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Your EQ : Emotional Intelligence


See if these personality profiles sound like anyone you know: you work with someone, probably a manager, who is smarter than everyone in the room, who seems to know what’s going to happen before it does, who amazes and dazzles with a constant flow of brilliant ideas, and who has absolutely no clue about, or interest in learning, what makes the people around them tick. In fact, the only thing this person seems to understand about people and ticking is how to tick them off on a regular basis. Or, you know someone who can’t seem to make the close relationships in their lives work, they burn through spouses and friends like a wood chipper. Or, there’s someone in your life who seems to prompt others to walk on egg shells in their presence, who is so moody and unpredictable that it’s considered wise to speak to them only when spoken to, and even then, to watch what you say and perhaps wear a goalie mask. There’s an entire year of grad school psychology going on with these folks, and despite their obvious brain power and a prospective place in the Mensa Hall of Fame, there’s one thing that supercedes all the Freudian insight the library has to offer: they may be intelligent in some respects, but they are lacking in emotional intelligence.

There was a time when being considered smart was lumped under one conglomerated term called intelligence. You were either smart, or you weren’t. But science has dissected the concept of intelligence into bite-sized pieces that fit nicely into the Petrie Dish of social analysis, and one of them is labeled emotional intelligence. We all know someone who can whip out trivia and manhandle a three-variable equation with the best of NASA’s rocket scientists, but if you asked them to tell you about how they are perceived by those around them, you’d get a look more appropriate to having just cursed at them in a foreign tongue. We now know that cognitive intelligence – the ability to perceive and calculate and remember – is markedly different than one’s command of their own emotional landscape, and the latter is the thing that determines one’s place in the world where other folks are concerned. Because the reverse is true, as well: we all know someone who must be reminded how to tie their own shoes each morning, but are so loving and empathetic that there’d be a line up the street to help if shoe-tying help was required.

The benefit of understanding the concept of emotional intelligence is the empowerment of one’s ability to communicate effectively. One approaches a CEO with a request differently than one approaches the sales guy or the CFO or someone in the mailroom, and the contextual difference is one of emotional intelligence. Strictly defined, emotional intelligence is one’s ability to perceive, comprehend and manage one’s own state of emotion, as well as that of others, and to make choices that optimize results based on that understanding. Someone with high emotional intelligence is someone who knows when and how to speak, and also when to stop talking. Folks with emotional intelligence say the right thing at the right time, as opposed to those who proudly say their peace on their own terms, the consequences be damned.

Like other forms of intelligence, emotional intelligence can be both enhanced and managed. Psychoanalysis and the entire field of counseling are nothing more than the treating of emotional intelligence issues with strategic and analytical insight, and the therapies that ensue are simply exercises to alter flawed patterns of thought. Because emotional intelligence has no IQ test and therefore cannot be quantified, it remains an elusive science and a challenging field of therapy. But there is value in understanding the role of emotional intelligence in the behavior of others, and when that understanding results in empathy and patience rather than judgment, our own emotional intelligence quotient is enhanced in the process.

So the next time someone tells you your shirt looks like a seat cover from a ’78 Pinto, then can’t understand why you seem offended, just know they are dealing with a shorthanded emotional deck and move on.


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