Robin Hills On The Value Of Emotional Intelligence For Your Productivity

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TBT Robin | Emotional Intelligence


Emotional intelligence is a buzzword that has inserted itself into more and more industries, but it is a construct more easily thought about than practiced. Today’s guest offers expert insight on the subject. Robin Hills is the Director of Ei4Change, a company specializing in educational training, coaching, and personal development focused on emotional intelligence, positive psychology, and neuroscience. He joins host Penny Zenker to break down how to practice emotional intelligence in the workplace and its impact on productivity and overall quality of life. Get valuable tips on effective and empathic communication by tuning in to this episode. Don’t miss out!

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Robin Hills On The Value Of Emotional Intelligence For Your Productivity

I’m always looking for people who are going to challenge you to think differently, find new perspectives, and bring out the best of yourself. As a result, a byproduct is you will be more productive. Hopefully, you will also be happier and more fulfilled, and that’s what’s most important. That is what productivity is. It isn’t the point. It’s everything else, and productivity will be a byproduct.

I’m excited to have Robin Hills here. He’s the director of Ei4Change, a company specializing in educational training, coaching, and personal development focused around emotional intelligence, which is absolutely key, positive psychology, and neuroscience. Three of the things that I love to talk about. We are going to have fun.

He’s taught over 250,000 people in 185 countries to build resilience, increase self-awareness, and understand others. This guy knows his stuff. His educational programs on resilience and emotional intelligence cover the most comprehensive and detailed education of any other emotional intelligence organization that has been established. From there, I’m going to let Robin introduce himself and why this topic is so important to him. Welcome.

Thank you ever so much, Penny. It is wonderful to be here on this show with you. Thank you for that great introduction. There’s not a lot more that I can add to that. I suppose the question is about, “Why emotional intelligence, and what got me interested in the field of emotional intelligence?” Emotional intelligence is basically fundamental to everything that we do as human beings.

It’s the way in which we manage ourselves. It’s the way in which we combine our thinking with our feelings to be more productive, make better decisions, and build up quality relationships. That’s all about the essence of being human. Interestingly enough, animals do not have the ability to combine their thinking with their feelings.

To the same extent, they have difficulty regulating their emotions. We can do it as human beings but it’s not easy. That is something vitally important to bring to your reader’s attention. That being emotionally intelligent is not easy. It is a very simple construct to think about, and it looks very easy on the surface but to practice, it is incredibly difficult. It takes a lifetime plus to master it.

You mentioned all the wonderful benefits of being emotionally intelligent. The most important thing is it improves the quality of our life.

It does. It improves the quality of the relationships that we have with other people, and it improves our health and wellbeing. It drives happiness and contentment. It means that we are at peace with ourselves and have peace with the world. We know as we are speaking, the world is not a wonderful place being in a wonderful place at the moment but what is it we can do in this environment? What we could do is be kind within our own environment. Try and improve the quality of life for everybody else around us, and hopefully, the waves will penetrate through to where they need to go to.

I want to challenge you on that for a second. There are one of the things that I hear from people sometimes and even my kids, for instance, when I say, “Be the bigger person.” I’m helping them be more emotionally intelligent and be kind in our environment. She’s like, “Why do I have to be the one who makes the first step? Why do I have to be the one that sees things from a better perspective?” How do people get past that? Some people know what to do. They don’t do what they know. How do we get past that? Why me? Why do I have to be the one that sets forth goodness into the world?


TBT Robin | Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence: Being emotionally intelligent is not easy. It takes a lifetime plus to master it.


That’s an interesting question, and I have often asked myself at times because I feel that I’m continually giving out to other people, and they are not reciprocating. I do ask that question, “Why me?” all the time but the thing is, if I don’t do it, then nobody else is going to do it. A lot of it is about choice and going into other people’s space and working with them in terms of their energy and emotions. It’s giving, and it is draining to do that all the time.

We are often left thinking, “What about me? Is anybody going to give me space and time? Is anybody going to listen to what I have got to say?” The important thing is that you need to find that safety valve. You need to find that person who you can go to, to have those cathartic conversations who will give to you. It’s important for your emotional intelligence to have that person to listen, be there for you, and then you can reciprocate with that person.

I want to challenge you again. You said it’s draining to do. It’s dreaming if that’s how we choose to see it. My daughter, for instance, at that moment, when I was talking to her, it felt draining but I find sometimes that for instance, giving builds me up. It makes me feel better. I feel better when I show up. I don’t regret how I showed up. I don’t come back and have to worry, “Did I do the right thing?” Somehow there are two ways to see it. When you are resisting it, then it feels draining. When you embrace it, and you own it, then it’s not draining it. It makes you feel good because you know that even if someone comes and is grumpy back to you, it’s hard to be grumpy.

