“If you are tuned out of your own emotions, you will be poor at reading them in other people.” –Daniel Goleman
Emotional intelligence was once known by only a select few: the scholars who studied it, their “crew,” and the readers of the stuffy academic journals they published in. However, after the publication of Daniel Goleman’s bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, emotional intelligence became a household word–at least in the households that purchased it.
Now, everybody’s doing it, or so they say.
In many ways, the evolution of emotional intelligence is much like that of yoga, which also became a household word not that long ago–well, in the US anyway. Feeling a bit skeptical? Consider the following paragraph, which could apply just as well to yoga or emotional intelligence.
Since its introduction into U.S. society, many influential people have gained a passion for it. Organizations have been established for the purpose of researching it and promoting it. Countless books and articles have been written on it. Curricula and certifications have been developed to prepare new instructors to teach it. Schools, universities, businesses, and other entities have held workshops on it. And nearly all of its followers claim that amazing benefits can be reaped from it.
Of course, I’m not at all skeptical about the many parallels between yoga and emotional intelligence. But that does not mean I am without questions; my inquisitive mind is driven to question anything and everything, often to the dismay of those around me.
Regarding phenomena like yoga and emotional intelligence, I have wondered:
- Do its followers really have a deep understanding of it?
- Do they really use its principles in their daily lives, even when nobody’s watching?
- Is their interest in promoting it really genuine, or are they in it for the rewards?
- Are they really committed to it, or will they abandon it for the next big thing?
Based on these questions, it’s clear that I place a premium on characteristics such as sincerity, integrity, and generosity, which is great…until is isn’t. Alas, any strength can become a weakness! And I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes make negative assumptions about others at the very first sign of insincerity, deceit, or selfishness.
But I’m not alone; we all make assumptions about others.
For example, seeing a self-proclaimed, health nut and yoga enthusiast leave the gym and head straight for the McDonald’s drive thru could make almost anyone question his or her sincerity. The term that comes to mind is yoga poser, one who claims to be a health-conscious yoga enthusiast, but whose actions suggest otherwise–basically, a hypocrite.
While the assumption of hypocrisy makes perfect sense from a logical perspective, logic alone is fraught with limitations. However, combining logical thought with emotional intelligence allows us to challenge our initial assumptions and consider a more diverse array of possibilities. It also compels us to adopt a more empathetic mindset by:
- Thinking about our own patterns of behavior;
- Putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes;
- Considering what his/her life might be like; and
- Imagining how he/she might have been feeling.
By using both logic and emotional intelligence, we might realize that we, too, have made choices that belie even our deepest convictions. We might consider the hustle and bustle of the work week and how it impacts a person’s time and emotions. We might even be reminded that humans are complex, inconsistent, and imperfect beings–just works in progress. As a result, we might become kinder and more compassionate human beings.
But that’s just part of the story. Stay tuned for the second half….
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