When It's Emotional Intelligence and When It's Not
As we all race to understand Emotional Intelligence, arguably
the hottest thing on the business scene globally, there are many
As 'Ask the EQ Expert' for a business website, I've been asked:
1. Isn't 'Emotional Intelligence' a contradiction in terms?
2. Isn't there such a thing as too much emotion?
3. It seems a 'natural' for relationships, but do you think
emotions belong in the workplace??
4. How can I learn it?
DO EMOTIONS BELONG IN THE WORKPLACE?
We do business through people, and with people. Work is
relationships, and whether you approve or not, emotions are at
work. We don't leave them at home when we come to work. We are
our emotions and we aren't a different person at work than we
are at home.
THE VALUABLE FLOODGATE
Yes, there is such a thing as "too much emotion." The benefits
of studying Emotional Intelligence are that you improve your
understanding of your own feelings and how they influence you
and those around you (as well as those of others), and how you
think and behave, and ultimately, your emotions become more
One area that sabotages us, for instance, is when we become
"flooded" or "hijacked." Something or someone makes you angry
and you lose it. You might lash out, or withdraw, get physical
and do something rash, use poor judgment, or sit in apoplectic
silence, but whatever your reaction, what's happened is that the
flood of anger has disabled your thinking brain, just when you
need it the most. The aftermath can include regret, as well as
fatigue, stomach pains, headaches, back aches, diarrhea ... you
Research is showing us there's a "brain" in our intestines as
well as in our heads that's hooked up to our emotions (via the
powerful vagus nerve) . but we knew that. That's why we have
"visceral" reactions to things, and why we can always check in
with our bodies to see how we're feeling, if our heads are
fooling us with rationalizations. (i.e., If he's really such a
nice guy, why is your stomach in knots when you have to talk to
On the other hand, if you think you've checked your emotions at
the front desk, #1 they're more likely to sabotage you because
you aren't mindful, and #2, you're missing a great ally.
Emotions give us information. One EQ competency, for instance,
is intuition, and without the information you get from your "gut
feeling" or "basic instincts" you'll call many plays wrong.
Emotional Intelligence is the interface between thinking and
feeling. We can think through the data, but it can only take us
so far; otherwise, we'd always be able to pick a winner!
And #3, if you aren't mindful about emotions you will be less
effective with people.
This does not mean turning you into a wuss, or a bleeding heart,
or that screaming or crying on the job is the desired results.
In fact, it's about managing emotions; understanding your own
and those of others, and responding, not reacting. This gives
Why more effective with people? Motivation is an example. It's
not a thinking word, as you know if you've 'talked till you were
blue in the face' trying to convince someone of something with
logic and reason. Ultimately we are moved by our emotions, and
we need to connect with others to access this. This has been
said to be the difference between a "leader" and a "manager,"
which is a fair theoretical distinction, but in reality people's
job titles don't always reflect what they do, or, more
importantly, how they are.
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?
Why moderation? Let's take a look at Empathy, one of the
Emotional Intelligence competencies. If you're low in Empathy,
you need it, and it can be learned. Hook up with a certified EQ
coach and get into it.
If you have a strong ability at Empathy, you need to be able to
use it as a tool; in other words, you use IT, it doesn't use
YOU. It matters how you manage it. Understanding the feelings of
the other person is valuable. Getting infected by them is not.
Neither is practicing Empathy with someone who is toxic.
In his book, "Coping with Toxic Managers, Subordinates ... and
Other Difficult People: Using Emotional Intelligence to Survive
and Prosper," (
0 ) Roy H. Lubit, an academic, psychiatrist, and management
consultant, identifies the behaviours of five types of toxic
managers: narcissistic, unethical, aggressive, rigid and
impaired. He suggests strategies for protecting yourself. Yes,
When your Intuition (an EQ competency) informs you that you're
dealing with someone toxic, it's time to take care of yourself,
not try and "fix" them. People with strong Empathy often make
this mistake. Lubit maintains these toxic behaviours are the
manifestations of depression and fear. The Empathic person will
pick up on the depression and fear, which is indeed worthy of
compassion, but not at the expense of harmful behaviours coming
your way. Misapplied Empathy leaves you wide open to abuse, as
well as likely to stick around too close and too long.
"Understanding" the underlying feelings does not excuse the
toxic behaviours, nor compel you to tolerate them.
Other EQ competencies would then come into play, such as
Personal Power, Intuition, and Integrated Self.
Toxic behaviours are not confined to managers. You will meet
them roaming around many offices and your ability to work around
them will impact your career. As has been said, your EQ is more
important to your success (health and happiness) than your IQ.
Julian Barling, Ph.D., professor of organizational behaviour at
Queen's University, Kingston, says aggression in the workplace
is more likely when 2 factors are present: psychologically
unhealthy people and psychologically unhealthy organizations,
and feels it's easier to try and make organizations healthier
than to try and weed out psychologically unhealthy individuals.
With Empathy, you can understand where they're coming from, but
it's your Intuition that tells you it's not a problem to be
solved, but rather a fact to be dealt with, and Personal Power
that allows you to take care of yourself rather than feeling
"hopeless and helpless."
HOW DO YOU LEARN IT?
Reading about Emotional Intelligence is the starting point, but
to really 'get it' you have to put it into practice. Coaching is
the suggested venue for the crucial active-learning stage.
Social and interpersonal skills can't be practiced in a vacuum,
and you need feedback.
Emotional Intelligence is about understanding and valuing
emotions; managing them; and integrating them comfortably with
thinking processes for the information, motivation, enrichment
and connection they give us.
Most people find Emotional Intelligence to be "the missing
piece" and the best way to understand it, is to experience it.
To take an EQ assessment, go here: http://tinyurl.com/z750 .