The Real Trick To Better Emotional Intelligence

I’m sure you woke up today and thought, “There’s definitely a better me hanging out somewhere in here.” Then you proceeded to poke and cajole the side of your face, tap the center of your forehead, and then held your breath waiting for the new you explode out of you.

Whether in the office, at social gatherings, or with family, we are always striving to be a better (or the best) version of ourselves. We are always looking to optimize, enhance, and hone our emotional intelligence (EQ). Who wouldn’t want to be a more polished, smooth version of themselves? It’s simple: all you need to do is find an article on improving your “likability”, interpersonal skills, or inter-office communication. AND. BAM: You’re an emotional intelligence rockstar. Right? If only everything were that easy.

The Futility of EQ / “Likability” Posts

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) WheelEQ: the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

It’s become rather en vogue in the last few years that employers not only want a potential candidate that is business-sharp (IQ), but also a candidate that’s emotionally-sharp (EQ). And, in some circles, emotional intelligence is becoming more valuable, more sought after, than business IQ. And, as such, there’s been a burst of tip and tricks posts to help you to recognize, to refurbish, and refine EQ.

Here’s an example: 7 Secrets That Will Make You Much More Likable. On the surface it’s not about EQ. On the surface, it’s about how you can be a better jigsaw piece in the larger puzzle (fitting in and getting in). This isn’t about emotional intelligence because there is more “science” around emotional intelligence. More measurable, right? More facts, figures, and standard deviations.

In my opinion, these sociability/likability posts are really masquerading as a packed, couched way to say emotional intelligence. And, perhaps these posts, these tips/tricks, are more insidious than mean to be, causing more harm than good? To wit: these posts are crap; they’re placebos for the real work EQ takes.

Peeling The Likability/Emotional Intelligence Onion

I don’t need to dismantle the post tip-by-tip, point-by-point; it would only serve to make me look like a pompous ass (as if the post hasn’t done that already). I think the central point around posts like these is: a vast majority of people hardly know themselves. It’s a lifetime of work to “know” yourself, much less chip away the burs of a rough hewn personality. And, yeah, its a very new-age-y concept that’s likely a product of the information age and a luxury of a service economy. But, the idea is centuries old, stretching back to Socrates and Shakespeare and Hamlet.

Most people will absolutely think they know themselves: how they are going to respond to a situation of stress, or truly believe they listen empathetically, or be brave enough to honestly and critically self-examine their behavior. Until you’ve experienced it, you don’t know. No matter how many of these posts you read, no mater how much you keep it at the forefront of your mind, no matter how many of these “secrets” or “tips” or “sure-fire ways”, their true self shines through on the next encounter. It takes a long time to be “likable” or “sociable”. It takes a long time to build emotional intelligence.

EQ is very much like an onion; there are innumerable layers. Having “situational awareness”, “making eye contact”, or “actively listening” is only the first step. It’s an important one, mind you, but the nuances are deep and far-reaching. Every one these things requires continual work and effort.

You Too Are Going To Fail At EQ

I fail at this all the time. Sometimes grandly and in a spectacular fashion (as many of you may know). Mastery of anything takes time. Takes effort and dogged willingness to see it through. But, these failures could most certainly be termed “failing forward,” and even that takes a long time to wrap your head around. It takes a special person who can accept that concept out of the gate. The real key is to putting yourself in situations where you have to put emotional intelligence to the test, getting better at each try.