“Humans are emotional creatures”, Eric Rittmeyer and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

In the simplest of terms, emotional intelligence (EQ) can be defined as the ability to perceive, express, and respond to emotions. And not just our own emotions, but other’s as well. It’s how you manage behavior, navigate social complexities and make personal decisions in real-time. It’s the ability to look inside yourself, read your own […]

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In the simplest of terms, emotional intelligence (EQ) can be defined as the ability to perceive, express, and respond to emotions. And not just our own emotions, but other’s as well. It’s how you manage behavior, navigate social complexities and make personal decisions in real-time. It’s the ability to look inside yourself, read your own behavior and feelings, and rationally consider the implication those actions and thoughts will have on others.

As a part of our series about “Emotional Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Rittmeyer.

Eric Rittmeyer is a former US Marine and an expert in the fields of mental toughness and emotional intelligence. He’s been a professional speaker for the past decade, and is a regular guest on television outlets including Fox, CNN, NBC and ABC. Eric’s also the author of the book “The Emotional Marine — 68 Mental Toughness and Emotional Intelligence Secrets To Make Anyone Instantly Like You”. He speaks to audiences all over the country, teaching executives and sales professionals how to overcome the limits brought on by fear and emotions, and replace them with clear, concise critical thinking that gets results.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in Baltimore, MD with my grandparents and I was definitely NOT a good student. I went to school and did what I had to do, but I really showed up every day so I could play football and lacrosse. My grades reflected my “lack of desire” to be in school. I knew from a very young age that I didn’t want to go to college, but I really had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. By the time I got into the 11th grade, I realized that I really had only one option if I wasn’t going to college — the military. Once I decided on joining, there was very little thought that went into which branch I’d select. I was all in for the Marine Corps. So I joined when I was 17 and shipped out to Parris Island 1 month after high school graduation.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

I’ve obviously worked alongside lots of amazing leaders that helped shape me into the Marine/Father/Businessperson I am today, but my Commanding Officer, Colonel Parker definitely had the largest influence on my life. He was an amazing role model and was the epitome of a US Marine. He constantly supported me and gave me the confidence I needed to step out of my comfort zone and be the best I could be. His lessons have stuck with me for the last 25+ years.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

I would have to say the person that helped me the most was my grandfather. I grew up with my grandparents and he showed me the importance of hard work and family. Although he didn’t have much of an academic education, he was one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. He knew he had mouths to feed and he worked his fingers to the bone to support me. That work ethic has always stuck with me. But the other thing I learned from him was the significance of family. He never missed a single one of my sporting events and was there for me 24/7 with zero questions asked. Nothing came before his family and that has always helped to keep me grounded with the whole “work/life” balance.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

This probably isn’t the exact type of story you were expecting, but it ranks up there as one of the funniest I have. I was delivering a presentation for a large group of real estate agents in Florida a few years ago. One of my very good friends worked for this company and was in the crowd. About half way through, I stopped for a break and headed to the rest room. I walked in and start washing my hands and humming the tunes to my favorite song like I always do. I turn to head back towards the bathroom stall and my buddy comes busting through the door and charging directly at me. I’m caught so off guard I can’t even get a word out before he reaches on my waist and yanks the cord off of my lapel microphone that I TOTALLY forgot to turn off. Moral of the story, never use the restroom when your mic is live.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

This is definitely the million dollar question, and one that’s been answered by many of the most successful people in the world. The number one piece of advice I’d give is to become an expert in something you love with all of your heart and find a way to transfer that knowledge into solving a problem for the masses. Our world is full of unlimited amounts of problems, and people will gladly pay top dollar to anyone that can provide solutions. There will obviously always be ups and downs, but if it’s something you’re truly passionate about, the desire to push on will never diminish.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

A lot of people find it hard to believe this about me, but I am NOT a movie watcher — at all!! There is one movie that really sticks out to me though. It’s called “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” and it’s the life story about Fred Rogers, aka “Mister Rogers.” For anyone that’s interested in seeing first-hand what emotional intelligence looks like, this is a MUST WATCH. Mister Rogers is played masterfully by Tom Hanks and it’s the absolute epitome of the power harnessed in loving your neighbors.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

There’s an old quote that I believe perfectly represents my topic of emotional intelligence and the power that our thoughts have over our day to day functioning. “What the mind attends to it considers. What the mind does not attend to it dismisses. What the mind attends to continually it believes. And what the mind believes, it eventually does.” It’s a very blunt reminder that our thoughts control our actions and our actions control our behavior. So powerful.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I’ve been really focusing a lot of my efforts on children and how they’re handling the COVID pandemic emotionally. What’s happened since the beginning of this year has been enough to rattle even the most “mentally stable” adults out there, but what about our kids? I’m very concerned about long term effects this shutdown will have on kids that are living through a very horrifying time. My goal is to help provide guidance to parents on how to address their kids’ fears in a way that provides them with a sense of security, but also helps them to learn lifelong skills on how to handle adversity.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority about Emotional Intelligence?

My infatuation with emotional intelligence began about 20 years ago when I first starting training sales people. I was baffled as to how some people were very successful, and others just didn’t make it in the world of commission. Like most people, I assumed that the smarter you were, the more successful you’d be. I quickly learned that formal education had very little to do with success and that there was another factor that was a far greater indicator of how quickly someone would excel. I’ve spent the last 2 decades hiring, firing, training, coaching and analyzing people from all walks of life to find common denominators amongst the highest achievers. The common thread is EQ, or emotional intelligence.

For the benefit of our readers, can you help to define what Emotional Intelligence is?

In the simplest of terms, emotional intelligence (EQ) can be defined as the ability to perceive, express, and respond to emotions. And not just our own emotions, but other’s as well. It’s how you manage behavior, navigate social complexities and make personal decisions in real-time. It’s the ability to look inside yourself, read your own behavior and feelings, and rationally consider the implication those actions and thoughts will have on others.

