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What my dog taught me about EQ

dysfunction-eq-425Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is an interesting concept.  For those of you unfamiliar with the idea, it goes something like this…  We all have some level of baseline intelligence (IQ).  And IQ is a wonderful thing.  It is great for standardized tests and doing quantum physics in our head (if you like that sort of thing).  But at some point along the way, it became clear to many researchers and others alike that something was missing in the IQ story.  If IQ was so great, why didn’t folks with high IQs always and consistently ascend to the tops of societal ladders?  In fact, too many high IQ folks seemed unable to link their ideas to other’s needs or build the essential relationships necessary to mobilize a collective group.  They were intelligent but appeared isolated and awkward at times.  What was missing?  The notion of EQ was born.

EQ Defined

With countless definitions, emotional intelligence (EQ) is essentially one’s ability to effectively manage through the complexities of social interactions in order to not only survive but also to be productive.   Individuals with high EQ can read social cues well, have a degree of self awareness and have the ability to self-regulate so that they can achieve the optimal social outcome.  In addition, research has shown that EQ is a better predictor of long-term career success than IQ.  As one of my business school faculty colleagues likes to point out:

“If you continue to ascend in your career, at some point, you and all of your peers will have about the same levels of intelligence (IQ) – higher than average.  EQ will be the differentiator as to who continues to ascend and who doesn’t.”

So, to sum up, our brilliant physicist with bad body odor and is a poor tipper in restaurants could use a little more EQ if he or she wants to really change the world.  Got it.

emotionsBut I always felt like something was missing in the standard definitions of EQ.  Countless coaching clients of mine have had not only high IQ’s, but one could argue, they met the criteria of high EQ based on traditional definitions.  Put in a customer-facing situation, they were charming, asked the right questions and ultimately, met their customer’s needs strengthen both the relationship as well as getting results.  EQ alive and well.  But there was a problem.  When these same individuals were away from their customers and inside the four walls of their organizations, they weren’t so pleasant.  They might throw a temper tantrum during a meeting, roll their eyes at their boss or walk past the receptionist without even acknowledging his or her presence.  What was going on?

 

My Dog Ellie

Enter my dog, Ellie into our EQ story.  After years of pressuring their dad to get a dog, my kids finally won and we rescued this little brown puppy from the local Humane Society.  Nearly three years later, Ellie is an 80lb family favorite.  Out of curiosity, we did a mail away DNA test on Ellie.  The report came back that Ellie is pure boxer on one side of her family tree and on the other side is, well, a dog party.  An Australian cattle dog, a Rottweiler, a Chow Chow and an unknown party crasher were apparently invited to this DNA mixer.  Part guard dog and part herder, Ellie is wired to perform a particular job: know where her family is and keep the pack safely together at all times.

To add to the story, we recently moved into a new house.  The house and the yard is bigger.  This has made Ellie’s job harder.  Every day since the move she will patrol the house, looking for each of us.  One by one, she comes over to us, leans on us and nudges us with her nose to check that we are o.k.  Once we tell her we are good, she moves onto the next pack member.  And if we make eye contact during the exchange, she’ll lock eyes and wait for us to tell her what we want her to do.  Unlike other dogs I’ve had in the past, Ellie is not about her needs first.  Rather, she is about making sure we are o.k. and we don’t need her to do something for us.  When she is sure we are good, then she’ll play, but not a moment before.

The Missing EQ Ingredient

Why do I tell you this?  Because I believe Ellie possesses the missing ingredient to how we think about EQ.  Humor me for a moment.  Imagine a dot on a piece of paper and nothing else, just one lonely dot in the center of a blank piece of paper.  That dot represents a person with low EQ.  All that exists in that person’s mind is his or herself.  The universe revolves around him or her.  They wake up every day thinking about what they can do to make themselves happy.  They are the universe.   Now, draw a circle around the dot.  That represents someone with moderate EQ.  They see and care about the people in their immediate sphere of influence.  This could be just a handful of people, but there are people inside that circle nonetheless.  Maybe their list simply consists of their significant other, their best friend from college and their children and no one else (sorry mom and dad) or perhaps it is more extensive.  Regardless, there is a group of people that are “in” and everyone else is not.  Everyone else is of little consequence.  Now draw another circle around the first circle.  Make it big and wide.   That revised diagram represents a person with high EQ.  They not only consider their immediate sphere of influence (the people closest to him or her in the first circle), but they also consider all the people that they may have an impact on during the course of a given day, week month or even a year.  From the perspective of someone with high EQ, everyone inside both of their circles is a “customer.”  How do we know these people?  These people say hello
to the receptionist.  They hold doors open for the person coming behind them with heavy boxes.  They think to let others know where they are going to be when they aren’t in the office (or at home).  They consider other’s emotions, are self-aware and self-regulate in an exponential and systemic way.  We often call these people “considerate, thoughtful, team players, supportive, easy to work with, humble, etc…” The fact is, they possess and utilize high levels of EQ with everyone around them.  They see and hear the people around them.  Individuals with high EQ have a high degree of emotional peripheral vision.
My dog Ellie has emotional peripheral vision.  But, admittedly, her EQ circle is small.  It consists of her immediate pack, the five members of my family.  That’s about all she can handle.

We, however, are capable of much much more.

What about you?  How big are your circles?

Ellie

Ellie hard at work