Daniel Goleman’s brilliant 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence, gathered and synthesized some research about what it takes for people to get along in the world. The phrase “emotional intelligence” has become part of the lexicon and indeed seems to be enjoying a bit of a renaissance just now, two decades later. Perhaps because we are experiencing such an angry, suspicious era, we wonder where the emotional intelligence of the population has gone and how we might get it back.
It’s worth looking at public speaking through the emotional intelligence lens to get a sense of what a public speaker requires in order to be successful – since Goleman clearly established that those with emotional intelligence are more successful on a number of levels than those who aren’t.
How do you measure up as an emotionally intelligent public speaker? Goleman identified five basic elements of emotional intelligence.
Self-awareness. For a speaker, self-awareness is where it all begins. You must be able to recognize and understand your emotions, as well as how they affect others. Knowing what makes you tick will allow you to use your passion to create a compelling vision for yourself and others.
Self-regulation. Being aware alone is not enough. You need to be able to control your intentions, moods, and emotions as a speaker through the adrenaline cycle, both on the way up and on the way down. Life on the road puts stress on you and the people around you, and reacting appropriately even when you’re worn down is as essential as it is hard to do.
Internal Motivation. Without the passion, the speech and the speaker never get started. Passion for the subject is the other key requirement for a speaker’s life. Passion to speak, to write, and to share your vision all are essential.
Empathy. Understanding others and their emotional makeup and reactions becomes key to the success of a speaker’s life as soon as she stands on stage and begins to speak. Can you read the audience in front of you? Are they with you? Have you lost them? What can you do to address the resistance you are sensing? And so on.
Social skills. Speaking is of necessity a relationship-building business. If you have passion, and even skill in delivering that passion convincingly from the stage, you have the basics necessary to success. But if you can’t create a community around yourself and your ideas, you won’t get the invitation to speak and all your preparation will be for naught.
How do you measure up? Do you have the self-awareness to know how effective you are from the stage, to know where your strengths and weaknesses are? What can you do to improve? Do you have the discipline to manage yourself through a life on the road? Do you have the passion to keep going? Do you have the empathy to understand how you’re affecting others? And do you have the social skills to keep a personal network humming?
Testing yourself along these five continua can illuminate where you’re strong and where you need work as a public speaker. Thanks to Goleman, you have a good set of criteria with which to measure yourself.