A Different Kind of Intelligence

I’ve just come back from an exceptional conference that provided some wonderful learning opportunities.

An hour and a half into one of the sessions, a participant entered somewhat noisily, stated that she was late, even though it was rather obvious, and proceeded to announce that she didn’t really even have a reason.

When we broke for lunch, this same woman went up to the presenter and asked her for the five minute version of what she missed as the result of having been late.

The presenter, a talented and seasoned former university professor and now consultant, took the time from her own well-deserved break, and provided the requested overview. 

As their conversation concluded, the participant also volunteered that she herself was taking a course on facilitating, had made notes on the presenter’s style, and would be happy to provide her feedback. 

While the consultant took it all graciously, it was apparent that both she and everyone else who overheard the exchange, were appalled by the woman’s behaviour. 

And yet, even though her behaviour was clearly inappropriate, this was not an unintelligent woman. She was spirited, passionate and energetic about her work. 

Regardless, it was clear she was lacking in emotional intelligence.

According to Daniel Goleman, “Emotional Intelligence is the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others around us, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and others.”

As such, emotional intelligence just might be the largest single predictor of success in the workplace.

Emotional intelligence or EQ is not the opposite of intellectual intelligence or IQ although some people are blessed with a lot of both, some may not have a lot of either.  What researchers are trying to understand is how they complement each other. Among the ingredients for success, researchers now generally agree that IQ counts for about 20% whereas the rest depends on a variety of other factors including EQ.

So exactly what is Emotional Intelligence? The term encompasses five characteristics and abilities.  The first is knowing your feelings and using them to make effective life decisions.  It is also about being able to manage your emotional life without being immobilized by depression or worry, or swept away by anger.  Persisting in the face of setbacks and channeling one’s impulses in order to pursue one’s goals is important as is handling feelings in relationships with skill and harmony.

But perhaps the most important are the visible emotional skills or the “people skills” of empathy. It is these skills that allow one to recognize feelings in others by tuning in to both their verbal and non-verbal clues without them having to tell you what it is they are feeling.

My guess is that the woman from my session isn’t having a lot of success in the workplace, or in her personal life for that matter if her typical interactions are as inappropriate as what she demonstrated. If she lacks empathy, graciousness, and the ability to read a social situation she will no doubt be ruffling a lot of feathers.

I do hope that somewhere along the line, someone will invest the time in helping her to develop and grow her emotional intelligence. If they don’t, I’m guessing there won’t be a lot of promotions in her future.

Posted on 10-29-07

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