Several business publications and blogs like Entrepreneur and The Guardian have labeled on “emotional intelligence” as major buzzword (well, “buzzphrase”), a trend that will likely continue through 2016.
So, what is emotional intelligence?
The origin of emotional intelligence can be traced to Dr. Daniel Goleman’s book and article, What Makes a Leader?, published in the Harvard Business Review. Goleman—an accomplished psychologist and author—identified emotional intelligence as a key element in successful leaders. If you don’t subscribe to HBR, Business to Community gives a quick and easy breakdown of the five emotional intelligence constructs—make sure you read Part 1 and Part 2.
I will be bold enough to say that I’m embarrassed for the population of professionals who need the concept of emotional intelligence spelled out for them. Of course qualities like “self awareness” and “empathy” matter in the office.
The barriers between our personal and professional lives are more fluid—we don’t magically become different people when we reach the front door of our office buildings or our homes. Our stresses from home follow us to the office and vice versa. They shouldn’t, but they do.
Having the capacity to recognize how each individual carries some sort of personal burden and to acknowledge that we all have faults, good days, bad days and whatever-else-in-between makes us more likely to connect and build stronger relationships, that, with the right effort, build a more productive and and efficient work environment.
Meeting (and exceeding) the expected quotas are incredibly important—at the end of the day, those are the metrics are what keep the paychecks rolling.
But at what cost?
If anything, the need for emotional intelligence in schools could not be more dire.
Throughout high school and college, I hated peer-editing papers. Especially ones that required “original thought.” It’s not because way too many people don’t know the difference between “their” and “they’re” (ugh) or they didn’t follow the professor’s preferred style format (double ugh).
The most punishing thing was reading the “Soulless A” papers. That’s the only way to describe them. The papers’ formatting and the phrasing abided by the grading rubric, which is exactly what the teachers were looking for. It hit the right marks by the arbitrary standard of what the SATs were looking for, too.
There’s something isolating about this process—forsaking original thought to conform to get a grade that may or may not actually matter in the long run. It’s not conducive for developing self-awareness, it only pushes people away from their individual voices and retreat behind restricting guidelines.
For most, it didn’t matter whether or not they actually understood the material. They just wanted to get another great mark, which would further their GPA, which would further their path towards an elite, Ivy League college, where they would repeat this process at their elite, Ivy League college or graduate school to get “a great job”…
What was missing was a real voice. A curiosity. A wonder. Something. Even unabashed, yet well-explained, apathy would have been better.
The foundation of emotional intelligence was absent. Taking the time to understand an unknown and connect it to personal and public contexts, then understanding how each sphere affects the other, is not easy, but it’s so important in developing a true confidence, a real voice, to engage with the world.
Copying a generic voice to serve as a mouthpiece from the teacher’s notes or the SATs isn’t helping anyone.
To what extent do you follow an arbitrary formula for “success” before you risk losing sight of who and where you actually want to be?
We should employ emotional intelligence in every aspect of our lives. And we should encourage children to do the same.
The Atlantic and The Huffington Post point out the pitfalls of emotional intelligence. If you look at how major companies like Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter got their start, they either used emotional intelligence as a manipulative tool… or didn’t use it all. And, whether or not it’s a good or bad thing, there are professions that don’t require everyone to have stellar interpersonal skills.
For those who work in sales, management, marketing or whatnot, we all know that social sharing encourages people to keep their content positive—it can’t hurt to share the positivity in person by balancing work ethic and empathy.
Understanding and implementing emotional intelligence isn’t the answer to building a better team, but I think cultivating positive qualities in the workplace can only lead to a more enlightened world.