How is Emotional Intelligence different from what we normally refer to as intelligence?

Most people are familiar with IQ. It’s generally what’s used to determine someone’s level of “book smarts” and is measured by how well they score on a test such as the SAT. Up until the mid-1990’s, this was the primary indicator as to how successful someone was going to be. The smarter you are, the higher you score. With higher scores come better college offers, and with better college educations come better job offers. The problem is companies were quickly learning that education alone wasn’t a true indicator of future success. Equally (if not more important) was the “soft skill” of connecting with co-workers and the ability to motivate others to do what they needed to do to get the job done. Enter the concept of emotional intelligence.

Can you help explain a few reasons why Emotional Intelligence is such an important characteristic? Can you share a story or give some examples?

Humans are emotional creatures. We’re all hard wired to feel first, and think later. Increasing our levels of EQ means that we get better at thoroughly understanding what drives us internally, and also at what drives others. It also means that we become better empathizers and are able to quickly connect with people by making them feel good about themselves. It’s no surprise that people will go out of their way to help those that give them the “warm fuzzies.” This is one of the main reasons EQ is such a sought after trait in companies looking to hire those that will become future leaders.

Would you feel comfortable sharing a story or anecdote about how Emotional Intelligence has helped you in your life? We would love to hear about it.

There’s one quote that I always use in my speeches and it’s really at the core of how I interact with every single person I meet — “People will forget the things you say, they’ll forget the things you do, but they’ll NEVER forget the way you made them feel.” Every interaction we have with people leaves both parties feeling one of 5 different emotions — happy, sad, angry, fearful or shameful. It just so happens the old phrase of “you have the ability to change someone’s world” is very true.

Can you share some specific examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help a person become more successful in the business world?

The best part about emotional intelligence is that unlike IQ which you’re pretty much born with, EQ can be increased regardless of how smart you are. Increasing levels of EQ means that you get better at things like self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. These are all things that will translate into stronger business relationships and quicker, deeper connections with those you work with. A co-worker that you’ve connected with will be much more receptive in times of adversity and will always be willing to go the extra mile for you.

Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have better relationships?

Deep relationships are all about finding a connection with someone. Over the last year of shutdowns, we’ve seen first-hand how difficult it can be to strengthen relationships when we’re limited to “virtual” communication. Although this lack of “face to face” interaction can make things a little more challenging, there are still many ways EQ can help pick up the slack. For starters, we need to become MUCH better listeners. As a society, we’ve fallen into the habit of listening with the intent to reply, as opposed to listening with the intent to understand. Showing someone you’re truly listening to them is an integral part of relationship building and so few people are really good at this.

Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have more optimal mental health?

Emotional intelligence is all about understanding our emotions. It’s not trying to turn them off, or attempting to suppress them, it’s learning to CONTROL them. When we acknowledge our feelings and address them with a logical state of mind, we’re preventing ourselves from falling into the “pity party” syndrome that’ll quickly tank our mental well-being. Bad things happen to all of us and it’s absolutely acceptable to be down in the dumps sometimes. The key is to re-gain control of your thoughts and jump back on your feet. Remaining in constant control of our emotions allows us to quickly detect when we’re overcome with a feeling and to swiftly process the issue at hand, then let it go. People that hold on to negative feelings only continue to poison themselves internally by not allowing the release of their thoughts that are causing the pain.

Ok. Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you recommend five things that anyone can do to develop a greater degree of Emotional Intelligence? Please share a story or example for each.

Being a former US Marine, I rely very heavily on acronyms. They help me to remember things. HAHA! I came up with one about 10 years ago that I believe perfectly captures the easiest steps someone can take to become more emotionally intelligent. I refer to this as “The SMILE Factor.” I developed it as a quick reference anyone could use to instantly connect with people. Each letter stands for an EQ tip that can easily, and immediately, be implemented by anyone. S — Show me respect. M — Make it all about Me. I — Make me feel Important. L — Make me Laugh. E — Earn my trust. My premise behind The SMILE Factor is that if you can make someone feel all of these things, you’ll instantly form a connection.

Do you think our educational system can do a better job at cultivating Emotional Intelligence? What specific recommendations would you make for schools to help students cultivate Emotional Intelligence?

Our kids are growing up in a society that’s more about social media than it is social interaction. They’re not being taught basic interpersonal skills that teach them how to express their feelings; what I refer to as a “feelings vocabulary.” We need to help our children learn the difference between their feelings, which are all ok, and their actions, which are sometimes not okay. It’s critically important that our educational system starts prioritizing teaching these emotional intelligence skills to help us produce functional, well-adjusted and law abiding citizens.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I want our nation to get to a point where we’re able to get back to loving our neighbors again. We’re unfortunately living in the middle of an “outrage culture.” We’re hyper sensitive. We’re outraged at everything. We immediately assume the worst intentions of people when they don’t agree with us. It’s making people crazy. It’s making people unhappy. It’s ripping apart the cultural fabric of our country and it’s getting next to impossible for us to share anything anymore. In my perfect world, we’d all be able to assume the best intentions from the people that we disagree with and we’d all begin to acknowledge that there’s far more we have in common than what divides us.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I would have to say Dan Crenshaw. He is a US Representative in Texas and a former US Navy SEAL. Dan is an amazing example of how to use critical thinking to formulate thoughts and beliefs. He always remains composed and he’s outstanding at taking difficult concepts and breaking them down to be very easily understandable.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thank you! My website is www.MentalToughnessSpeaker.com, FaceBook — www.facebook.com/MentalSpeaker,

Instagram — www.instagram.com/ericrittmeyer, Twitter — @MentalSpeaker

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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