My public relations/communication students and I have been discussing soft skills, including emotional intelligence (EQ), for several years.
More recently, the topic has come up in the context of relationship-building, specifically the role that EQ can play in building trust to create authentic, meaningful connections between organizations and diverse audiences. In the spirit of experiential learning, I wanted to turn these conversations into hands-on development opportunities.
Around the same time, I was speaking with Deirdre about her FEEL approach to communication. After learning more about her research and how it relates to EQ, I piloted an optional assignment in an upper-level, strategic communication course.
There are three basic components to the assignment:
- Take the FEEL First test and obtain your score.
- Review the suggestions, identify one and put it into practice.
- Write a brief reflection paper regarding the experience.
Students had about two weeks to do the work. They weren’t required to share their scores but rather consider what they learned as a result of the experience.
A Student Perspective
One student who completed the assignment, David James, a current UMass Amherst senior and communication major, felt that it was a personal confidence booster, as well as a jumping off point to better understanding public relations. He mentioned the importance of empathy, particularly for those who serve as chief relationship agents, to be able to “FEEL others’ thoughts, opinions and emotions on both a macro and micro level.”
David, who is also taking business courses, shared that, “I might not have even appreciated that enough while learning it, but in hindsight now, it covers how we should always go about the PR process. Even in the most high-stress crisis comms situations, PR efforts would benefit from a step back, a deep breath and feeling out how each target public might perceive the organization’s message.”
Overall, this exercise provides an opportunity for continuous learning; one that’s designed to encourage taking a more human approach to communication to enhance interpersonal and organizational relationships.
Jennie Donohue is a Senior Lecturer & Director of PR Curriculum, UMASS Amherst.