Practice being mindful to develop self-awareness. There is a great exercise that I personally use and have used with clients and it’s called the five, four, three, two, one of mindfulness. That is, five things you can touch; four things you can see; three things you can hear; two things you can smell; one thing you can taste. This helps to draw awareness to the senses, reduce anxiety, and prepares us to bring awareness to our thoughts and feelings.
As a part of our series about “Emotional Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewingBrittney-Nichole Connor-Savarda.
Brittney-Nichole Connor-Savarda, author of The EQ Deficiency, is an authority on emotional intelligence and human behavior and lives her purpose as a catalyst for change. Connor-Savarda earned degrees in education and psychology, a certification as a Neuro-Linguistic Program (NLP) practitioner and is a HeartMath trainer. As a credentialed and respected “People Whisperer,” Brittney-Nichole specializes in working one-on-one with high-achieving male entrepreneurs and athletes to help them discover a life of fulfillment, balance, and confidence that success alone cannot satisfy. In addition, she partners with executives and their teams to solve the people problems that are holding them back from innovation and people-centered success.
The cornerstone of Brittney-Nichole’s approach stems from her desire to mend broken communications. Her work with clients involves a path of discovery which leads each to a keen understanding of perceptions and an arrival at an amazing realization: every successful interpersonal relationship requires a healthy and consistent dose of empathy. As an adaptive and creative problem-solver, Connor-Savarda applies equal parts experience, education, and emotional intelligence to change her clients’ lives for the better. Her dedication to building bridges which bring people together is what sets her apart from a seemingly endless pool of “life coaches.”
Connor-Savarda’s devotion to making lives better through a deeper understanding of emotional intelligence and human behavior is a gift — one she believes is only valuable when its shared with others. Brittney demonstrates her passion for fixing people problems through speaking on stage at events or working one-on-one with individuals, couples, families, and even corporate leaders.
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 on High Rock Lake in Salisbury, North Carolina, on 75 acres of family land. As an only child and only grandchild (on my father’s side), I spent a lot of time entertaining myself by exploring the outdoors or venturing over to my grandparent’s house which was literally over the river and through the woods — as the song goes.
While I have many wonderful memories from my childhood, I equally have memories of playing the role of the adult while the adults were playing the roles of children. As far back as I can remember, I was placed in the center of arguments. And like a tug of war rope, I was pulled in either direction and expected to take a side. And when I did not take the “right” side, I was labeled a traitor and a disappointment to a family that would be sure to remind me of all the sacrifices they’d made for me.
Needless to say, this led to psychological trauma that would go unaddressed until my mid 20’s. I don’t intend to villainize my family. I know they care about me. They simply have their own traumas and issues that have not been addressed. Consequently, toxic behaviors were passed down and modeled throughout the generations.
The silver lining to all of this is that it led me to who I am and where I am today.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I would not be in the field I am in today if it was not for my family and childhood experiences. Because of my family, I became curious about the study of psychology. And while I learned a lot through obtaining my degree, it was the continuous study post graduating that changed my life and took my knowledge base to a whole new level of expertise. Over the course of four years, I had read over sixty books in the areas of neuropsychology, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, mind/body connection, evolutionary psychology, and communication. Not only did I read these books, I implemented their strategies and practices into my day-to-day life and that was where the transformation began.
In short, I went from playing the role of the victim in my life — relying on anti-anxiety medicines which I had been taking since age 15 — to understanding how to take control of my thoughts, mindset, and how I interpreted and reacted to my emotions. Seven years later, I founded a business to help others transform their lives through the power of developing the essential skill of emotional intelligence.
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?
You are right, it takes a village. There are several people that inspired and encouraged me at different stages in my life. However, the first person to encourage me was myself. And I say this because, we can have the best advisor and mentor in the world but if we do not believe in ourselves and take the necessary steps to be the best version of ourselves, we will never get there.
However, I want to give credit to others who have played a major role in my development.
