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Practice Management

Emotional Intelligence in Client Relationships

Alexandria Andresen Lutz

Emotional Intelligence in Client Relationships
John Wildgoose via iStock

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Emotional intelligence, also known as “EQ” or “EI,” has been a hot topic for several years now, as society recognizes its important role in all types of relationships—personal and professional. Emotional intelligence is generally defined as being aware of emotions that drive behavior (for yourself and others) and managing the same. Emotions can drive people to make decisions they would not otherwise make, which can be particularly alarming if emotions are exacerbated due to a high-stress situation. EQ plays a big part in our professional relationships as lawyers.

Don’t Lose Sight of the Forest for the Trees

As lawyers, we often deal with other people when they (or their businesses) are dealing with a dispute, trying to avoid a dispute, entering into a deal, trying to break up a deal, in trouble with the law, or trying to stay out of trouble with the law. Clients are often out of their comfort zones and, understandably, have a certain level of stress when working with a lawyer.

In contrast, as lawyers, we often tend to focus critically on facts and logic over feelings and emotions. We tend to focus more on having the highest IQ in the room rather than being cognizant of EQ.  While lawyers must assess facts and logic when handling a complex problem, we should be careful not to lose sight of the forest for the trees. Accordingly, we should ensure that we are also critically aware of how other people are feeling, understand their concerns, listen to them, and empathize with them—particularly when they are our clients and colleagues.

Taking all viewpoints into account and recognizing how emotions can impact how others are feeling is essential when advising a client and working with a colleague. Lawyers with higher EQ are more likely to have successful interactions with clients and colleagues than those with low or no EQ.

Do an Audit of Your Emotions

An actionable step you can take to improve your emotional intelligence is developing emotional awareness for yourself, which will inevitably increase your EQ. You can do this by paying attention to how you feel at any given moment, labeling those emotions, and realizing how those emotions affect your decisions.

For example, you may find that the stress and frustration you are facing with an upcoming deadline could be the reason you drafted a snarky email response to someone for a completely unrelated matter for no reason.

Taking a step back and doing an “audit” of your emotions in a particular moment and your typical responses is a great first step at increasing your emotional intelligence, which will ultimately allow you to have more self-control and more successful interactions with clients and colleagues alike.