The term “Emotional IQ” is all the rage in tech these days.

Wikipedia offers a quick and dirty definition of Emotional Intelligence:

Emotional intelligence (EI) or emotional quotient (EQ) is the capacity of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.”

Let’s set aside the jargon and see what this looks like in the office. Here’s a scenario:

You have a weekly check-in with one of your reports. She says a few things. You give her some clear and direct feedback. She nods her head, repeats it all back to you. You smile. She smiles. Everyone’s great!

Only it’s not great because of what happens next:

  1. She goes right back to her desk and continues to do the very thing you just gave her critical feedback about. Oblivious, it seems, to the entire conversation. Or…
  2. You find her crying at her desk, or suddenly responding to you in a strangely passive, yet aggressive way which baffles you, given that you just had an amazing conversation.

What happened?!

You’re bright. You’re kind. You’re thoughtful — at least you think you’re thoughtful, but somehow, shit like this just keeps happening.

Emotional IQ & Upbringing

Training in behavioral techniques will give you the skills to react appropriately in specific situations of conflict. For example, your boss is undervaluing your work and you need to develop some communication tools to better demonstrate what you have to offer – great! A leadership training or communication workshop will help you do this.

If you’re reading this, however, you’ve got the tools down! You’ve already had huge successes. If your colleague expresses her feelings to you clearly and directly, you know how to respond.

BUT, true leadership – next level shit – requires that you see beyond the surface communication. It requires the ability to pick up on the subtle emotional cues that are registered beyond observable behavior.

For the lucky few, this capacity to simple “get” the emotional states of others is learned throughout childhood as part of the stages of development. For the vast majority of us, however,  these lessons were not taught in the home. Here’s why:

The environment you were raised in required a different set of skills than the environment you now find yourself in. Hustling and vigilance have gotten you this far in your professional career, but you are becoming aware that something is missing.

Take Jay. Jay was raised in a low-income housing complex. His father came and went, struggling to hold down a full time job. His mother worked two jobs to pay the rent and put food on the table. Jay definitely learned the art of hustling.

But, emotional states like fear, sadness, vulnerability — these were not allowed. In fact, where he grew up, these states would get his ass beat. So, he cut those feelings out – allowing other feelings like aggression, hostility, self-control to grow strong.

Now, however, he has entered the tech game. Here, the emotional requirements are different.

In order to excel in this environment, you must be able to pick up on emotions like fear, sadness, tenderness and vulnerability in others – which means, you have to be comfortable with these states inside yourself.

When you cut off a set of feelings in the first half of your life in order to survive, it can be incredibly difficult to revive those feelings later. No set of behavioral tools will work until you are able to find peace, comfort and connection with your emotional states.

All of them.

  • For many women, this looks like cutting off your anger and aggression (ie. your power centers) and adopting a soft, non-threatening presentation.
  • For men, this often looks like cutting off any sign of fear, sadness or hurt.

When you are out of touch with 3 out of 5 basic human emotions, you are at a disadvantage in a professional environment where relationships are the key to advancement.

How Therapy Can Increase Your Emotional IQ

Therapists are Emotional Ninjas. We are highly skilled in the art of being aware of and present to our own emotions and the emotional states of others. It would be lovely to simple enter therapy, get a few tricks and be on one’s way… alas, that’s not how it works.

Entering therapy is more like hanging out with a couple of multi-millionaires.

Initially, it’s not about what your therapist can teach you in terms of tactics and strategy (though that is incredibly important), but rather the mindset – simply having access to someone who has gone through the practice of developing a “millionaire” mindset in terms of emotional capital can change your life. It’s in a gesture, a pause, a moment of reflection where you had none.

Therapists do this for your mental and emotional game.

Unlike a quick set of exercises, therapy will help you develop a deep practice of emotional awareness via a lived experience of being with another who learned the art of Emotional IQ.

Curious? Let’s talk.

You can set up a consultation by calling 415-349-1652 or schedule a consultation here. 

Photo credit: Header, Second