me hear their complaint and validate it as legit. People who initially came in irate ended the conversation feeling a lot calmer and even friendly because I a) asked them what the problem was, b) apologized for the distress it caused them, and c) told them I understood where they were coming from.
By saying “tell me more” when someone is speaking, you invite them to open up and share. You also let them know that you’re not trying to shut them down and that you find what they’re saying to be interesting and important. This goes a very long way in helping you connect with someone.
5. “I’m sorry, that was my fault/I was wrong.”
We all know someone who completely and utterly lacks any sense of accountability for their own life and actions. Everything is everyone else’s fault and they’re always the victim of a world that’s out to get them. In other words, they’re insufferable. Thankfully, emotionally intelligent people are all about taking responsibility for their words, actions, and life as a whole. That means when they mess up, they can hold their hands up and admit it — and they genuinely apologize for it.
This not only shows a lot of maturity, but it also shows that you care enough to recognize the effect you can have on other people, even inadvertently. This allows you to connect with people because it shows them that you view relationships as a two-way street and won’t put all of the emotional labor on them.
6. “I don’t know/I’m not sure.”
Some people are too embarrassed, prideful, or egotistical to admit that they don’t know everything, but that’s silly. No one knows everything, and being able to say that straight-up really sets emotionally intelligent people apart. It sends the message right away that you don’t think you’re better than anyone or that you know more — you’re on the journey to self-improvement just like everyone else.
This puts other people at ease and sort of subconsciously gives them permission to make mistakes and admit they have room to improve, too. The value of this gesture really can’t be overestimated. It doesn’t make you look stupid, it makes you look humble, down-to-earth, and curious. Those are all good things.
7. “Thank you for telling me that.”
When someone shares something personal or difficult for them to talk about, thanking them for opening up and being vulnerable shows a lot of emotional intelligence. It recognizes that sharing personal and potentially painful or upsetting things about themselves and their lives takes bravery and trust, and it shows appreciation for their willingness to do so.
Even better is when you follow this up with something personal about yourself, especially if the story relates to what you’ve been told. You obviously don’t want to overshadow the conversation or invalidate what they’ve said. However, if you have a similar anecdote to share, feel free to do so.
8. “I totally get where you’re coming from.”
Emotionally intelligent people know they don’t have to agree with what everyone else says to listen, understand, respect, and appreciate it. As mentioned previously, people want to be heard and validated, and by letting others know that you get their perspective, you offer this up on a silver platter — and it’ll pay dividends.
Obviously, if you don’t get where the other person is coming from, don’t be fake. Instead, ask them to tell you more (see item 4 above) so that you can get a better understanding.
9. “I need your help.”
Again, there’s nothing embarrassing, emasculating, or even weak about admitting that you can’t do everything yourself. In fact, it takes a solid grasp on your self-worth to own up to the fact that you need other people’s help sometimes. Whether it’s on something simple like a household chore or more complex like a work project, reaching out to others and admitting you could use some assistance provides a pathway for connection between you.
In addition to wanting to be heard, human beings love to feel needed, so this one works two-fold. Not only will you get the help you need, but the person providing it will get a confidence boost by being the one to do it.
10. “I’m struggling at the moment.”
Again, it takes a lot of emotional intelligence and maturity to admit when you’re not okay. There’s so much pressure on us to be strong, independent, and able to handle anything and everything thrown our way without faltering, but that’s ridiculous. We’re human beings, not machines, and there will be times when everything gets on top of us. Speaking up about it will allow us to connect with someone and feel slightly less alone. Give it a try sometime.