Why is it difficult to practise EI?
Recently, on LinkedIn, this question was raised:
I am a 25 year old young professional, and I am experiencing pain and hardship trying to put my emotional intelligence learning into practice. Probably because I know EQ can be measured and I have set targets for myself unknowingly. Practising EQ while you are having a discussion with fellow colleagues is difficult.
One reason for the difficulty is probably that I am trying to work on empathy during the discussion.
I was trying hard to understand the emotions of the others while trying to counter the argument. As such, I felt stressed as I need to use both right and left brain at the same time.
I think it’s not as hard as you think. Here are some suggestions.
1 “Practising EQ while you are having a discussion with fellow colleagues is difficult” is a limiting belief. How do you know that it is difficult? What do people, for whom it isn’t difficult, do/feel/think?
2 What exactly is the problem, here? Is it that you get frustrated or irritated? Aren’t these emotions? As long as you can recognise them when you see them, and don’t “milk” them, are you not behaving with emotional intelligence?
There is a terrible myth growing up that emotional intelligence is all about being nice and fluffy to other people. It isn’t. EI is strictly values neutral; it doesn’t make judgements about which emotions are “good” emotions and which are “bad” emotions.
3 I suspect you have expectations of (a) how well you’ll do, (b) how others will respond. I suggest letting go of these expectations as they are not serving you, and you will find it extremely difficult to avoid other people perceiving your expectations as demands. And people don’t like demands being made of them.
Reading your posts, it strikes me that you have a very “thinking” approach to this subject. It flourishes more easily and more naturally, however, if you have a “feeling” approach to it.
4 For example, believing that EI can be measured is a “thinking” belief. EI can’t be measured, so that’s another belief to let go of. Of course, some people say that it can be measured but that is because
(a) either they want it to be true, they can’t bear for something important to them not be measurable. There is the phrase “what can’t be measured can’t be managed”. It’s simply not true.
(b) and/or they want to make some money from it so they deceive people, particularly business people, into thinking that it can be measured.
5 Or, again, using a left/right brain analogy is an indication of a thinking approach. It doesn’t help that simple analogies like this (“either left brain or right brain”) were disproved decades ago. So, try letting go of this one, too, because it can’t be an explanation of your difficulty.
6 You say, “I am trying to work on empathy during a discussion”. Now, if I ask you, right now as you’re reading this, to try to pick up an object that’s close to hand, maybe a pen or something, you’ll pick it up. Obvious. It’s easy.
Except that I didn’t ask you to “pick up an object”, I asked you to “try to pick up an object”. Trying to do something and doing it aren’t the same thing. Trying to do something is near-impossible (of course, you can pretend to be trying, but that’s not it either).
So, say instead, “I am working on empathy during a discussion”.
7 But, I am going to be even more picky about the words. “Working on empathy” and “being empathetic” aren’t the same thing either. Turning what is a natural capacity we all have into a job of work is bound to make it harder!
Pregnancy is an on/off condition. You’re either pregnant or you’re not. (Well, obviously, you’re never going to be pregnant, but you get my drift, I hope.) Empathy isn’t like that. It’s a continuum.
Sure, you could be more empathetic (couldn’t we all?). But say, “I intend to be more empathetic during discussions”. Set an intention, and leave it right at the back of your mind, where you hardly notice it.
8 “I was trying hard to understand the emotions of the others while trying to counter the argument.” It is a classic symptom of poor communication that we don’t listen to the other person when they are talking, or just being there. Often that’s because we are preparing our answer to what we think they are saying.
So, my recommendation on this one is, “stop it!” Give the other person your full attention, intellectually, emotionally, intuitively—spiritually, if you like that sort of thing. When they’ve stopped, it’s your turn. And don’t be frightened of pauses.
I hope you don’t think I have been too hard on you. My intention is exactly the opposite. By showing you, a thinking person, that most of your difficulties arise from the way you think about the difficulties, all I am suggesting is you think about them differently.
9 To do this, the first question to ask yourself is, “what would it be more useful for me to believe?”. Then, act as if that belief were true until you discover it isn’t (if that ever happens).
Now, if you decide that a more useful belief is to ride to work on a horse every day, well, that probably won’t work.
For want of anything better, you might try some of my suggestions. They’re made in good faith, after all. However, you won’t know if they’re useful to you unless you try them.
Finally, don’t make such a big deal of it. EI is only a part of your personality. It’s about being a rounded individual.
[Incidentally, the reference to “stop it!” is from this amusing video]
by Jeremy Marchant