I noticed people’s energy shifts sometimes when they are around me. I have noticed that when I’m grumpy, it shifts too, then they get grumpy. We are these energy transmitters, and it’s fun to play a game, and I want to get your feeling on that. You can play a game and watch and see how long it takes someone else’s energy to shift when you stay in a better space for yourself. You don’t have to do it for someone else, do it for yourself. It feels good. It makes you happier and improves your relationships. It makes you more productive. That sounds pretty good to me. Tell me what you think about that.

I’m in full agreement with everything that you have said. The important thing is to look at yourself and recognize that if you are continually giving, there are going to be times that there are going to be certain faces that you are in where your emotional intelligence is not at the level that you would like it to be. In those situations, you are triggered, and they may be physiological triggers.

You may be hungry, thirsty or low in energy. You may be starting to get a little bit dozy. As you are starting to flag in terms of your energy. You are not making good decisions, and so you are doing what you firmly believe, and it doesn’t land properly. You may be starting to feel under the weather. You may have a cold coming on. You don’t know it yet. Perhaps you’ve got some subclinical state that you are in, which might then open up over the next few days. You then look back and think, “That’s the way that I felt the way that I did.”

You’ve got to recognize that you cannot continually give, and it will always land in the way that you want it to. There are going to be certain times where it’s almost a false happiness, and I don’t suggest that we do that. Your approach around positively engaging in choosing to positively engage is the right approach. We have got to go in there with that mindset. That’s what we are trying to do, and if it doesn’t land, it doesn’t land, and you have to accept. There are going to be times when it doesn’t work.

It’s not our responsibility of how someone else feels. It’s not my responsibility how you feel. I can only direct how I show up and how I feel. That’s important when you try to own someone else’s reaction, then that’s only going to create disappointment, so I agree with you in that sense.

What we are trying to do here is we are not trying to manipulate people in any way, shape or form like changing our energy or trying to choose an appropriate emotion that would work with the other person. What we are doing is validating them. If they have lower energy, we drop our energy down to meet them where they are at and try and raise the energy levels.


Being emotionally intelligent is not easy. It takes a lifetime plus to master it. Share on X


If the high energy, then it takes a lot of energy to boost yourself up to their level and work with them at their speed, and that can be draining. Particularly if you have an introversion preference and you get your energy from going away from social situations and recharging your batteries through peace, quiet, and reflection. People with an extroversion preference don’t have that perspective. They don’t work and think in that way. They don’t get their energy that way.

They get their energy by walking away and talking to more people. Going out and getting excited. That’s the way in which they energize themselves. That’s all part of one self-knowledge and self-reflection. “Where do I get my energy from? Do I have an introversion preference?” It’s not being introverted, shy, and withdrawn. It’s I get my energy from an internal state of reflection or, “Do I have an extroversion preference where I get my energy from outside.” It’s like being solar-powered, and in those circumstances, I need the energy of other people, the energy of the environment in the situation that I find myself to energize myself. “What is your preference?” That’s a key question for everybody to understand and reflect on.

You said it earlier also if you are tired is to know yourself. Know when you are running low on energy or when you don’t feel like you normally feel and how do you reenergize, take space or whatever it is that you need to get back to the feeling you are in that place that you can interact and be emotionally intelligent. For sure, that is absolutely key.

Let me give you an example that fits very much into the focus of your show and everything that you do. I’m sure you’ve heard this example many times before. If I get a contentious email that requires an appropriate response and comes in mid-afternoon, I know that is not a good time for me to respond to that email.

I either have to send a holding email saying, “Thanks for your email. I will respond to it in the next 24 hours,” or I leave it. I know that first thing in the morning, between about 7:30 to 8:30 in the morning, I can deal with the most contentious issues because, for me, that is when I have the energy to be able to deal with those contentious issues and communicate in more appropriate ways.

It’s knowing that in myself. Other people are going to have different times in the day when they can do these things. It’s knowing yourself and knowing that if you do need to deal with something which has a level of emotional intensity to it and it could be contentious. You’ve got to select your time and do it properly.

Select your time. If you can, sometimes there are conversations and situations that come up that you don’t have the luxury of pushing off until tomorrow. There are also things that we can do at the moment to help to put us into a better mental state so that we can handle that situation for what it is. Do you have some suggestions thereof, “I’m faced with it now? I have to deal with it now. What can I do to put myself in the best emotional intelligence state possible?”

