Three Small Details an Author Got Wrong and Why it Matters!
August 8, 2022
Earlier this week I read an article in FastCompany.  A quick Google search indicates the magazine has a readership of more than 3 million but don’t quote me on that.  The point is… it draws a sizable audience.

In the article 10 In-Demand Soft Skills to Supercharge Your Career the author includes Emotional Intelligence as one of the skills.  Hurray!  Well sort of…

Authors and thought leaders are continuing to highlight emotional intelligence as a topic worthy of attention, discussion, and further exploration!  That’s great!

But here’s the thing…  A lot of these well-intended contributors are misinformed about emotions.  They have some of their information right, but there’s often a sprinkle of misinformation mixed in as well.

You might say… big deal.  Who cares about a little sprinkle of misinformation?  It can’t be that big of a deal…  I disagree.  I think slight changes to the way we talk about emotions and approach emotional intelligence can make a big difference.

Let’s look at a few specifics from the article.

Article Highlights
The section in the article that highlights Emotional Intelligence as a soft skill to supercharge your career, the author writes:

“Emotional intelligence is a person’s ability to perceive, evaluate, and control their emotions while being aware of other people’s emotions. We also refer to a person’s emotional intelligence as their EQ (emotional quotient). A high-EQ person thinks before they speak and act. This person also practices self-reflection and understands their feelings. They also don’t make decisions while angry. When they’re anxious, they pause and take a step back. They work to regulate their emotions, shift gears when needed, and don’t let their feelings interfere with producing great work.”

It reads nicely and is easy to digest.  The average individual who is misinformed about emotions probably wouldn’t bat an eye or take exception to any of the content.

However, the individual who is informed about emotions would likely take exception to three main points.  Let’s take a closer look.

Control their Emotions
The section begins with “Emotional intelligence is a person’s ability to perceive, evaluate, and control their emotions while being aware of other people’s emotions.”

Sounds good but…  If you compare this to the definition of emotional intelligence taken from my Empowered by Emotions program which is also referenced in What is Emotional Intelligence?, you’ll see some slight (but significant) differences.  I define emotional intelligence as:

Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize, pay attention to, understand, and effectively engage with emotions in a manner that helps you achieve your preferred outcomes.

The goal is not to control emotions.  It may feel like a matter of semantics or nitpicking over inconsequential details, but again, I disagree.  “Controlling emotions” puts the focus on the wrong area.  Emotions are a part of who we are.  Emotions are a form of intelligence.

Instead of trying to control emotions, the goal is to engage with emotions.  Emotional intelligence is about learning how to work with your emotions rather than working against them.  What you want to control is your response to an active emotion.  In other words, the action you take.  Now that’s putting the focus where it belongs!

"Don’t make decisions while angry"
The article also says emotionally intelligent people “…don’t make decisions while angry.”  That’s hog wash.  Of course people make decisions when they are angry!

In Why do People Get Angry?, we established emotions are action-requiring.  They activate for a reason and are looking for you to take a suitable action.  There is an emotion behind every decision and every action you take.

People who are informed about emotions know the real question is whether people make good decisions when their Anger is active… Decisions that ultimately support their desired outcomes and results.

“Don’t let their feelings interfere with producing great work”
And finally, the article says people “don’t let their feelings interfere with producing great work.”  Ugh!  That’s a little like saying people don’t let oxygen get in the way of breathing.

People who are informed about emotions know feelings and emotions are the fuel behind great work!  That holds true for easy and pleasant emotions, like Happiness and Excitement as well as difficult and unpleasant emotions, like Anger and Anxiety.

Let’s wrap things up by tying these three points together with a true-to-life example.

True-to Life Scenario
Let’s say you’re meeting with a co-worker Henrico who is notorious for interrupting.  About 10 minutes into the conversation, after Henrico has interrupted several people several times, your Anger is active.  This is because Anger is the emotion that activates when someone does something or something happens that violates one of your values or beliefs.

If you think you should control your emotions, the message you’re telling yourself is in essence, I should not be angry.  On the other hand, if you think you should engage with your emotions, the message you’re telling yourself is to pay attention and figure out why your Anger is active.

Armed with emotional intelligence and a specific understanding of Anger, you can respond by taking a suitable action.  Perhaps you could say “Henrico, I believe what others have to say is important.  Would you be willing to stop interrupting and give others the opportunity to share the information they’ve gathered?”

Fast forward a couple of weeks.  Let’s say Henrico continues to routinely interrupt and it’s having a negative impact on the quality of the meetings and the overall productivity of the team.  Because your Anger is active, you may make the decision to bring the problem to Henrico’s boss’ attention.

Do you see how it’s working?  Anger is active.  It’s action-requiring.  And if you’re emotionally intelligent, Anger will absolutely influence your decision to do something useful and constructive about the disruptive behavior.

Finally, Anger is not what interferes with producing great work.  To the contrary.  Disruptive and disrespectful reactions to Anger are what interfere with producing great work.  But Anger, followed by emotionally intelligent responses, actually supports a team’s ability to collaborate more effectively and produce great work!

As you become more informed about emotions, it’s likely you will start to notice a fair amount of misinformation.

Remember, emotions are a form of intelligence.  They are designed (yes designed) to bring valuable information into your awareness.  The goal is not to control your emotions.  The goal is to engage with your emotions.  Once an emotion is active, the goal is to take a suitable action.  How you behave is where the self-discipline and control come into play.