First impressions: 10 emotionally intelligent things to do when you meet a colleague

Common sense, intuitiveness, thoughtfulness, and kindness are essential to applying emotionally intelligent behavior during your initial meeting with an associate.

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Many business people are embracing the importance of applying "emotional intelligence" into their work world. Networking and communication are key elements to a successful business, and making that initial contact may be the most important engagement. 

Emotional Intelligence, or EI, as it is commonly known, was coined in 1990 by two psychologists and is described in their 1995 book Emotional Intelligence as a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one's thinking and action.

Empathy plays a huge role in being emotionally intelligent. It's the ability to know yourself and to have an understanding of the other person, to be sensitive to their feelings. Building a rapport with a new associate is a great way to start working together. 

Here's what experts recommend to demonstrate emotional intelligence when you first meet a business colleague or client. 

SEE: How to become a CIO: A cheat sheet (free PDF)

1. Be self aware

Emotionally intelligent people are good at being self-aware, managing their emotions, being empathetic/socially aware, and handling others' emotions/social skills.

2. Get a little background before you meet

"Prior to meeting new contacts, it's always a good idea to peruse resources to explore your new colleagues and get a little background on them," recommended Tyler Butler, founder and CEO of 11Eleven Consulting, who describes himself as a "corporate culture guru." He added, "Whether it's an internal intranet system, LinkedIn or just a Google search, getting to know a little about people before you meet shows interest and jump starts your conversations."

3. Demonstrate what value you bring 

It's important to be emotionally intelligent because "meaningful and authentic connections are key to business relationships and require emotional intelligence," said Brandy Aven, associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business. When you're introduced, Aven said, "it is important to signal that one, you have done your homework about the other person, and you have to demonstrate what value you can bring to them in a credible and sincere manner."

4. Make the other person comfortable

"Being emotionally intelligent is valuable in a business context in the sense that you're going to have a better idea of what's running through the other person's mind and how they're feeling," said Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic. "Understanding this is going to help steer you in terms of how you choose to convey your message or engage in the negotiation required."

5. Be fully present, focus on the other person

Business Coach's Stacy Caprio said, "When you are emotionally intelligent, you are able to make those around you feel comfortable, which is an important foundation to any social interaction," and when you meet a new person, "Be focused on them and not looking around the room or trying to get out of the conversation. Show them you care by being fully present."

6. Use their name with your greeting

"Always lead with embellishing your 'hello,' with their name," said networking strategy coach Stephanie Thoma, and other experts agreed.

7. Good manners

"On first meeting, a relaxed smile, sturdy handshake, and waiting to sit until your new business acquaintance has been seated is a way to begin a meeting with someone new," Thoma said.

8. Listen more than you speak

"It's a nice rule of thumb to listen more than you speak," Thoma continued, "especially in an initial client meeting, to ensure you're clear on their goals and objectives."

9. Find common ground, an authentic connection

Better Meetings' Lee Gimple recommended that when meeting someone, look for ways to make a real connection. "This could be the result of knowing something about someone that you have in common . People tend to try to connect on banal topics that don't do much to build rapport (weather or transportation to the meeting)," he said.

10. Spark substantive discussion

Gimpel suggested that rather than ask the straightforward "What do you do?"  Think about going a bit deeper" and ask questions that evoke stories, such as 'How do you get to be in your position?' or 'What do you like about what you're working on now?' 

"It's easier to connect and get to know someone with a more substantial conversation; that you both agree it is cold doesn't make for much of a connection," Gimpel said.

Also see

Business people shaking hands

The 10 emotionally intelligent things to do when you first meet an associate.

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