At a time when many of us are flagging in terms of coping with stress and maintaining productivity, a study reported by SixSeconds, an emotional intelligence advocacy organization, may give some insight into a path forward.  After first year medical residents were provided with a 30-minute introduction to emotional intelligence and three 45-minute workshops on using emotional intelligence to cope with stress, they showed a marked improvement in their risk for burnout, a long-standing scourge of the medical profession.

Burnout is a risk for many workers, and certainly for lawyers, particularly at this time of such extraordinary stress. The consequence of lawyers’ low resilience and burnout is not only stagnant or upended careers, but also a high risk of suicide attempts and suicide, as the 2016 ABA Hazelden Report confirmed.

Every organization owes it to its workers and its bottom line to look for indications of high stress, which is likely to be extensive these days, and to establish a program for equipping stressed personnel with the skills to avoid burnout.


On Monday, October 19, 2020, at 3:30 pm EST, Muir will be presenting a webinar on “Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace” for the HudsonMann Virtual Compliance Conference taking place Monday and Tuesday, October 19-20.  HudsonMann supports over 500 organizations nationwide at more than 3,000 client sites with a focus on ensuring compliance with Affirmative Action Programs. Join us in this important discussion! Register here.

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) recently identified empathy, a component of emotional intelligence, as critical to the most effective leadership, particularly during this very stressful time when leaders must depend so much on others to help their organizations survive and prosper. Engaged employees are more productive and positively impact organizational profitability, but the researchers who published Closing the Engagement Gap, found only one-fifth of the global workforce fully engaged. And those disengaged employees can become a liability.

CCL researchers have established that a leader’s empathy in the workplace is positively correlated with the job performance of his/her employees . And managers who show more empathy toward direct reports are viewed as better performers in their job by their bosses. Empathy is a core component of emotional intelligence — signaling the ability to put oneself “in the shoes” of someone else.

These findings correlate with the Harvard Business Review’s recent article on the importance of managers adding emotional intelligence skills to their analytical skills. What that means as a practical matter is noticing and attending compassionately to the needs, fears, and concerns of those whom leaders are trying to lead. Those skills are usually different from the skills used to solve pressing business and financial problems. Because these different skill sets come from engaging different parts of our brain — parts that usually can’t both be operational at the same time, it is imperative to learn how to toggle between those two mindsets as appropriate so that we don’t get stuck in either.

For many leaders — particularly those with well-established financial and analytic abilities, the best advice is to take opportunities to exercise that other portion of the brain that can also improve your organization’s engagement, productivity and profits. Establish a caring personal connection with those you are responsible for leading and learn the cues that tell you who needs more support and what it is they need. This is not a matter of being a “soft” leader, but of being a leader who values and learns from the full range of experience that your employees are having.


Muir has been interviewed on “Elevating Happiness and Increasing Success with Emotional Intelligence” and her book Beyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence for the Florida Bar Association’s podcast that will be available here and here starting Monday, September 28, 2020. Use Discount Code EIWEB25 for a 25% discount on Beyond Smart!



The New York City Bar Association panel on Using Emotional Intelligence as a Tool to Improve Lawyers’ Well-Being and Performance featuring Ronda Muir, Natalie Loeb and David Sarnoff  is currently rescheduled as a live webcast on Wednesday, July 29th from 12:30 till 2pm.

The focus of the panel will be on understanding what emotional intelligence means for lawyers and how to use it to improve your communication, client service and leadership skills and to help create a high performance, high functioning workplace. Steps for building specific skills will be reviewed and ways to cope with the stress and anxiety of isolation that we have all experienced will also be explored. Tri-state CLE credit is offered. The program is free for NYC Bar members. Muir’s book Beyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence will be available July 27th through August 8th at a 25% discount with free shipping by using the CODE: ANNUAL20 when ordering on the ABA site.

For more information and to register for the panel, please click here.

We look forward to talking with you about this important topic!

If you’ve been feeling a little lonely lately, you’re not, well, alone. Even before the whole 2020 social isolation thing started, there was good data that “anywhere from 22% to 75% of American adults are persistently lonely,” as more Americans live alone than ever before. Some report rates of feeling lonely doubling over the past 50 years, despite the ability to connect online at almost any time. Loneliness has become, as Vivek H. Murthy, who became U.S. surgeon general in late 2014  termed it, “an epidemic.”  In 2018 the British government was so concerned that it created a “Minister for Loneliness.” And now another epidemic has further exasperated those high numbers, making us all familiar, at least at one time or another, with the pangs of loneliness.

Loneliness doesn’t only make you feel bad – it’s also bad for you. Some compare the number of risks it poses as being similar to those posed by obesity. Loneliness raises the likelihood of developing disorders such as cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, cognitive decline, and metastatic cancer. It also weakens the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections., particularly bad during a pandemic. Loneliness can ossify into a fixed state that permanently changes brain structures and processes, or so says Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the Brain Dynamics Lab at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. She is also the widow of John Cacioppo, who wrote the book Loneliness and died in 2018. So she knows of what she speaks.

The good news from Cacioppo and others is that, with commerce ever seeking a high-demand niche for a new product, there may be a pill on the way. One researcher has suggested that the diagnosis could be called “social isolation syndrome.” Based on various research, the pill might make use of a number of different chemicals, a neurosteroid that eases the hypervigilance that arises when a person perceives social threats and therefore makes it more likely they will venture forth, or a hormone like oxytocin, usually associated with breastfeeding, giving birth, and physical contact, which is shown to encourage social behaviors and trust. And betablockers could possibly reduce some of the destructive physical effects of loneliness.