My grandfather was one of my biggest supporters. He believed in me, was a great listener and advisor during the early stages of my transformation. Next, I would have to say my ex-boyfriend. He challenged me to push my limits and saw I was settling in many areas of my life. If it weren’t for him, I do not believe I would be as accomplished as I am today. And most recently, my three wonderful mentors Dr. Henry, Dr. Frost, and Brian. I never dreamed others who weren’t my family would be so invested, supportive, and proud of my accomplishments and ventures.
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?
That’s a good question. I guess it would have to be the time I almost missed a meeting with a prospect. You know that feeling when you feel like you are forgetting something, but you just can’t think of what it is you are forgetting? I had that feeling the night before this meeting was to occur. I looked at my calendar and didn’t see anything scheduled, yet something in my gut told me I had a meeting the next day. I remember waking up frantically the next morning as it dawned on me that I forgot to place a meeting with a prospect in my calendar. I woke up just in time to brush my teeth, aggressively get dressed and pull my hair up into a bun. It took all of 12-minutes from the time I jumped out of bed in a panic to the time I was in my car driving to the coffee shop with 2 minutes to spare.
I was so proud of myself. I couldn’t believe I had made it to the meeting before the prospect. I got my coffee and found a table while I waited. Five minutes went by. Now they were the one who was late. After 10-minutes went by and they still hadn’t arrived, I decided I better text them. Guess what? They forgot too. They felt terrible because they also forgot to place it in their calendar.
Not the funniest or most interesting story, but there you have it.
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?
My advice to anyone, young or old, is to be careful when taking or giving advice. What worked for me may not work for you. People are always eager to tell you what you “should” do, but it is rarely based on extensive data. Instead, it’s likely the decision they made themselves and it just so happened to work out for them. This doesn’t mean it was the best or only way to achieve the same results. My advice would be to interview a solid number of people who have achieved the results you are looking to achieve. When you speak with enough people, you will find there is always a trend. Follow the trend, not the advice.
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 are several books that have made a significant impact on my life.
The books that are top of mind are: Nonviolent Communication; Mistakes Were Made (but not by me); and, Emotional Intelligence
All of these books resonated with me on a deep level. They helped me to understand why I reacted in such toxic ways, and how to overcome personal challenges so that I can show up for myself and others.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Similar to your previous question, there are too many great quotes to name a favorite. However, I will share with you one of my favorites and that is “We are dangerous when we are not conscious of our responsibility for how we behave, think, and feel.” — Marshall B. Rosenburg
This is a very fitting quote because it hints at the dangers of not being emotionally intelligent. Our lack of EQ is not just a missed opportunity for personal and professional development, it could determine the livelihood of the human race. The lesson — or I should say warning here — is that we must become aware of our contribution to what is a turbulent society.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
The most interesting project I’m working on at the moment is a robust organizational program structured around my book The EQ Deficiency. I was blown away by the comments from executive leaders who said they found immense value in reading the book. The book is not intended to be a “business” book. However, it talks about people problems and how to understand the source of our problems and overcome them through the development and practice of emotional intelligence. After a handful of investors and executive leaders inquired about an accompanying guidebook, I decided to do one better and develop a program instead.
The program will be offered in three formats: online, hybrid, and in-person/virtual and is perfect for executive leadership teams who want to build or rebuild a human-centered culture and effectively manage and solve for common people problems that are costing them time, money, and affecting their ability to live a fulfilling life.
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?
I have personally developed my own emotional intelligence and have reaped the benefits. And through personal development paired with study, I understand the complexity of developing this essential skill. It’s not as simple as applying strategies and knowing what emotional intelligence is. It’s deeper than that; it’s an understanding of how psychology, biology, mindset, bias, instinct, etc. play into how we develop new skills and interact with ourselves and the world around us.
As I mentioned earlier, I spent seven years developing this skill and four years studying it. Emotional intelligence is not simply a skill I built a business around, it has become a part of who I am, how I live my life, communicate with myself and others, process information, and so much more.
For the benefit of our readers, can you help to define what Emotional Intelligence is?
The original definition of emotional intelligence, coined by Peter Salovey and John Mayer (not the musician) is: “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.”
Personally, I would say emotional intelligence is our ability to be aware of our emotions, accurately define them, control them, and our awareness of how we allow them to impact our interaction and communication with ourselves and the world around us.
