I Guess I’m a Critic: The Problem With Emotional Intelligence

I’ve been drooling over a book on emotional intelligence that has been sitting on my table for about a week but I have to say the skeptic in me surfaced as I was reading it. This surprised me as I am very much an advocate of the theory. I believe that many of us are emotionally unintelligent and that organizations need to create emotionally intelligent cultures. The issue I have is the subjectiveness of it all and I can’t help but feel that it falls short in some areas.

Is being emotionally intelligent never raising your voice in a meeting or is being emotionally intelligent knowing when to raise your voice in a meeting?

The book I was reading presented a few one sentence statements given by three individuals who commented on the behavior of different people they knew that rated highly on an emotional intelligence test. I read a few behavior descriptions and unfortunately it was hard for me to buy into the point that the author was trying to make simply because sometimes you have to have tough conversations with people who have no emotional intelligence and the right thing to do is not always popular. I also, wondered how emotionally intelligent the people offering the feedback were. Was there anyone who had a different interpretation? If so, I would have liked to read what someone that had a different perspective of the same situation had to say. Assessing your “EQ” also doesn’t seem to factor in people’s core value system that impacts and can even define our emotions. If someone’s core value system contains strains of racist, elitist or sexist connotations or stereotypes, this will impact their perception of an individual’s EQ.  

Let’s look at emotional intelligence through an ethical framework. Aristotle believed that ethics is not a judgment call that is to be made from moment to moment but should be assessed in a broader perspective. Is this true about emotional intelligence? 

dangerI firmly believe that life is far from simple. Communication is fragile and can be easily misconstrued by the smallest factors. Learning to navigate through these “minefields” requires learning the skills to recognize and disarm the types of bombs that derail communication so easily. Although the skill set to do this involves emotional intelligence, we cannot allow ourselves to be confined by it.

Those who believed that the world was round versus flat were probably thought to be inept of emotional intelligence. They had to fiercely champion their cause which went against social and even political norms of their time. 

We can take emotional intelligence farther by teaching balance and teaching people how to fight fairly. I agree with emotional intelligence when it comes to dealing with our emotions and analyzing how we interact with people. Yes, we need to ask ourselves if we are effective communicators and assess our issues consistently. It’s not ok to project our emotions on others when we are having a bad day and causes that we champion have to benefit many and not just ourselves. We also have to realize that there are those that do not follow the guidelines set forth by emotional intelligence and in some instances we need more than emotional intelligence…we need the courage to stand and fight.

One response to “I Guess I’m a Critic: The Problem With Emotional Intelligence”

  1. Derek Ashmore Avatar

    Here’s a few random thoughts for what they are worth.

    I’ve read several books on emotional intelligence and believe there’s value in the concept. I can’t comment on the book you talk about as you don’t list which book it is and I am only given three statements in it that might be out of context.

    Emotional intelligence is not only about identifying the emotion you feel and those currently being experienced in the people around you. It’s about using that knowledge effectively. Internally, this often means identifying what you’re feeling and then looking past that to identify what’s causing those feelings and reacting to the root cause in a constructive way. The top-level emotion is a symptom, not really part of the problem.

    With other people, emotional intelligence allows you to look past their words and more effectively read between the lines. People aren’t able to express the entirety of what they are thinking and feeling. Recognizing what others are feeling allows you to look past what they are saying and get to the root of their concerns. Sometimes, as you point out, what others are feeling is unrelated to what they are saying (e.g. lashing out). Either way, what others are feeling are often more important to them than what they are currently verbalizing. Recognizing what others are feeling allows you to more effectively and constructively interact with them.

    The best example of emotional intelligence I can think of comes from the Tom Hanks movie “Bridge of Spies”. In it, a spy gets caught and there’s drama in deciding whether or not he’s executed or traded for another spy. The spy is very calm throughout the entire process, even with the very high stakes for him personally. At one point, Hanks (who is his lawyer) asked him “Aren’t you scared”. The spy answers “would it help?”. The spy was wise enough not to accept unconstructive emotion for events entirely out of his control.

    I hope this helps.

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