It involves practicing mindfulness and being very much in the present moment, clearing your head for everything else, and dealing with the situation. First of all, you need to concentrate on your breathing and get the right levels of oxygen into your body in order that you can then deal with that situation. If it is something that is going to be incredibly intensely emotional, you can ask for 5 to 10 minutes, “I’m desperately sorry. I need to go to the toilet.” Go. Get your space. Utilize that time.

It isn’t an excuse because it’s a basic human physiological function, and you are not going to perform particularly well. You may not need to go to the toilet. All you are doing is buying a bit of breathing space. Go away from the situation, get your breath back, count to ten, reflect, pause, do what you need to do, and then come back fully refreshed. The other person will probably be pacing, and they will be getting themselves into a bit of a negative spiral. That’s their choice.


TBT Robin | Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence: The important thing is you need to find that safety valve. You need to find that person who you can go to have those cathartic conversations with.


You could also, at that moment, recognize that it’s contentious and say, “Let’s take a moment to take a deep breath, step back and give each other a moment to think about how we want to respond or how we want to have this conversation.”

Another little tip that I will give to people is to try this. It works well. If somebody is not reading and they are talking over the top of you, the best thing to do is to drop something. Don’t drop your mobile phone, you are going to crack the screen but have something in your hand that you can drop a pen, piece of paper, or something. It breaks the flow and allows both of you to reconnect.

It breaks that pattern, that story that whatever is going on. You can also cough or sneeze. That also creates a break or have a glass of water. Those are great tips for people in that situation to get a moment and break a rant that somebody is going on or something like that and bring it back. That’s a good tip.

I will give another tip for your readers. This has worked for me. I’m quite moderately deaf. I usually wear hearing aids. I’m wearing a headset so I can hear you properly. The beauty of it is that I have learned over the years to say to people, “I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t hear what you have said.” They will then repeat it back, and if I explain to them that I am deaf, they apologize.

I say, “There’s nothing for you to apologize about. It’s my issue but we need to make sure that I can hear what you are saying. I’m interested in what you are saying.” If I do have to break the conversation. I will say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear that. Can you repeat it?” Interestingly enough, most people can’t say it that way. They put the blame on the other person for not speaking properly.

What do you mean?

They will say, “Speak up or speak more clearly. Say it in a way I can understand,” or whatever it is. Rather than taking the responsibility on themselves and saying, “I didn’t hear it. I either didn’t hear the words or I didn’t process them.” It opens up communication, and it makes the conversation flow better. It’s part of me giving to the other person.

You are giving them your attention. You are telling them that you are interested but you audibly couldn’t hear them. I sometimes find what I do also is I will get into a curious state. They might be saying something that, even if I don’t like it, I may ask them to expand upon that. Like, “Tell me a situation where that came up or help me better understand what it is that you are saying.” I will also get curious. “Tell me more about that. Go a little bit more deeper into that so I can better understand what you are saying.” I find that also, by digging deeper or telling me more, let them get out everything that they need to get out, and then there will be space for them to listen to you.

“Is there anything else?” They will then say everything they need to say, and then like, “Thanks for sharing that,” and then there’s a space where they are listening. It is important that people feel heard. I don’t know if you have had this experience but whenever people repeat themselves, you can be sure that they are doing it because they didn’t feel heard.


Know yourself and that if you do need to deal with something that has a level of emotional intensity and could be contentious, you've got to select your time and do it properly. Share on X


I don’t mean that they didn’t feel emotionally heard. Sometimes, if we are interrupting somebody or they feel like we are not getting how this is upsetting them or what issue it’s causing for them, then we are getting that repeat. We may have to repeat it back and say, “I hear what you are saying.” It sounds like, “I hear that you are upset because of X, Y and Z.” They get that you get the emotional aspect of it, and then the conversation also is more easily.

It’s building up empathy. It’s trying to understand it from the other person’s perspective. I find that if people are having to repeat themselves for my benefit because I haven’t heard, it gives them a chance to reflect on what they are saying. They might say it differently, and then if I still haven’t heard that, and this does happen from time to time, “Can you say it again? I’m really sorry. I do want to hear what it is that you’ve got to say.”

They might change the phraseology side, and it gets them thinking. It’s another tip to help to break the moment, particularly if people are on a rant. If people are then starting to shout and get very loud, I say to them, “I’m sorry. When you are speaking very loudly, I cannot hear you. It hurts. It’s painful.” This is a consequence of the deafness, which is brilliant.

