Lawyers and Emotions: Oil and Water?

By Melanie C. Hagan posted 06-13-2018 09:24


Lawyers are supposed to be emotionally distant so that they can make objective legal arguments and represent their clients better, right? Maintaining this emotional distance may not help lawyers—professionally or personally. But the other end of the spectrum—extreme emotions—may cause even more problems. So where’s the happy medium?

Emotional intelligence may provide lawyers with a starting point for recognizing and understanding their emotions, as well as the emotions of clients and colleagues. Emotional intelligence allows a person to

identify and discriminate between an individual’s own emotions and those of others to best guide their thoughts, decisions and actions. An emotionally intelligent person has the ability to perceive an emotion (in themselves or someone else), discern the cause of that emotion and respond appropriately to achieve a desired outcome.

Emotional intelligence can help you strengthen your communication skills and can also lead to happier work environments and improved work performance.

The five components of emotional intelligence are

  1. self-awareness, which can help you receive and learn from constructive criticism from peers and clients,
  2. self-regulation, which can help you remain calm in a difficult situation,
  3. motivation, which can help you remain resilient in the face of disappointment,
  4. empathy, which can help you provide better client service, and
  5. social skills, which can help you build a team and work well with others.

If you need to brush up on any of these components, try these four steps:

  1. Increase awareness of your own emotions. Not only identify your emotions, but notice the response you have to these emotions.
  2. Manage your own emotions. After you identify your emotions, figure out if you want to express those emotions, and to whom.
  3. Perceive emotions in others. Notice tone of voice, eye contact, and body language of others.
  4. Influence the emotions of others. Use your new emotional intelligence to help diffuse difficult situations.