How is Emotional Intelligence different from what we normally refer to as intelligence?
Unlike intellect (which is inherent), emotional intelligence is a skill that can be developed. While IQ measures an individual’s academic abilities such as their ability to learn, comprehend information, filter irrelevant information, and think abstractly, EQ is one’s ability to understand, and control their emotions, empathize with others, and the ability to communicate effectively. People who have high EQ, not IQ, are the ones who make great leaders, are effective and collaborative team members, and are aware of how their actions impact others.
Emotional intelligence can be thought of as a turbo charger to intelligence. Without emotional intelligence, stress and anxiety (any emotion that triggers our sympathetic nervous system) will likely impact and hinder our ability to rationally process information. It has been shown that highly emotionally intelligent individuals with average IQs outperformed individual with high IQs by an astonishing seventy percent.
Can you help explain a few reasons why Emotional Intelligence is such an important characteristic? Can you share a story or give some examples?
What makes emotional intelligence so valuable is its depth. What I mean by this is, emotional intelligence is a level of awareness and understanding that each person must develop and reflect on in their own way, and at their own pace which separates it from manners and politeness.
At a surface level, being well mannered and polite is not a bad thing. However, they are social norms that vary from culture to culture. “This is what you SHOULD do. This is how you SHOULD act.” Emotional intelligence transcends cultures and gets to the heart of human connection and genuine understanding.
Before developing my emotional intelligence, I too was polite and acted “appropriately.” That is, until I encountered someone who I believed did not deserve my respect or until I was in an emotional state where my emotions got the best of me and I simply reacted on impulse. With emotional intelligence, I believe everyone deserves to be heard and understood, regardless if we believe the same things. It doesn’t mean I will agree with them or allow them step over me. What it does mean is, I will hear them out first and if I am met with harsh words, I do not feel the need to reciprocate harsh words. Instead, I hold my ground with confidence and compassion and know when to walk away. I believe that is powerful.
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.
Developing my emotional intelligence has brought immense value to my life and my relationships. One of the most noticeable changes has been a significant reduction in stress, anxiety, and emotional outburst. In fact, I can not remember the last time I felt a level of anxiety that had a negative impact on me — being in the midst of a pandemic, I think that says a lot.
I remember, years ago, I would get so upset if I or someone else was running 5-minutes late, that I could feel the veins in my forehead pulse. Minor discomforts or changes in my life would send me into a spiral of rage and I would lash out at people with hateful remarks and could have cared less about how I made them feel. Emotional intelligence has taught me that there are things we can control and things we cannot, and it does us no good to try and control something that is uncontrollable. What I can control is my emotional reaction to every circumstance and plan (best I can) for the things that I do not have control over. However, I do not stress about it, I plan, and let what ever happens happen. That has been a game changer for me.
Can you share some specific examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help a person become more successful in the business world?
Where do I start? When an individual invests time in developing their EQ, they will be an invaluable asset to their organization because they are more likely to be levelheaded, great listeners, collaborators, communicators, and innovators. It has been shown that, for every point you increase your emotional intelligence you add an estimated 1,300 dollars to your annual salary.
For business owners who adopt emotional intelligence into their business practices they can expect to improve their company culture, retention, leadership abilities, communication, customer service, and employee engagement.
Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have better relationships?
The first thing that comes to mind is more effective communication. Emotional intelligence and effective communication go hand in hand. Regardless of the type of relationship, what all effective relationships have in common is good communication. When we communicate effectively, we:
- Are better able to listen to the needs and feelings of others and communicate our needs and feelings as well.
- Check-in with ourselves before saying something we might regret.
- Fully process our emotions instead of projecting or displacing them onto others.
- Understand that listening may be more valuable than providing solutions to other’s problems.
- Ask for clarification instead of making assumptions.
- Do not communicate our beliefs and opinions as facts.
Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have more optimal mental health?
