Stop Worrying About Your Lack of Emotional Intelligence
November 16, 2015

Stop Worrying About Your Lack of Emotional Intelligence

by Brian de Haaff

“It’s not a black and white world,” my boss told me. “There’s a lot of gray and you need to focus on it first if you want to get promoted here.” She was talking about feelings and my ability to understand them. She was talking about my emotional intelligence or perceived lack thereof. I took her words in and rejected them. Maybe my heart truly is a rocky abyss.

Maybe not.

Being aware of how your actions impact others is important, but should not drive your behavior. In a goal-oriented organization, achievement with integrity must come first — feelings second. Organizations have a purpose and it is not typically “playing house.”

So, it’s time to stop worrying about your emotional intelligence. It’s not what’s really holding you back from tremendous success.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is defined as a person’s ability to recognize and understand emotions (their own and others) and use that information to guide decision-making.

This concept first came about in the ’90s and has become more popular of late. Just run a search for emotional intelligence and you will find more than 15 million results. You can even take a test to find out your EQ or emotional intelligence quotient.

But I do not think emotional intelligence deserves all the attention it gets. Let’s get back to what’s fundamental.

There is no doubt that it is good to identify and control your own emotions and stay on an even keel when that is what is called for. We certainly should focus more on having empathy for others, and try to understand where others are coming from.

But new research is finding there is a flipside to emotional intelligence. Some people can become so adept at reading others’ emotions and controlling their own that relationships become more about adaptation than authenticity.

At Aha! we are growing fast. And when I speak with candidates every week, I do not worry about their ability to manipulate their emotions (and mine). I want to know who they really are. What do they believe in?

I think about whether they have the experience we are looking for and how motivated they are to be their best. I wonder whether they share our team’s core beliefs. I want to know whether they are passionate about what they do, driven by goals, and willing to work hard.

So, relax. Allow me to give you one less thing to worry about today. Stop fretting over how other people feel. We have.

Do not be overly concerned about your emotional intelligence. Instead, focus on yourself and the following traits and your own sustainable happiness will follow:

Are you genuine? We need more people who are willing to be themselves, whether they are a little quirky or shy. We work hard to reach our goals but we are also not afraid to share our true selves from time to time. We can celebrate our accomplishments and cheer each other on, and feel sadness when things do not go our way. Real people are not afraid to feel and express real emotions — regardless of how others react.

Are you with purpose? When you live your life with purpose, it changes everything, from the way you order your priorities to the way you treat others. People who have a vision for what they want to accomplish are not wandering aimlessly through life. They set a strategy and goals, and they are excited about the possibilities ahead. They do not worry about what others think of their chosen path.

Are you kind? Kindness still matters. That is why we look for people who will treat everyone with respect regardless of their position or station in life. They respect others as they do themselves, because it is the right thing to do, not because they worry what will happen if they misbehave. They also forgive others and move on easily when they are not treated with the same kindness themselves.

Are you responsive? The Responsive Method is a guiding principle of our company — that interactions with urgency are what move us forward. We need people who understand that achievement happens via action and that our customers and team members depend on rapid responses. By reacting quickly to requests, we demonstrate that we value the other person and what they need.

Do not get me wrong. I am all for collaboration and unity, but we should not be focusing on it as an end goal.

So, when emotional intelligence becomes more about getting along and making others feel good — I think it takes us farther away from being successful and building what matters.

Being true to ourselves. A sense of purpose. Kindness. And crazy hard work and responsiveness. These are the real gems we should be focusing on.

What is your take on emotional intelligence?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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