A high level of emotional intelligence is vital for any lawyer, but how does your EQ and thinking style combine to make you an effective practitioner?
Firms striving to distinguish themselves from competitors in the current market need lawyers who can consistently deliver outstanding performances. But what many don’t understand is that performance is not simply a product of hard work or a high IQ.
Peter Salovey, president of Yale University, observed, “Law is human interaction in emotionally evocative climates. Any lawyer who can understand what emotions are present and why is at a tremendous advantage.”
Indeed, ‘smarts’ will only get you so far as a lawyer. The rest hinges on your ability to navigate social interactions and effectively get what you want out of others. As such, lawyers who want to enhance their communicative ability and their effectiveness as a practitioner should develop not just an understanding of the way people feel (emotional intelligence), but an understanding of how people think.
What are thinking styles?
Over the course of our lifetime, we accumulate behaviours that dictate how we tend to utilise and apply our intelligence. This shapes our personal thinking style – a unique fingerprint of our cognitive strengths and weaknesses that determines how we communicate, process information, make judgements, solve problems and socially interact. It also has a major impact on our ability to lead, make decisions, build relationships and influence others.
How can lawyers use thinking styles?
Understanding thinking styles is an important tool for lawyers wanting to enhance their ability to tackle intellectual work and social interactions and boost their level of influence over others.
Identifying your own personal thinking style
Getting acquainted with your own cognitive tendencies not only helps identify your natural strengths and weaknesses, but enables you to achieve optimum operating efficiency.
The majority of individuals use one or two dominant thinking styles in preference to others, and while it’s possible to become proficient at using a foreign style, this is usually difficult to sustain. Therefore, learning how to approach tasks with your optimum thinking style can help to conserve intellectual energy and avoid frustration and burnout.
Knowing your thinking style can also help you identify:
- How information can be communicated to you most effectively.
- How you tend to express information.
- The role or style of work you are most suited to.
- The type of thinkers that complement your cognitive strengths.
How to get started
There are a multitude of models and tests available online that can help you identify your dominant thinking style. Take a quick quiz and compare the information on your dominant thinking style to what you already know about yourself.
Understanding the thinking styles of others
Being able to identify and mimic the thinking styles of your co-workers and clients can greatly enhance the cohesive nature of your interactions, workplace efficiency and the value that can be extracted from each employee.
Each individual filters communication in light of prior experiences, emotions and their thinking style. Thus, understanding how your client or colleague assimilates information will enable you to present your point or proposal in such a way that they really ‘get it’.
By extension, lawyers can improve their ability to influence others by identifying the other person’s thinking style and adapting their communications to meet the other’s cognitive preferences.
In addition, research indicates that better and faster results are achieved from teams comprised of diverse thinking styles. Thus, the ability to compose a team from a variety of thinking styles, and successfully manage the communicative dynamics that result, will greatly enhance the results of collaboration sessions.
Get familiar with the hallmarks of different thinking styles and pay attention to visible cues from your clients, colleagues and co-workers. Educate your staff on how to best present information to individuals with different thinking styles and practise on those around you.
These skills don’t come naturally to most people – they need to be cultivated. So don’t be a robot. Gain a competitive advantage over other lawyers and amp up your influence by utilising your emotional intelligence and thinking style.