Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry made waves recently when he appeared on the Winging It podcast. In a wide-ranging interview that focused primarily on basketball, Curry took a detour to ask a cheeky question:
"We ever been to the moon?"
At least two fellow NBA players who were taking part in the podcast responded with a resounding, "Nope."
"They're going to come get us. I don't think so either," Curry replied. "Sorry, I don't want to start any conspiracies."
Too late, Steph. Too late.
Many were quick to respond harshly on Twitter, with comments like "Don't be stupid" and "It's not cool what you're doing."
NASA, though, chose a different route.
Instead of attacking Curry or his beliefs, the space organization did the best thing possible:
It extended a warm invitation to Curry to come visit and examine the evidence himself.
"We'd love for Mr. Curry to tour the lunar lab at our Johnson Space Center in Houston, perhaps the next time the Warriors are in town to play the Rockets," NASA spokesman Allard Beutel told The New York Times in a statement. "We have hundreds of pounds of moon rocks stored there, and the Apollo mission control. During his visit, he can see firsthand what we did 50 years ago, as well as what we're doing now to go back to the moon in the coming years, but this time to stay."
This statement is a perfect lesson in emotional intelligence. Let's examine why.
Why NASA's response is brilliant
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, recognize, and manage emotions. It includes the ability to use knowledge and understanding of emotions to persuade or influence.
NASA's response is genius because it's friendly, warm, and inviting. It uses positive emotions to promote rational thinking and reasoning--rather than putting Curry on the defensive.
If Curry actually takes up NASA on its invitation, he very well may change his mind. At the very least, he'll surely learn some things.
We can learn a lot from NASA's reply too.
For example, let's say you're having a conversation that suddenly turns to a subject you feel strongly about. Your conversation partner holds the opposite opinion and says something meant to rile you up.
How would you respond?
You might be tempted to leave the conversation, or to vehemently attack the other person as "wrong," while trying to prove your points with arguments that appeal to your own set of (often-unshared) values. You may even attack the other person's character, accusing them of lacking common sense or decency.
But none of these options will do much good. Most often, they'll provoke a similar response in the other person, one based primarily on "negative" emotion and involving very little logic or reasoning. The ensuing back-and-forth accomplishes nothing, only an end result in which both you and the other person have dug in your heels--and are further apart than when you began.
In contrast, remember that the process of influence is a progression. When you refuse to attack the other person, and instead invite further, friendly, reasonable discussion, your argument will go a lot further in making them think.
You may even change their mind.
That's the power of emotional intelligence.