Improve your Interpersonal Relationships — Anyone who develops emotional intelligence will realize that emotional states can be contagious. An individual’s mood or emotional affect can quickly trigger another’s negative emotions and even past trauma. Paying attention to your relationships, and surrounding yourself with positive, emotionally balanced people is the best way to improve your emotional well-being, and to foster emotional intelligence.
As a part of our series about “Emotional Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nico Hodel.
Nico Hodel is Co-Founder and CTO of Start It Up NYC, a digital innovation agency based in New York City that provides content marketing, app development, digital advertising, data analytics, innovation consulting and video production services for startups, and B2B companies.
A full-stack web developer and programmatic marketing specialist, Nico ran development efforts at his former company Valence Digital for over 4 years, overseeing a 12 person marketing and development team, working on projects in the Angular, React, and React Native frameworks.
After working on web development projects in the tech, finance, and legal fields with clients from around the world Nico took on an advisory role at the company to build Start It Up NYC, and its subsidiary, the content writing service Rriter, where he now works full time as Co-CEO.
When he’s not on his computer or speaking at a tech or startup event, you’ll find Nico surfing in his native Honolulu, or playing tennis in Brooklyn.
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 Honolulu, Hawaii where I took an early interest in programming and technology before saving up to travel the world. I backpacked through India, Scandinavia, Germany, Italy, and Turkey, before eventually moving to New York City. These travels were greatly formative and shaped my worldview in a profound way that still has an impact on my values today.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
Early on, I was inspired by the virtual mentors I found through books, podcasts, and blogs that armed me with technical and business skills that I brought to workplace challenges. Among them were Matt Mullenweg, Reid Hoffman, Tim Ferriss, and Derek Sivers.
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?
My business partner Adi Patil immediately comes to mind as someone I could share the ups and downs or running a company with. We helped and encouraged each other along the way to keep our heads down and stay positive.
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?
One of the biggest mistakes I made was to naively underestimate the predatory nature of business in a big city in New York City. I was fortunate to learn that lesson while still working my way through college so that I knew how to protect my interests from bad-faith actors when I went on to found my first company.
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?
I’d suggest that they embrace a sense of curiosity that compels them to learn new skills. There are terrific resources online that allow anyone to take courses from institutions like Harvard, MIT, and Stanford on virtually any subject they’re interested in. I’d also encourage them to continually make new connections with people you admire through platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. We’re living in a digitally connected world that offers incredible access to information and other people.
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?
There’s a book called The One Thing that played a big role in boosting my productivity by training me to continually focus my attention on the item on my to-do list that will have to most productive effect on my goals.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.”
I love this quote by Gibran because it provokes the reader to reconsider their assumptions about work and look for ways they can find work they love.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I’m excited about the work we are doing with Start It Up and its content writing subsidiary Rriter to give a voice to fast-growing startups and innovative B2B companies. These trends towards greater innovation and job creation will be crucial for us to thrive despite the great collective challenges we face today.
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?
The one unifying core of all my different experiences in business is the importance of emotional intelligence to build relationships, make new connections, and manage a team.
For the benefit of our readers, can you help to define what Emotional Intelligence is?
From my point of view, emotional intelligence is a person’s ability to exercise self-awareness when it comes to their emotions. This self-awareness allows a person to be less reactive to emotionally triggering situations. Instead, it gives them the presence of mind to express their emotions in a productive, conscious, and empathetic way.
How is Emotional Intelligence different from what we normally refer to as intelligence?
What most people think of when they talk about intelligence is the idea of IQ. IQ stands for Intelligence Quotient, and is supposed to reflect an individual’s ability to reason and solve problems. In fact, IQ was developed by French psychologist Alfred Binet to help predict which students would have trouble in school. Therein lies its flaw. The underlying assumption is that one’s academic performance is equivalent to their problem-solving skills. The reality is that many of the world’s greatest geniuses performed poorly or unremarkably in school, but went on to solve some of the world’s greatest problems. A notable example is Albert Einstein, who was famously a mediocre C student.
Today, most psychologists believe that intelligence is not simply a score on an IQ test, but rather a multifaceted trait that includes many different skills and proficiencies. Among them is emotional intelligence, which could well be the most important kind of intelligence as it reflects individuals’ ability to interact productively and nonviolently with others.
