I recently attended a reunion, after nearly a decade that had passed between last meeting these individuals, it only took ten minutes with them to remind me why I rarely felt ‘part’ of their social world and hadn’t missed them at all in that time. On sharing a slightly touching personal and brief story of my life journey since I had left, I was left with emotionless blinking response in return, where I would have expected some compassionate feedback. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t demanding sympathy or needing any support as a result of the story, and from experience, I consider myself to be a rather good story teller and the story wasn’t that taxing.
I was merely creating an intelligent, unthreatening opportunity for a meaningful two way conversation that went a little deeper than where everyone was working now and who had how many babies.
One individual I was addressing was so blank and devoid of any emotion and seemingly dumbed down of any heart-brain connection, that all they could do was blink, rapidly and look blank whilst slurping on their cocktail straw. Further attempts at conversation proved they were completely lacking any emotional intelligence, which in return left me feeling utterly disconnected and bored with them. They did however get extremely excited when talking about mundane, ‘he did this and she did that’ stories. A seemingly common response in todays western society.
Yawn. Plunge me into the ocean of human spirit filled juicy soul stories any day.
I was left thinking about that rare gem of a quality found in surprisingly few people and highly sought after and prized amongst characteristic traits by many in leadership and in relationships. Emotional Intelligence.
Emotional intelligence (EQ or EI) is a term used to describe the ability of an individual to recognize their own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide ones own thinking and behavior.
In laymen’s terms, it’s the ability to feel and empathise with other peoples emotions, not just your own. Let’s just say a colleague has just arrived to a meeting, perhaps a little late after travelling a long way to get there and has spent around three hours stuck in traffic.
They look hot, flustered, tired and slightly wild eyed with worry.
1. An emotionally intelligent person would warmly greet them, check on their well-being, perhaps offer a refreshing drink and hold off the meeting for a further to five minutes (if possible) so said person could ground a little and settle, thus allowing them to perform at their best for the rest of the time.
2. Someone devoid of EI would possibly berate them for being late and rush them straight into the meeting, without seeing the needs of the human in front of them, potentially setting of a chain of negative events and/or bad feeling.
It’s a simple example but it demonstrates how our reading and sensing other peoples emotions and situations gives us the opportunity to fluidly adjust our own thoughts and behaviour to get the best interactive results. A natural and consistent form of empathy.
In reality, most of us feel that the people we deal with on a daily basis show a severe lack of emotional intelligence. For example, the spouse or partner that surprises us with a lack of empathy, the guy who purposefully takes up two parking spots? Any of these situations may leave us exasperated, angry, and discouraged.
There are a lot of contributing factors that lead to any individuals level of emotional intelligence. Where environment is certainly a factor, our childhood experiences and upbringing are major factors. Surprisingly it isn’t always the children who have had the smoothest upbringing that have the highest levels of EI.
I personally know of many adults whom as children have had very advantageous upbringings who lack EI and have more self-centred and narcissistic attitude to life and those around them. Whereas others who are survivors of child neglect, abuse, poverty or have been through the system that have the highest levels of EI I have ever experienced. They had to learn early on how to sharpen their senses in order to survive and as life progressed for them they have fine tuned it into a positive and somewhat admirable attribute.
Not all people are as lucky of course.
Defiant people tend to lack EI, whether its a defiant adult or child, emotional intelligence appears to be a key predictor in an indivdual’s ability to make suitable peer relationships, get along at home, develop a well-balanced outlook on life, and to reach their academic potential at school. They have a limited ability to use two key coping skills: calming down and solving problems.
Therefore, many of they “chooses” not to do (e.g., be more self-aware, considerate of others, and control his impulses) may actually be things they can’t do, which also encompasses the following five characteristics and abilities:
1. Self-awareness– knowing your emotions, recognizing feelings as they occur, and discriminating between them
2. Mood management- handling feelings so they’re relevant to the current situation and you react appropriately
3. Empathy- recognizing feelings in others and tuning into their verbal and nonverbal cues
4. Managing relationships- handling interpersonal interaction, conflict resolution, and negotiations
5. Self-motivation- “gathering up” your feelings and directing yourself toward a goal, despite self-doubt, inertia, and impulsiveness
There is in fact no hard and fast model as to those who will become emotionally intelligent to those who seem to lack it. Unfortunately, it’s a rare quality, emotional intelligence – the ability to identify emotions in yourself and others and to use this ability to manage your relationships with those around you. You either have it or you don’t.
But the truth is your emotional intelligence will play way more of a role than your trivia knowledge in making you a great leader, team player and person in general.
Psychologist and former New York Times Reporter Daniel Goleman is a leader in the research behind how emotional intelligence makes us successful. According to him, everyone, from business consultants to CEOs, from college students to management experts can benefit from a little advice about emotional intelligence.
‘Today companies worldwide routinely look through the lens of EI in hiring, promoting, and developing their employees. For instance, Johnson and Johnson found that in divisions around the world, those identified at mid career as having high leadership potential were far stronger in EI competencies than were their less-promising peers.’
So to those lucky ones out there who have innate emotional intelligence, flaunt it, it could just get you that dream job or relationship, but least of all it will make life more bearable for the rest of this around you.