EQ, Empathy, Oprah and Leadership



I am a fan of Oprah, more so as I unravel my (hopefully) constant evolution. She seems to have a knack for communicating things or asking questions that I am intrigued by, and she interviews people I would love to have coffee with. Yesterday I watched a small portion of her Super Soul Sunday series and she was interviewing Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and science journalist whose main focus has been in the area of Emotional Intelligence. Which is also an area of interest for me. 


I have studied, briefly, emotional intelligence, but I am curious about it how it can be used as a tool to better the workplace. 

Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, according to Psychology Today is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. Generally speaking it is comprised of three skills; emotional awareness, the ability to harness emotion, and the ability to manage emotion.  Basically, you are able to identify, understand, control, and use for good your emotions in any given situation. The second part of EQ is that you are also in tune with people around you, and can identify, understand and help them with what emotions they are experiencing. Sound easy? Not so much. 

Empathy is defined, simply, as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. (Merriam-Webster) It connects to EQ because you need empathy to have emotional intelligence. You need EQ to grasp what people around you are experiencing. And when I say around, I don’t only mean proximity, I mean involved with you in some capacity in some way over some medium.

Goleman talks about three types of empathy that are part of EQ.
1. Cognitive Empathy – helps you understand how the other person thinks.
2. Emotional Empathy – helps you feel what the other person feels.
3. Empathic Empathy – means we care about the other person. 

The Dalia Lama challenges us to strive for universal compassion, concern for everyone without exception. I’m sure you can see the hurdles presented by that, what about the people who have wronged you? Lied about you? Lied to you? Lied because of you? What about when you just don’t like someone, or the way they see the world, what they say, how they say it and when they say it out loud? What if you don’t feel like being caring and compassionate about everyone, all the time, what if it’s a lot of work, or worse yet what if it leaves no time or space for you? That’s right, empathic empathy trumps selfishness.  It all sounds very mature. The fact is that maturity is as much a choice as it is a phase influenced by chronology or biology. 

Can you see how having empathy, which supports EQ, is vital for your workplace and your workplace relationships? If the people around you can understand how you think, how you are feeling and express care and concern about you – would it be a great safe place to work? Would you grow as a person, and a professional? Would having that safe environment promote innovation, improve retention and reduce sick time? I think it could. 

Or the opposite where you have people who don’t care about you and use their knowledge or intuition of how you think or feel to better their own position? Which means you can never really relax because you never really know what the motive is or what might be used against you. And would that, could that, impair the quality of your work performance and limit your production and your efforts? I think it could. 

What am I saying?

I am saying that your EQ is based on how you measure up in each of the three kinds of empathy. I am saying that empathic empathy is a choice, and perhaps so are cognitive and emotional. I am saying that it takes maturity and selflessness to choose an improved and increase EQ. I am saying I love the idea of the Dalia Lama’s challenge for universal compassion, but also see the magnitude of that challenge. I am saying that your EQ has a direct impact on your workplace, your work product, and your work relationships. 

I am also saying that a leader’s EQ is a good indicator of his or her leadership success. Because if you aren’t in tune with your team, if you cannot understand what they are thinking, and feeling, and if you just don’t care about them, then that will show up in multiple ways in multiple situations, over and over again. They will be unsettled, unhappy, easily rattled, easily distracted, negative, constant complaining, and instigating conflict among your team for seemingly silly things. You up your game, they up their game. You improve your EQ, you teach them about EQ. You create safety, and you will see success. 

If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far. – Daniel Goleman

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