Can you help explain a few reasons why Emotional Intelligence is such an important characteristic? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Emotional intelligence is crucial because it reflects a person’s ability to create and maintain constructive interpersonal relationships. This is an increasingly important ability in business, as the workplace becomes more collaborative. It’s also critical for society as a whole to function in a harmonious, normative way. Increasing political polarity, fears around a global pandemic, and economic hardship are extremely pressing issues which should be responded to with the self-awareness that emotional intelligence enables.
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.
Emotional intelligence has helped me navigate my relationships with friends, family, and colleagues. A key realization for me to have more self-awareness is that while we can’t control external events in our life, we can control our response to those events. However, controlling our response requires emotional intelligence. Without the ability to look objectively at our emotions, we will simply act them out impulsively, which compounds the negative effects of outside adversity.
Can you share some specific examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help a person become more successful in the business world?
In my mind, virtually every business objective is more attainable with greater emotional intelligence. Whether you are looking to get hired, make a sale, form a partnership, or build a team, interpersonal skills are your most important tool.
Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have better relationships?
Perhaps the most important element to forming good relationships is good communication. This is so well-known by now that it has become a cliche of relationship counseling. What is often missed, however, is that good communication is not possible without emotional intelligence. Without the ability to self-reflectively examine one’s emotions, it’s impossible to communicate them productively. Instead, emotionally unintelligent people will simply act them out, without regard to the negative effects they’ll have on others.
Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have more optimal mental health?
I do think that emotional intelligence can improve a person’s mental health by making them more resilient to adversity, and by helping them avoid compounding the effects of this adversity by lashing out at others.
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.
- Adopt Healthy Habits and Rituals — Finding small daily rituals that help you to stay centered and mindful can be a great way to check in with yourself and become more reflective of your emotional life. It’s best to make the ritual a healthy one, since physical and mental health are so closely connected. This ritual could vary depending on your personality type. For some it might be a relaxing cup of tea. For others, it could be an intense workout in the gym, or a relaxing jog through the park. This piece by the New York Times suggests some rituals that could help stay relaxed and self-aware in these stressful times.
- Adopt a Regular Meditation Practice — Many people don’t realize that meditation isn’t just a bunch of New Age hype. Research from Harvard and other Universities demonstrate the numerous benefits of meditation ranging from anxiety reduction, mental focus, reduced inflammation, and increased relaxation on par with the effects of going on vacation. Meditation also helps to develop self-awareness and some measure of detachment from negative thoughts and emotions so that they can be expressed productively. Vipassana and mindfulness meditation can be terrific secular practices that will help to foster these benefits. For those new to meditation, guided meditation can be more accessible and are offered in a variety of different meditation apps including apps like Waking Up, Calm, and Headspace.
- Improve your Diet — While it might come as a surprise to some, there is real evidence from Harvard and other sources that suggest that an individual’s diet has real impacts on that person’s mood, and that adopting a diet that limits inflammation-producing foods, such as a Mediterranean diet, can help boost emotional well-being. Indeed, the fact that 90% of serotonin receptors are located in the gut has given rise to the burgeoning science of nutritional psychiatry.
- Get Regular Exercise — Scientific evidence suggests that physical exercise can help prevent depression, and other studies show that adopting an exercise routine could help reduce the effects of depression. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone that’s felt great after a heavy workout, due to the feel-good endorphins that are released. A rigorous exercise routine can be cathartic and help to vent negative emotions so that practitioners can look at their inner states with a clear head.
- Improve your Interpersonal Relationships — Anyone who develops emotional intelligence will realize that emotional states can be contagious. An individual’s mood or emotional affect can quickly trigger another’s negative emotions and even past trauma. Paying attention to your relationships, and surrounding yourself with positive, emotionally balanced people is the best way to improve your emotional well-being, and to foster emotional intelligence.
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 educational system does a disservice to young people by not arming them with tools to cultivate emotional intelligence. Educating kids about the connection between exercise, diet, and emotional well-being would go a long way. Moreover, more schools should teach children mindfulness and other secular forms of meditation to give them the tools they need to be self-aware and emotionally intelligent.
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 would inspire a movement towards global innovation and problem-solving driven by emotionally intelligent and ethical business leaders to expand opportunities for economically vulnerable communities in these difficult times.
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’d love to sit down for a breakfast or lunch with Sam Toole of Primary Venture Partners. It would be great to get his take on the innovation ecosystem as an industry-leading VC.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Readers can connect with me through our company websites or on social media with the links below.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.