Have you ever been thrust in a situation where you have to convince someone to do something, and you're pretty sure they're not going to want to do it?
That's the situation Hollywood actress Kristen Bell recently found herself in, as she told the Today show's Natalie Morales at the Mom 2.0 Summit. Bell was picking up her two daughters (ages 5 and 3) from preschool. Suddenly, she noticed a paparazzi photographer in the parking lot across the street, and his sights were set on Bell's girls.
"I said, 'Kristen, you can handle this,'" Bell told Morales.
Bell could have let her emotions lead the way, and gone off on the photographer. But she decided on a different approach.
She put her children in the car, drove across the street, blocked his car from moving, and knocked on his window.
"Hi, my name's Kristen," she said calmly. "Do you realize how much you are putting my kids at risk?" She then explained how dangerous it would be for the public to know where her children attend school.
"I have confidence your mom raised you better," Bell told the photographer. She then asked him to delete the photos, which he did.
"If I had gone up to that car and yelled at him, I guarantee you he would not have deleted those pictures," Bell told Morales.
What Bell accomplished here is a perfect example of emotional intelligence: the ability to identify and understand both your own emotions and the emotions of others, and to use that information to inform and guide behavior.
By asking the photographer to consider the safety of her children, Bell reasoned with empathy. Rather than try to force him to take action--which probably wouldn't have worked--she acknowledged his control over the pictures and showed confidence in his sense of decency. In doing so, she motivated him to delete the pictures on his own accord.
So, remember: The next time you need to convince someone to change course, do this:
1. Be respectful.
2. Get them to think.
3. Look for the good in the other person.
These principles will help you to get your own emotions under control--and give you a better chance at reaching the other person.
Thanks to Ms. Bell for showing us how it's done.
Want to read more stories that illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life? Check out my book, EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence.
A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.