Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Emotionally Intelligent?

Emotionally Intelligent? President Obama presents as an emotionally intelligent man: he appears self-aware, with an ability for emotional self-management and impulse control, seemingly at ease with ambiguity, empathic with a natural gift for communicating, persuading and inspiring others, and obtaining support for decisions. Some individuals are inherently emotionally intelligent and, unlike the rest of us who need to make concerted efforts to develop our EI, always seem to be calm, unruffled and in control.

Whenever we view someone innately emotional intelligent, we come to expect certain qualities, for example we would expect that such individuals would also be insightful about those who are not so emotionally intelligent; like most of the rest of us! However, in most cases that has not been my experience. Much like a naturally talented dancer or athlete who finds it difficult to understand what it’s like to be stiff and ungainly, so the emotionally intelligent person may find it difficult to grasp that empathy and “meeting threats with greater understanding*” is not something most of us can do just because we’ve been told to. This is not because we are incapable, but because it’s not inherent within us and we haven’t been taught how to.

We know we need to collaborate more, but the necessary ‘know-how’ is not automatic. We know we need to “brave the currents……. Endure the storms,,,,,,,, and not falter” * Trouble is, we have not been taught the required skills to carry this out. HOW do we meet threats with greater cooperation? If we knew how to, wouldn’t we already be doing it? This thought takes me right to the work I do with businesses and families: very few people consciously mis-manage stress; consciously allow their emotions to control their actions; in fact I believe that if we all knew HOW TO manage stress and emotions, (and I say manage on purpose, as opposed to control), I think we’d be doing a better job of it!

So next time someone tells you to ‘suck it up’ or ‘pull yourself together’, “pull your socks up”, or “you need to communicate better”, and you know you really want to but just can’t seem to, explore whether you really have the skills to, and if not, look for ways you can begin to acquire those skills.

Excerpted from US President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address