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Leadership & Communication

Nice people don’t finish last

19 May 2015, by Informa Insights

Jenny StrachanYOU probably won’t want to read it all but a detailed study conducted by an academic team in Germany has found that, in most management situations, the nicer you are, the more money you make.

The team studied the relationship between aspects of Emotional Intelligence and success in the workplace. In particular they looked at how well people recognised and understood other people’s feelings (otherwise known as Emotion Recognition Ability).

Their conclusion, published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, was unequivocal. “This study shows that those with an eye for emotions get better paid.”

One of the main reasons for this, they concluded, was that: “ERA allows people to act more politically skilled in the social environment of organizations and thus to yield benefits for themselves in the form of better job performance ratings from supervisors and higher income. We conclude that individuals benefit from emotional abilities and political skill.”

The point is that Emotional Intelligence (EI) enhances a manager’s ability to adopt new ways of thinking and exercise greater influence over business outcomes and to draw on a range of influencing skills to help colleagues and clients deal with business challenges.

We need to exercise our EI by showing empathy and adapting to different situations by changing our style depending on the needs of the situation and people we are dealing with.

People with high EI embody the following interpersonal skills.

  1. Self awareness and developing an ideal image
    If people hear one message and see another, then this is a lack of congruence. The receiver of the message will start to have questions about the lack of balance in our style and they will start to feel less comfortable with us. So we need to always think about congruence in the way we communicate. Does our smile match our voice and the words we use?
  2. Creating mindfulness and attention to behaviours
    Showing connection and empathy is critical in effective interpersonal communication. The way we present information can make all the difference. In order to be an effective communicator, we need to be mindful of the communication process. We need always to be aware when a problem exists, accept that the person may be misled or misinterpreting our communication and then be ready to repair the miscommunication using a range of strategies.
  3. Increasing the challenge – from engaging with the heart
    These communication strategies may include changing the inflection pattern of our voice – such as adding more upward inflection, vitality and energy. It may be that when we talk to people, we have a more open style: we look them in the eyes; use open gestures with the palms of our hands facing outwards. We may sit very centred in the chair; hold their gaze and focus on making them feel comfortable through the communication process.
  4. Readiness or deciding to change
    We may also think about the words we use. Do we offer a high level of disclosure or do we constantly refer to people in the third person? Do we connect with the person by using empathetic language or do we protect the knowledge and the information we have by constantly referring to: “a certain person in a certain situation”? Using “I” messages indicates disclosure and is a communication opener – “This is how I feel about the situation”; “What I’ve been thinking is …”

A person with EI builds trust in a relationship by creating an image of executive presence and believability. In other words, they come across as nice people. And, it seems, nice people don’t finish last.

By Jenny Strachan

To see the courses Jenny is teaching that cover Emotional Intelligence, Communication, Influence and Persuasion, visit

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