Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg wrote a post today about DACA recipients -- the Dreamers -- and the need to push the federal government into addressing their situation. Although Zuckerberg faced the difficulty of having his young adult years on display as CEO of the world's biggest social network, he has shown growing maturity. The emotional intelligence he displayed even in this short bit of communication is impressive.

Channeling effective emotional intelligence is a challenge that people don't always surmount. Elon Musk showed it when he accidentally displayed his mobile number on Twitter. Apple's iPhone battery apology missed the mark. The difference between success and failure is learning to put yourself into someone else's shoes and then communicate your understanding.

Zuckerberg was saying that citizens have to keep putting pressure on Congress to "hold them accountable" and demand a solution. But it was in the setup to his call for action that he demonstrated emotional intelligence:

Every day that Congress doesn't act more DACA recipients are losing their status. Dreamers are members of our communities, and there are 800,000 living in fear with no ability to plan for the future. Teachers with DACA don't know if they'll be allowed to teach in a few months -- but somehow we expect them to take care of our children. First responders with DACA don't know if they'll get to stay here -- yet they worked around the clock to save lives after the hurricanes in Texas and Florida.

Recognizing the humanity of others takes an effort and recognition of who they are and what they do. That's the first step of emotional intelligence, and Zuckerberg shows that he put in the effort. The surprisingly tricky part comes when trying to communicate your thoughts and feelings. Oversimplify things and you've lost the humanity. Make your message too theoretical and people don't listen, because we're hard-wired to want stories.

After making Dreamers human to himself, Zuckerberg uses analogous references to common experiences to communicate his personal understanding. DACA recipients aren't just numbers or young people who were brought here from other countries at an early age. They are "members of our communities," that is to say, neighbors and friends. They are teachers, and so deeply involved with our concern for children. They care about others as first responders, risking their lives to help people in trouble.

By the time he gets to the second paragraph about what he wants others to do -- contact their congressional representatives -- he's created the emotional atmosphere to persuade the audience to fulfill his request, because he's set it up to be their request as well. Who doesn't want to see neighbors doing so much for their communities to stay, study, work, and contribute?

The principles are the same whether you want to push for a political outcome, engage with friends and family, or sell a product or service. You need to follow these steps:

  • Understand the emotional significance of a situation.
  • Use story language that makes the emotional connections clear to the audience.
  • Explain how someone can respond to the feelings they have.

It won't work every time because none of us is perfect, it's easy to stumble over any of these points, and some members of an audience won't care enough to do something. But the more you can identify the steps and focus on completing them, the more regularly and successfully you can communicate with greater emotional intelligence. And the more you do it, the better you get.