Everyone’s big on emotional intelligence now, because we’ve learned the hard way that a person’s people skills can make or break them in the workplace. If the person is highly exceptional in their field, it can be a close call, but all things being equal, we prefer to work and socialize with people who are pleasant and know how to get along.

The person with high EQ always tunes in to how the other person thinks and feels, in order to smooth the road for communication, instruction, sales, influence, leadership, or just plain congenial interface in the workplace. However, others tend to wear masks and not reveal too much, for protection, because they’re naturally reticent, because they’ve been taken advantage of, because they think it’s professional, or because their culture dictates blending in. Also from fear or ignorance.

So how can you find out more about someone in a non-invasive manner? Ask them about their vacation. Most people will let down their guard in this area. You might assume it’s a topic most people are excited about, but – and here begins the EQ lesson – that isn’t the case. We do everything like we do everything else, so listen and learn. Here are some things to listen for and process:


Not everyone’s enthusiastic about their vacation. Some will whine and complain because:

1. Once I take it, it’s gone for the year
2. It isn’t worth it. You have to do so much before you leave.
3. Two weeks isn’t nearly enough for what I have to go through here
4. US workers are cheated. The French get 6 weeks’ off.
5. The reservations always get screwed up, the hotel will be lousy, it always happens to me
6. I know I’m going to hate Montreal. We always end up going where she wants to go.
7. I can’t stand my brother-in-law/mother/his kids

Optimists will be gung-ho about every aspect. You can expect the person to approach work tasks or requests in the same manner – optimistic, pessimistic, or as the victim.


In telling their plans, the worriers will say:

1. I don’t know if I’ve got the right clothes
2. It sounds like a good hotel, but I’m not sure it’s the best one
3. I hope my wife likes Cozumel
4. I hate to leave my car at the airport, but if you call a cab there’s no guarantee it will show up
5. I don’t know how I’ll get everything done – booking the kennel for the dog, getting a house-sitter, stopping the newspaper
6. What if there’s one of those virus outbreaks on the cruiseship?

If you have a worrier on your hands, they’ll need much reassurance before taking on an assignment, and hand-holding in the process. It’s their natural style to worry. On the StrengthsFinder they would have “deliberativeness” for a strength. You can discount by 50% their concerns about a work project and use them to outline the worst-case scenario and ferret out the loopholes for you.


In talking about their vacation, the introvert will say:

1. A 10-hour plane flight. Like I want to sit next to some insurance salesman and listen to his life story for 10 hours
2. The cabins are isolated. We like it that way.
3. It sounded great until I found out my girl-friend had invited her whole family
4. It’s a River cruise. Few people, no bar or gambling. You don’t have to sit with other people for meals.
5. I plan to read a lot
6. We get a balcony suite and watch the sunset, just the two of us

The extravert will say:

1. ClubMed! Think of all the other singles I’ll meet!
2. On the strip where all the action is. We love to mix and mingle.
3. It’s gonna be great. His whole family’s going to be there.
4. We like cruises. There’s always someone to talk to!
5. Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square! Total tourist trap, street shows and vendors, cheap souvenirs, everyone’s drinking, dancing, noisy! I love it!

You can use this information in planning committees, office space, work groups, and general interface with this person.


Here are some replies to “Are you ready for your vacation?”

1. Sure am. I’ve got my books chosen.
2. I still need some dresses. I’m sure there will be people there in jeans, but I like to dress.
3. Yes. We were lucky enough to get orchestra seats for the opera.
4. This time I’ve convinced him to just get a tent and camp out.
5. Yes but I’m dreading it (hiking). My idea of a vacation is room-service in a 5-star resort.
6. A bathing suit and some shorts. I love these barefoot cruises. Very physical.
7. High and low. Gowns for the opera, and no bathing suits required for the hot tub at the spa.
8. I’m finally going to see the Louvre!
9. I love cruises. No car to hassle. Room-service. Food 24/7.

Someone who chooses to go camping or hiking for their vacation is likely more physical and casual than a person who wants to wear a tux and attend the opera. You can check out the assumption that the hikers and campers will prefer to be treated more casually and are more group-oriented and active than the culture and spa hounds, who may be more reserved, and either sensual (always concerned about the thermostat and the ergonomic chairs) or sedentary (ask someone else to run the errands).


Sometimes just a sentence or two will reveal things about their lifestyle and values you didn’t know. For example:

1. We’re just hanging out at home. I never get to see enough of my family. Besides, money’s tight right now.
2. Santa Fe. Love the art, the spas, the opera. Just having trouble getting a room for less than $350 a night.
3. We’ve booked an affordable resort in Iowa. All the kids and grandkids will be there.
4. It’s our annual family holiday. Mary’s rich brother has a condo at the beach. We all bring food and take turns cooking.
5. Going to see Anne’s mother. She probably won’t live another 6 months.
6. He always takes me to Paris for my birthday. It costs a fortune, but he can afford it.
7. Jim wanted to take that Mexican train trip. I always let him choose.
8. Missionary trip to Belize. I’ve organized a group from church.
9. Seattle. And man I hope we get along this time.

In inquiring about a vacation, you can find out who’s a leader and who’s a follower, what the budget is, who the person chooses to be with, who’s an introvert and who’s an extravert, who might be having marital problems, what their interests are – a whole range of information.

And remember, while you’re observing, you’re being observed. I’ve sat with work groups where the top brass quizzed one another about vacations, and acted as if the support staff didn’t have a life in this area. Remember that the person who isn’t nice to the waiter, isn’t a nice person and respeto means having respect for all people, regardless of their fit in the workplace hierarchy. It’s a team, isn’t it?

Whether it’s two weeks on their own yacht, day trips to the lake and public parks, babysitting the grandchildren, staying home and painting the house, or catching all the art museums in NYC, the person with character, manners and high EQ is inclusive, and listens and responds positively.

Author's Bio: 

©Susan Dunn, MA, The EQ Coach, http://www.susandunn.cc . Coaching, Internet courses and ebooks around emotional intelligence for your personal and professional success. EQ Alive! training and certification program for coaches, therapists, HR, leaders, managers, clergy. Fast, affordable, no-residency. Mailto:sdunn@susandunn.cc for information.

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