Emotional intelligence: first learn how to understand yourself, for better communication with others

What’s the top tactic in your communications toolbox?

Effective use of emotional intelligence is a theme running through my #COMM8400 Business Communications classes at Conestoga College in Kitchener.

Problem solving. Crafting business reports. Working with people who are difficult to get along with. Intercultural communications. EI is a skill to employ every day, anywhere.

It’s all about knowing yourself first well so you are better able to connect well with others. In business and personal situations, I have learned the same basic empathy tactics can help us all grow into better humans.

After 30 years as a newspaper journalist, I now realize that listening attentively is my best tactic, even though it remains a challenge for me to realize when it’s time to stop talking.

I think these six rules are worth adding to my #EI toolbox:

What’s the go-to tactic in your communications toolbox?

Student job search tips for Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo Ontario

Jobs searching is not easy.

I always wonder what path students take after leaving my Business Communications classes at Conestoga College in Kitchener.

They are international students pursuing a dream of living and working in Canada. I share tips to help them manage their culture shock after arriving in a place with cold weather, funny food and people who talk funny — like me.

They share cooking recipes, movie recommendations and a career enthusiasm that inspires me. I learn more than I teach.

Sometimes, I hear from them after they connect with me on my LinkedIn profile. I like the birthday greetings! I often get messages looking for jobs or tips to polish their LinkedIn profile. They remembered how I repeated “put your LinkedIn profile to work for you” in class!

After graduation, my essential employment advice is the same as I offered in class: use every support service and assistance offered by Conestoga College. Students paid for the services in their tuition. I was consistently impressed with career counsellors’ advice when I invited them to host in-class workshops, so I urge students to book a career support session at this link.

And if you’re looking for career advice and you’re not a Conestoga graduate, I urge you to investigate alumni support services at the school you attended. Or, contact Conestoga to access their government-funded, free career services offered to the general public.

I also share job postings in my social media feeds and job search links for the Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo area.

Government of Canada online Job Bank


Lutherwood community support services


Facebook job boards

Cambridge, Ontario Jobs (Lutherwood)


Opportunity jobs Kitchener-Waterloo


Jobs Available in Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge


Kitchener-Waterloo Jobs (Lutherwood)


Jobs in Kitchener Waterloo Group


Do you have any job search tips to share? Please share in the comments below.

Hand-written thank you cards remain powerful connection tools in my digital world

A hand-written thank you note in this card grabbed my attention.

When was the last time you received a handwritten note in your mailbox?

And, no, I’m not talking about all those “personal” advertising flyers in faux handwriting asking to buy my house. Some of them look like they are written by primary school students. Others have tiny, perfectly printed characters that reminded me of notes left behind by a serial killer in movies.

I’m talking about a genuine, handwritten thank you card. Or a personal note.

Yes, I’m talking about analog communication in a digital world.

It happened to me last month. I donated money to a local charity, and they replied with a handwritten note thanking me. Wow!

It made me feel fantastic on a day when more than 100 new emails stuffed my inbox — most of which I probably won’t read. 

I read every word of this thank you, written in flowing script writing that took me back to a time before the internet, when letters, notes and cards were commonplace in my life. 

Handwritten cards

Back to the farmhouse where I grew up, to when my mother with write and mail send letters to her mother in London – Ontario.  When she sat at the kitchen table night after night in the first week of December, sending out Christmas cards with thought notes included inside.

Back to a time of writing essays in pencil on foolscap paper in primary school.  

Back to when I started writing my class notes in a fountain pen in high school, because I enjoyed the experience.

Back to the late 1980s, when I worked at the Cambridge Reporter newspaper. I vividly remember when readers — occasionally — dropped a thank you note in the mail about a story they liked. Or offered me a story idea on paper.  I don’t think I saved any of them when the paper closed in 2003, as I was waded deeper in to my bottomless email inbox. 

Thank you cards are powerful

The fact I was so taken — indeed, pleasantly startled — by a thank you card in the mail last month would be no surprise to researchers in this 2018 study: “Undervaluing Gratitude: Expressers Misunderstand the Consequences of Showing Appreciation,” published in the journal Psychological Science.

The study found that people expressing gratitude underestimated how pleased people would be with a handwritten note. And they overestimated the potential awkwardness that someone might feel receiving a heartfelt thank-you note.

The exchange of a handwritten thank you note also brought emotional benefits to both the sender and recipient.  

And it’s more than just saying thank you to a neighbours for watering your garden while you are away on holiday.

I found business coaches promoting the power of hand written thankyou cards on the business website Forbes.com.  They’re highlighted as glue to build personal networks for career success.

Handwritten cards are also used to support mental patients during recovery after hospitalization, Psychology Today notes.  Caring Cards are written by groups of patients who meet to create one-of-a-kind cards. They’re given to peers struggling with mental health concerns, offering extra, personal support.

The simple act helps both card creators and recipients, reduce the risk of suicide, because researchers believe it builds a sense of purpose and social connections.  At the very least, the cards are enjoyable to create, send and receive.

Thank like you speak

But what to say? Hallmark, the greeting card company, of course, offers advice at hallmark.com.  Basically, saying thank you is easy if make it easy.  Be yourself.

“Writing tip: If writing a thank-you takes you back to high school and turns your writing awkwardly stiff or formal, then relax and try to write like you speak. If you’re a person who would say, “Thanks so much for watching our dog!” then say, “Thanks so much for watching our dog!” Just exactly like that.”

And here’s another tip sheet: The Seven Steps to a Great Thank-You Note, from Michigan State University Extension Service.

I last sent a thank-you card sometime last summer. I think. Or maybe it was the summer before?

That’s a foolish practice to continue, if I want to nurture my personal and business networks.  And to gain the positive personal. emotional benefits of purposeful gratitude.

Now, it’s time for me to start practicing my penmanship. Buy a box of quality cards at my favourite writing tools store, Phidon Pens in Cambridge. And remember to pick up stamps at the post office.

Join me in a challenge I’ve set for myself: write and mail one thank you note every month for the rest of 2022.

Or, perhaps, make that a note once a week.

This post is adapted from a speech presented March 13, 2022 at Cambridge Toastmasters.