Individuals with low EQ tend to suffer from chronic stress and anxiety. This could be due to feeling out of control of their life and emotions. When we lack emotional intelligence, it is easy to get carried away in the what ifs of life, fall prey to propaganda, and live in states of constant fear and uncertainty. When this happens, we are unable to think clearly, because our body is in survival mode. This heightened state causes us to view most things and people around us as potential threats and we expend immense amounts of energy.
Emotional intelligence allows us to regulate our emotions which calms the nervous system and allows us to regain mental clarity and relive or eliminate the symptoms of stress such as fatigue, poor sleep, headaches, panic attacks, and more.
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.
Practice times 5.
All jokes aside, you can read every book under the sun about emotional intelligence but if you do not put it into practice (consistently), no tip, strategy, or technique will increase your EQ. Here are my favorite top five things you can do to develop your EQ:
1. Practice being mindful to develop self-awareness. There is a great exercise that I personally use and have used with clients and it’s called the five, four, three, two, one of mindfulness. That is, five things you can touch; four things you can see; three things you can hear; two things you can smell; one thing you can taste. This helps to draw awareness to the senses, reduce anxiety, and prepares us to bring awareness to our thoughts and feelings.
2. Breathing exercises to help regulate emotions. While it may seem simple, taking in deep breaths for just a minute or two — inhale for five seconds, hold for five seconds and exhale five seconds — calms the sympathetic nervous system. This is working to regulate your emotional state when triggered or anxious.
3. Develop empathy through shared feelings. It’s one thing to feel sympathy for someone, but to share their emotions with them can be challenging for many of us. The common reason being, we may not understand why they feel the way they do because we might react very differently. This judgement of the situation and reaction prevents us from being empathetic. While we may not understand why they feel that way, we can all understand the feeling itself. If they are angry, you can relate to that feeling and say “I know what it feels like to be angry.” Draw from the feeling, not the situation.
4. Journal or record yourself to develop self-awareness. An extremely popular and effective method I use with my clients is to have them record their daily emotional experiences through either audio or written journaling. The next day or week, I have them go back through their journals and objectively observe their emotions, identify the source of their emotion, and analyze how they reacted to the emotion. Most the time we are not aware of how we react to emotions in the moment. This exercise brings awareness to our triggers and behavioral patterns. Once we are aware of them, we can alter how we choose to react and process our emotions.
5. Ask for peer review to develop awareness. Having a realistic perspective of your strengths, weaknesses, and behaviors is key to being emotionally intelligent. Solicit feedback from other and see if their perspective of you (on average) matches the same perspective you have of yourself. There is an app called Icueity that allows you to solicit honest feedback anonymously.
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?
One hundred percent! I used to work in the educational system and not once did I witness emotional intelligence being incorporated into the curriculum. That is not to say select schools aren’t incorporating it, or that emotionally intelligent teachers don’t exist (they do), but at large, emotional intelligence is not being taught in our school systems.
Before we can help our students cultivate emotional intelligence, we need emotionally intelligent educators. Both children and adults model the behavior of those around them. If the teachers are not modeling emotional intelligence for their students, their students are likely not going to develop it solely from a curriculum.
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 love to start an emotional intelligence movement. I think it is a skill that most people aren’t even aware of and have very little practice with. I think once people realize this skill’s potential and that it is essential to our well-being, they will be more receptive to developing it. With enough of us practicing emotional intelligence, we could solve many of the people problems we have in the world today.
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 🙂
Wow! There are several people I would like to have lunch or breakfast with, or even a Zoom call with them.
Joe Rogan, because I think he is a knowledgeable man who exhibits emotional intelligence. I watch his podcast and he handles conflict so well and keeps a level and open-mind. I would also love to share with him my book.
Gary Vaynerchuk I’ve actually spoken to Gary once on his show but it was just for a few minutes and I could not collect my thoughts long enough to ask a good question. Like Joe, I think Gary is an emotionally intelligent guy and I know he personally has an interest in emotional intelligence.
And Russell Brand and Jim Carrey; both comedians also have a spiritual life which I would love to learn more about.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Facebook & LinkedIn: Brittney-Nichole Connor-Savarda
Book: The EQ Deficiency
Podcast: Living and Leading with Emotional Intelligence
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.