If you haven’t seen a British comedy programme called “Black Books” you’re missing out. Irish comedian Dylan Moran plays the grumpy offbeat bookstore owner, Bernard Black. He’s certainly passionate about his books, but not about the people who want to buy them. In the first episode a pretentious rich type wants to know if the Dickens are bound with ‘real leather’. In order to avoid talking to the customer, Bernard picks up the phone. Yet the customer persists in barraging him with questions. Bernard scribbles “on phone” on a post-it note and sticks it to his forehead. The customer storms out. Situation resolved.
This scene came to mind the other day while I was thinking about emotional intelligence, also known as EI. It’s a skill commonly described as being aware of one’s emotions, and the emotions of others, and thereby being able to control them. EI is now thought to be more important than traditional intelligence (IQ), and is a much better predictor of success in life. The ability to develop strong relationships, influence others and many other key outcomes all depend on strong emotional intelligence. Strange then that some people seem utterly devoid of this skill.
When someone who possesses a modicum if EI meets someone who lacks it, the former can often turn the conversation around. When two people without EI meet, we get the situation in the bookshop comedy – neither party is able to reach a mutually agreeable outcome. When we say someone lacks emotional intelligence, isn’t that just a kind way of saying their focused on their own agenda?
Unlike IQ, EI is a skill that can be learned. The vast majority is about observation. We don’t need to sit around with post-it notes on our heads letting others know how we feel. With the minimal investigation it’s often obvious. And yet others still insist on steamrolling over everyone else in order to get to what they want. Yes, it can be learned, but only by a willing participant.
I’m pretty sure that, apart from a very small minority, these people can’t be completely unaware of the importance of EI. Otherwise they would struggle to function in many areas of their life, not just at work. This makes we me wonder further if, conversely, these people actually have EI but have chosen not to engage those skills in particular situations. Is this because they feel it is unnecessary or time consuming?
Interaction via technology such as email and social media can push people into a comfort zone where they believe EI isn’t necessary. Such communication does make EI more difficult than face to face, but it’s more important now than ever. It takes a few moments to step back and view the emotions at play and make decisions based on those observations. It won’t be long before more employers are making decisions for hiring and promotions based on this important skill. So those who aren’t using it, for whatever reason, better beware.
Image credit: idea.time.com