But is a loneliness pill good news? There are certainly those who question it. Loneliness is an emotion cluster—it can be made up of a number of feelings, such as anger, shame, sadness, jealousy, and grief.  A “loneliness pill” would be part of a growing approach to broadly treat emotions as mental health problems, with interventions focusing on symptoms not causes.  One of the problems with eliminating the symptoms—the feelings that can be so problematic, is that we can become, as one doctor called it, “a medicated, comfortably numb society.” The prevalent use of psychotropic drugs, particularly by young people, has been cited by some authorities as part of the reason for the widespread depression that currently exists—based on an inability to “feel” life’s ups and downs. We are also less likely to take steps to address emotions we can’t really feel.

What to do until the loneliness pill arrives? To help relieve her loneliness, Cacioppo says she’s relying on many of the social fitness exercises that she and her husband validated together, such as making an effort to express gratitude, doing something nice for someone else without expecting something in return, choosing to engage with strangers, and sharing good news with others.  “I am living proof of my science,” she says. “I apply it every day.”

Others have noted research that shows that lonely people benefit from physical interactions with pets., which looks to be born out by the many pets added to households during this stressful time.

Finding ways to help others is particularly effective in combating loneliness. As Steve Cole, a professor of medicine, psychiatry, and behavioral sciences at the UCLA School of Medicine, notes, “There is robust evidence that the neurobiology of helping others is one of the most rewarding things a brain can do.” Actively searching for meaning in your life, whether by joining a volunteer organization, movement, or religious group, has also been demonstrated to relieve loneliness, less because you meet other people, but more because it can be an avenue to taking part in something larger than yourself, feeling like you are living your life with a purpose.

So what is the takeaway for the lonely? Not to denigrate or ignore the pain or dislocation felt. But rather to keep in mind that the feelings we have are valid and should be embraced. And at least for now to take some of the steps mentioned above. And embrace the next round of feelings that follow.

What a few months this has been! We can say with some certainty that emotions have been intensely and widely felt. Unfortunately, many of those emotions have been destructive to our mental health—fear, anxiety, loneliness and depression have accompanied us through this long quarantine and made it harder to persevere and perform at the high standards we set for ourselves. On top of that, widespread concerns about justice and community relations are being voiced around the world, likely upsetting whatever for-the-moment equilibrium we have managed to achieve in new-normal lives.

Lawyers are at high risk for mental health problems to start out with, as the 2016 ABA-Hazelden study made clear. Astronomical levels of mental distress were found among attorneys, with 28%, 19%, and 23% experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress, respectively, outpacing the general population and other high-performance professions. For example, attorneys experience problematic drinking at a higher rate than surgeons, who they are often compared to. And that was before Covid-19, racial injustice and rioting took to our streets.

In addition to the pain and lost opportunity that these mental health conditions impose on individual attorneys, clients risk getting insufficient or even incorrect legal advice from distressed attorneys, and employers who turn a blind eye to their lawyers’ mental states risk malpractice liability.

What are we doing to help combat these discouraging statistics, which must be rising significantly over the last few months? New York has announced that it will no longer ask questions about mental health on bar applications, following Washington, Connecticut and Louisiana, among others. But that is still a minority position despite the rising concern that lawyers don’t ask for help with these too-prevalent issues because of a fear of rejection or stigma. Some of the conclusions made in the ABA-Hazelden study are the need for greater investments in and more interventions available at lawyer-assistance programs, and that “The confidential nature of lawyer-assistance programs should be more widely publicized in an effort to overcome the privacy concerns that may create barriers between struggling attorneys and the help they need.”

What individual lawyers can do to start on a road to better mental health is to recognize and accept their emotional states, regardless of how painful that may be, and then look for help to address them. It is not a sign of weakness to be sensitive to the many dislocations occurring during this difficult time. It is strength that opens our eyes to our distress and prompts us to search for ways forward. Regular meditation, good nutrition and physical exercise are self-help steps that can be taken immediately. Connecting with colleagues, friends and relatives–which lawyers can be slow to do–can also help us recognize the value we have to others and they have to us.

Employers can check in regularly with their lawyers. Yes, lawyers often like to work alone and may be relishing their privacy rather than decrying the isolation, but even committed introverts can have too much of what starts out as a good thing. If a lawyer is not keeping regular schedules and meeting deadlines, their situation should be explored and assistance offered.

As is often repeated, we are all in this together. It is a mantra that is true. Working together, with our colleagues, friends and families, on maintaining our equilibrium will put us on the best path to mental health.

ONLY TODAY! Read during the quarantine about Emotional Intelligence!  Friday, May 1 is Law Day and ABA Publishing is celebrating this special day by offering a promotion of 30% off + free ground shipping on all books and e-books. Take this opportunity to get your copy of Beyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence. This is a one-day sale! The discount code is LAWDAY2020.

The panel on Emotional Intelligence featuring Ronda Muir, Natalie Loeb and David Sarnoff that was scheduled for Thursday, April 16 is currently rescheduled for Wednesday, July 29th at the New York City Bar Association at 42 W 44th St, New York, NY , from 6:30 till 8:30 pm. The program can also be attended by live webcast.

The focus of the panel will be on understanding what emotional intelligence means for lawyers and how to use it to improve your communication, client service and leadership skills and to help create a high performance, high functioning workplace. Steps for building specific skills will be reviewed and ways to cope with the stress and anxiety of isolation that we have all experienced will also be explored. Tri-state CLE credit is offered. The program is free for NYC Bar members.