How would you react if a drunk stranger suddenly rushed you at work? Would you run? Fight? Freak out?
You might remember the situation famous singer Celine Dion had to deal with during a performance at Caesar’s Palace. During the middle of her concert, a fan who appeared to be intoxicated rushed the stage and managed to get right next to the singer. The woman then resisted security guards’ attempts to remove her.
This situation could have quickly turned ugly, if not for Dion’s remarkable poise and handling of the situation.
“Let me tell you something,” said Dion as she clasped the woman’s hand. “I’m glad you came up on stage tonight. I’m glad that…you just wanted to come closer to me.”
At this point, the fan grabbed the singer and wrapped her leg around her. Obviously startled, Dion keeps calm. In just a couple of minutes, Dion convinces the woman to walk offstage with her “friends” (the guards), making the absolute best of a challenging situation.
Afterwards, Dion fell to the stage in relief, to wild applause from the crowd. She then got up to teach a valuable lesson.
“You know what?” Dion began. “Some people go through a lot. And some people need to talk. And I want to say thank you to all of you. Because for, maybe five minutes, we have given this lady a moment to talk.”
Dion went on to praise the security guards for their actions. “You have done what you were supposed to do. I appreciate it very, very much. I think it was important. Thank you so much for your patience tonight.”
Let’s take a moment to appreciate this event for what it is: a case study in emotional intelligence–the ability to make emotions work for you instead of against you.
The power of emotional influence
In my new book, EQ, Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence, I use this story to illustrate the power of emotional influence.
Influence is the act of affecting a person’s character or behavior by means other than force or direct command. Influencers use the principles of persuasion and motivation to overcome obstacles or manage conflict. They inspire others to think differently, to see things from new perspectives, and even to change their behavior.
Here are a few principles of influence that Dion put into action:
She encouraged respect.
Dion could have ignored the disorderly fan. She could have deferred to her bodyguards or simply ran away. Instead, she showed the woman respect by acknowledging her and speaking to her. Dion even expressed appreciation for the fan, and set the tone through the calm manner she used when speaking.
If you approach people in a calm and reasonable manner, chances are much higher that they will respond in the same way. Acknowledge their difficulties and challenges, and they’ll be much more willing to listen.
She sought a common ground.
At one point the fan says something inaudible, but Dion heard something she then used to strike a common ground.
“You know what?” Dion asks the woman. “We got something in common. We got babies that we love. And we’re going to fight for them. And we’re [both] wearing gold. That’s a sign.”
When attempting to persuade or convince, it’s important to first find something upon which you both agree. It helps to view your counterpart as a partner or ally, instead of an enemy. It also helps you to frame your reasoning around the other person’s priorities, increasing both trust and the probability they will cooperate with you moving forward.
She demonstrated empathy.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the thoughts or feelings of another, to put yourself in another person’s shoes. It doesn’t require you to share the same experiences or circumstances as others; rather, it’s an attempt to imagine what the person is going through. It means resisting the urge to judge, and instead, trying to connect with the other person’s feelings, to share them somehow.
Likely, Dion didn’t know the specifics of this fan’s personal circumstances. But she could likely relate to being in a situation where she was embarrassing herself, and where she’s facing unknown problems below the surface. By using that feeling to relate, she was able to form a connection with the woman. This helped Dion then influence her to get off the stage calmly, quietly, and quickly.
This is just one example of how empathy works, but every day will bring new opportunities to develop this trait. In fact, every interaction you share with another person is a chance to see things from a different perspective, to share one’s feelings, and to act.
Thanks, Celine, for showing us how it’s done.
This is just one of many stories in my new book, EQ Applied, that illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.
A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.