A week ago, my ten year-old son sparked a conversation at our dinner table that was not only profound, but quite surprising. And it all started because of a simple afternoon greeting.
Everyday at 3:30pm, my son walks through the front door, book bag in hand, and greets me hello. My response is always the same: “Hey buddy. How was your day?” He typically responds, “It was great mom. How was yours?” Simple. To the point. And then we move forward with our after school routine. For five years now this has been the standard and rarely does it stray.
Last week however, something did change. When my son walked through the door with his usual smile, I gave him my usual greeting, “Hey buddy. How was your day?” But he responded quite differently. Without a second to think he replied, “Mom, what’s wrong?” I responded saying that I was fine. That nothing was wrong. But, he continued with his inquiry. “Mom, did you have a bad day?”
Interestingly enough, I did have a bad day. I was sad and frustrated about something entirely separate from my typical worries, but I hadn’t shared this with anyone. Not to mention, I was painting a wall when my son entered the house, so my back was to him when I said hello. So, by the sheer sound of my voice, he knew something was up. What was most surprising however is the fact that I wasn’t aware I sounded any different than usual. I certainly wasn’t trying to sound different. But, apparently the subtle change occurred in my subconscious and projected outwardly enough to alert my son even as it eluded me!
When I mentioned this interaction between my son and I at dinnertime and raved about his unbelievable ability to recognize another’s need for empathy and understanding, my husband brought up the concept of emotional intelligence. Here’s a definition:
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the capability of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions, to discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and to manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt environments or achieve one’s goal(s).
Daniel Goleman, science journalist and author of the famed 1995 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, presented the perspective that our emotional intuition can serve us incredibly well in life and in our careers. According to his research, Goleman indicated that “EI accounted for 67% of the abilities deemed necessary for superior performance in leaders, and mattered twice as much as technical expertise or IQ.” In one small excerpt from his book, he brings awareness to this exact point:
As well all know from experience, when it comes to shaping our decisions and our actions, feeling counts every bit as much–and often more–than thought. We have gone too far in emphasizing the value and import of the purely rational–of what IQ measures–in human life. For better or worse, intelligence can come to nothing when the emotions hold sway.
What I find most interesting is the idea that EI (also called EQ) outweighs even something as important in our society as a person’s IQ. Now mind you, this is not proven and like much in science, has its critics. But, for me, I find myself indulging in this concept and believing it wholeheartedly. And here’s why.
My son has an abundance of emotional intelligence (as the example from above clearly demonstrates). He has always been “in tune” to other people’s emotions and feelings. Since toddlerhood, this has always been an amazing strength for him. But, he also suffers academically. Since about the age of 3, we’ve known something was different. After years of painstaking tests, observations, integrations, and academic interventions, he was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD. This combination is rough when it comes to learning. Tests? Forget about it. Writing? Cringe worthy. Reading and decoding? Difficult at best. Needless to say, his educational struggles are never-ending. Yet, for a child who has struggled with learning from the very start, it’s pretty darn amazing at how successful he is. I attribute a large portion of this to his emotional intelligence.
As Cindy Allen-Stuckey previously stated on The Methodology Blog in her post Developing Self Awareness to Build Emotional Intelligence:
Having high EQ is the way to get buy-in from the people with whom you’re dealing and inspire them to follow your lead. But first, you have to be aware of and make sense of your emotions.
When it comes to our careers, we all want similar things: knowledge, experience, happiness, achievement, financial stability, success, growth. And while our IQs help us along the way, we all can’t be Einstein. What we can do however, is tap into our emotional intelligence. Utilizing this important skill to understand and connect on an emotional level can elevate our leadership abilities to a whole new, exciting level.