Emotionally Stupid but A* in Maths
What’s the benefit of being emotionally intelligent?
“Anyone can become angry — that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way — this is not easy.” Aristotle
Empathy is the ability to understand and share someone else’s feelings. The word empathy gets thrown about in a work setting as a trait to be marvelled at and in some roles it is seen as integral to success. But why. Why is empathy so important and what does it actually mean.
Daniel Goleman wrote the book Emotional Intelligence, which is totally brilliant by the way, in that he describes how being emotionally intelligent in today’s world is incredibly important. And that’s because the world we really live in is about how people feel, not what we actually say. There is a famous saying (and I’ve already filled my quotation quota for this article) but it essentially says that no-one remembers what you say but they always remember how you make them feel. It’s a little bit like the economic vs behavioural economics theory. Economics presumes that people are rational and make sensible choices whereas behavioural economics presumes the exact opposite. Intelligence in the tradition sense i.e. A* in Maths, English and Science used be thought as a great predictor of success. Hence the schooling system anchoring its foundations around the pursuit of good grades for all. But there are some fairly new theories that emotional intelligence is more important than generic intelligence. Just type into google IQ vs EQ and they’ll be a plethora of stuff that floods your page, most of them will say that in the business world, to lead people, you need EQ. One paper states that EQ equates for 80% of our work life success, 80%! Whilst IQ only a mer 20%.
It’s a little bit beyond just understanding someone else’s feelings. All of this goes a little bit further than just observation. It’s about understanding why someone is in the emotional place they are and then understanding how your actions will influence that. Goleman describes empathy as just one in twelve competencies of emotional intelligence. In other words, empathy is one of the twelve ‘things’ that makes you emotionally intelligent. He describes them all as learnable traits for those of us that are thinking “shit I’m not sure how much I think about why people are feeling like they are”. It’s all good — you can learn to.
The term emotional intelligence actually surfaced in 1964 by two chaps called Joel Robert Davitz and Michael Beldoch in a paper called “The Communication of Emotional Meaning” but it wasn’t until Golemans 1996 masterpiece that the general population really got to grips with what emotional intelligence actually was, let alone how to acknowledge and harness it.
So okay, okay. Why though. Why is emotional intelligence and particularly empathy a good thing. How does it mean that we are more successful? Well that comes down to what it does to the person you are interacting with. If you are empathetic, chances are you are able to respond better to what people need. In a social interaction you can understand how whilst someone’s words might be saying they are fine, their mannerisms, their facial cues and their body language is telling you different. That will allow you to think about whether you need to ask more direct questions to make sure they are okay or it’s the right time to back off and approach it later. By doing that, by understanding firstly how someone is feeling and getting a gauge of how to respond you are likely to build deeper and more meaningful relationships. By responding better in social situations it’s likely that your relationships are strong and steady. And that’s really what it’s all about.
Work is all about people. It’s a person that will be interviewing you for a job. It’s people that you will be working in a team with. It’s people that you’ll have to negotiate with, communicate with and understand in order to make whatever you want to work, work.
And that’s why it’s important. It allows you understand people and have better social interactions as a result.
Originally published at https://www.careerhealth.info on April 15, 2020.