5 TED Talks to increase your emotional intelligence

For many leaders, building soft skills is hard. Improve your emotional intelligence with these TED talks
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emotional intelligence

If you’ve come up through the ranks in IT, you have technology expertise. Once you’re in a management role, you need more complex, “soft” skills – understanding the people who work with you and figuring out how to motivate and inspire them. If you’ve spent years in management already, then you know that learning about these emotional intelligence skills is a lifelong job.

In these eye-opening TED Talks, speakers from a variety of disciplines share insights into the workings of others’ minds. They can help you understand how to change what you say, and even what you think, to become a more effective manager, communicator, and decision-maker. These experts can even teach you a few things about how your own emotions can help you – or get in your way.

1. Why aren’t we more compassionate? 

Speaker: Daniel Goleman

Daniel Goleman is author of the bestseller Emotional Intelligence and helped bring the term and the concept into the public eye. In this fascinating talk, he delves into the question of why we sometimes do or don’t stop to help a stranger in need. It turns out that the simple shift in thinking that makes you more compassionate will also make you a much better boss.

2. Why we all need to practice emotional first aid 

Speaker: Guy Winch

In this memorable talk, psychologist and author Guy Winch helps us see how feelings of rejection and loneliness and loss can alter our perceptions and affect our interactions with others, without our realizing it. However, we can adjust our own thought patterns towards greater emotional health and better communications and relationships with the people we interact with every day. To get there, you have to start by taking your emotional health as seriously your physical health.

3. Let’s try emotional correctness

Speaker: Sally Kohn

Sally Kohn is a progressive commentator on Fox News, which means she spends every day working closely with people who violently disagree with her and some who think she shouldn’t exist at all. But she’s learned that you can violently disagree with someone and still make a human and emotional connection with that person. It’s because of what she calls “emotional correctness.” It begins with trying to understand the other person’s point of view and why they think what they do. That’s a skill that every great manager needs. She lays it all out in this brief TED Talk. (Warning: contains some profanity.)

4. How to spot a liar 

Speaker: Pamela Meyer

We’re lied to up to 200 times a day. Often, our own needs and desires lead us to believe lies are truths. But by understanding those desires, and keeping an eye out for some telltale signs of deception, we can get better at spotting the signs that someone is lying and may not have our best interests at heart, says Pamela Meyer, author of the bestseller Liespotting. Using videos of politicians (and one murderer), Meyer will help you learn how to identify the lies you encounter every day.

5. Why we make bad decisions

Speaker: Dan Gilbert

We think we make rational decisions – but most of them are anything but that, explains Harvard psychologist and author Dan Gilbert in this fascinating talk. There are many ways our understanding of a situation shifts in response to seemingly unrelated matters, such as how often we’ve heard about something on the news. But we can learn to make better decisions. By opening your eyes to the way these perceptions affect your thinking, this TED Talk can help you think more clearly about the choices you face.

[ Read also: 5 TED Talks on transformational leadership to watch ]

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Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and columnist for Inc.com. She is co-author of "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive," as well as several other books. She lives in Snohomish, Washington.