I heard a great story one day while teaching Emotional Intelligence (EQ). A young man in my class said he had recently had a terrible all-day fight with his wife, and because their children were with them, they sat on opposite sides of the room and sent text messages to each other. At one point he sent a text so harsh, so angry, that he realized as soon as he hit the “send” button he could never take it back. The relationship would be harmed forever.
Then he look over and noticed his wife had fallen asleep on the couch. He crept over to her, grabbed her phone, and deleted the nasty message.
When I heard the story I thought, what a great opportunity! So often we wish we could re-write a scene in our lives but we don’t get the chance. So I started to make that an activity in my EQ material; I’d ask participants to tell stories in small groups about a time when emotions got the better of them and the results weren’t what they wanted, and then to choose one person’s story and re-write it, just as if they were screenwriters working on a movie.
The thing is, the activity works well with groups who already “get it.” I’ve been noticing lately how often people don’t.
When people are not already on board with the idea that EQ is as important or more important than IQ at work, I get a different result. People tell stories about the last time they felt wronged by some jerk at work, rather than a time they made a mistake themselves. Everything is always the other guy’s fault in these stories. And one time someone said to me, “I don’t care if someone doesn’t like what I said or did. I’m not taking anything back, so if they don’t like it that’s their problem.”
The Hay Group, Dr. Daniel Goleman’s research and consulting group, found in a study of their clients that four in ten workers are unable to work cooperatively with their colleagues. Is it any wonder that so many change initiatives fail, that corporate cultures are lousy, that worker engagement is low in such organizations? And the first problem we must tackle is not teaching skills to improve EQ, but making the case that EQ is important to start with. As I often tell participants, it’s not about being “nice.” It’s about being effective. Are you getting the results you want from people? If not, the only thing you can change is your own behavior. Maybe you can’t really re-write a scene, but you can envision how to do it differently in the future—and we can all learn from that.