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How Important is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

Posted Jan 28 2011 6:52pm

In a recent session, 65 year old Dan, a retired insurance manager, was reflecting on mistakes he had made in his life. At the top of his list was an incident twenty years earlier when he received a home visit from a corporate V.P. who was vetting him for a large promotion as a district manager of a large insurance company. Things were going smoothly and the promotion seemed like it was going to be a shoo-in, at least in Dan’ s eyes. Then, came the subtle test which Dan didn’t even realize was a test: The V.P. asked Dan if  it would be possible to drive him to another office, about 100 miles away, the next day so he wouldn’t have to rent a car. Dan politely declined, pleading work obligations at his current office. In his mind, Dan thought the V.P would be impressed that he was so dedicated to the more important office tasks on the job instead of wasting time driving 200 miles (round trip)  the next day.

As time went, Dan learned that he was being blocked from promotion by one vote. He never did get his promotion and to this day he is certain that this was due to the fact that he completely mis-read the real “test” that the V.P. had exposed him to. It was a failed test he could never recover from. Dan, like many people, lacked a quality for both business, personal, and marriage success called “emotional intelligence” or “EQ.” It differs from “IQ” (regular intelligence) in that it deals with one’s people skills, sensitivity to emotional isses srrounding factual issues, the ability to understand the emotions and feelings of others, social sensitivity, and accurate perception of how your actions are perceived by others.

Dan did not understand that the V.P. was probably testing Dan’s loyalty to him, Dan’s ability to be a “team,” player, or possibly Dan’s sense of priorities. Dan was completely unaware that his decision would be viewed negatively by the V.P. and did not even perceive the subtle change in the V.P.’s demeanor and attitude after being refused the special favor he had asked for.

In my experience as a marriage therapist, consultant, and anger coach, lack of or limited emotional intelligence leads to conflicts in the workplace, in relationships and in families. Often  people with low EQ don’t realize they have low EQ, and honestly can’t figure out why people react so negatively to them. Take the example of a couple I had worked with in marriage counseling. Thirty five year old Dorothy was pregnant for the first time. In session, she said to her husband, “I am fearful that I won’t be a good mother.” Instead of reassuring her, his response was: “Why?  that’s a dumb thing to be worried about.” You could see the change of emotion in her face when she heard that, but her husband didn’t have a clue that his remark might upset her.

In our anger classes we teach the skills of empathy and social awareness to increase a person’s emotional intelligence. In short, one way to increase EQ is to step back and see your behavior or response from the viewpoint of the other person. It is the ability to realize how you might be coming across to others and how your remark or behavior might or might not be seen or heard from their point of view – not yours.

Persons with high EQ are sensitive to the feelings of others and look beneath just the content of a question or behavior to the underlying emotional issues – and then responds to these emotional issues. Had Dan had higher EQ he would have asked himself how his refusal might be seen by his V.P. That interchange wasn’t about his getting to his next appointment. It was about trust, loyalty and priorities. Likewise, the pregnant wife was really communicating insecurity and also asking if she could count on him for help and support.

Work on increasing your emotional intelligence and you might be surprised that your life will work better for you. It is worth the effort because research shows that persons with high EQ are more successful, have better relationships, and are actually healthier than others.


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