These are things that I would rather not have but if I have got it, flaunt it. In those situations, I have to say to them, “I cannot hear you when you are shouting.” By the other token, I can’t hear what people are whispering. We have to get into a space where we can communicate because I can hear them. Another tip is if somebody is high energy and they are shouting, say, “I’m sorry. I can’t hear you. I can’t process what it is that you are saying when you speak loudly.” I wouldn’t suggest you do it but you can always use the excuse of deafness.

I don’t think we need to lie. We are having that emotionally intelligent conversation.

That’s exactly it but if you genuinely haven’t heard anybody, then honestly, say to them, “I didn’t hear you,” rather than blundering off.

You can also say to somebody, “Let’s wait until this isn’t as upsetting for you so that we can hear each other and have that conversation.” For me, it’s always about dropping into the empathy and not yelling back. In that case, for me, that doesn’t work. If I’m upset and somebody is yelling, and we are yelling back and forth, that’s only going to escalate and end up in a place that you don’t want it to.

It’s how do you deescalate the situation in any way possible? You then can have that conversation, and usually, it comes from empathy, understanding, and being in somebody’s shoes. Imagining how they must feel. There are a lot of different tips and tricks to do that but the important thing is that whatever is going on for them doesn’t have to trigger you if you don’t allow it to. I know that that’s easier said than done. I have got kids, and we all have those situations but I still do my best to bring the situation down and if I’m not in a place, I will put myself in timeout. I will say, “I need a moment, and I will leave the room.”

It’s the calmness that you bring to the situation, which will help. It’s a strength which I recognize in myself but it can be a big disadvantage at times. It’s because I have got a very calm and softly spoken way of speaking, people don’t think that I have a level of passion for something. I do, but I might not be high energy in terms of sharing that passion. It does tend to work in situations of high intensity. What happens to me in those situations is I wind down and become even more low energy because it seems to work. These are things that I have learned. They are part of me and my personality. I have come to recognize that. I have got that level of self-awareness, and I get them to work for me.


TBT Robin | Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence: If somebody is not reading and talking over the top of you, the best thing to do is drop something. It breaks that flow for them.


It doesn’t mean to say that I get it right all the time. I have got to repeat something that you said earlier. This is not easy stuff. It’s very difficult at times, and it’s easy for us to sit here and talk about it in theory. In the intensity of the moment, we are reacting as appropriately as we possibly can, and through experience and over periods and getting it right and wrong, we learn, and we can become better at it knowing full well that if we can give ourselves 8 out of 10 and that’s good enough.

We can be happy that we are doing the best that we can. That’s all we can do.

Learn to be the best that you possibly can be. Enjoy being who you are. Recognize that you are not perfect but recognize you’ve got special gifts that nobody else has got. What are they? Where are they? How do you use them, and how do you get better at them?

That seems a perfect ending for our show. Thank you so much for being here. Where can people find out more information about you?

They can look for me on the internet, Robin Hills. You can find me at Look for me on LinkedIn. Look for me on Facebook, @Ei4Change on Twitter. If you want to have a look at some of my emotional intelligence courses, or You will see a whole range of courses around emotional intelligence that you can have a look at and decide whether they would help to support you in terms of your own learning and development.

Thank you, Robin, for being here.

Thank you, Penny. It has been a pleasure.

Thank you all for being here. I want you to take away one little tip there, whatever it is for you that can help you deescalate a situation at the moment that can help you. Maybe it’s taking a deep breath, and that’s a reminder of something that maybe you already knew whatever it is, being more emotionally intelligent is going to help you improve the quality of your life. It’s going to help your health, relationships, and productivity.

It’s worth it. You are spending some time appreciating and learning some additional techniques because wherever you are, remember that there are multiple levels of black belt in karate. You might be white, brown, or at some level of black belt, and in each level, there’s something to be learned. Make sure that you are taking away something that you can put into practice. Thanks for being here. We will see you in the next episode.


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About Robin Hills

TBT Robin | Emotional IntelligenceRobin Hills is the director of Ei4Change, a company specializing in educational training, coaching, and personal development focused on emotional intelligence, positive psychology, and neuroscience. He has taught over 250,000 people in 185 countries how to build resilience and increased self-awareness and understanding of others. His educational programs on resilience and emotional intelligence cover the most comprehensive and detailed education of any emotional intelligence organization and are today used in educational establishments in South Africa and India.

Robin is also the author of 2 books and has through his work developed the experiential coaching methodology Images of Resilience to support cathartic conversations around resilience. He has delivered key-note speeches at conferences across the world including at Harvard University and sits on the North West Committee of the Association of Business Psychology.