Emotional Intelligence (EQ) a concept first coined by Daniel Goleman, can be learnt and improved.
The biggest challenge in dealing with difficult situations is to first of all manage your own emotional reactions to them. It is easy to see the other person as difficult and to blame them for your uncomfortable feelings. Acknowledging and accepting your own feelings to yourself is an important first step to making a positive response to someone who you find challenging.
Adam Lanza the gunman who caused such carnage in Newtown Connecticut was a loner. It was difficult for people to show him empathy and difficult for him to receive it. But that is what he needed most from the ordinary people around him.
While changing the gun laws will restrict access to these lethal weapons and may reduce the number of incidents of shootings in America, changing the way we show empathy is a more sustainable way to change the hearts and minds of others and make the world a safe and peaceful place.
Alan did the first day of the TUF workshop and was sceptical about trying the idea of responding to the emotion when someone is upset. On the weekend between sessions he had parked his car across the driveway of the business next door to where he went shopping. When he came out the owner of the business was trying to get his vehicle in the driveway, past Alan’s car. He started shouting and swearing. Alan was taken aback at first. And then he remembered. Respond to the emotion. “I guess it must be pretty frustrating having people do this all the time. I’m really sorry.” He said to the irate business owner.
Alan was really surprised how quickly the guy cooled down. “It was almost instant,” he told me when we met for the second session. “I didn’t really believe it when you told us this last week but I can see that it really does work”.
The court case is continuing against Eric Smail, of Christchurch who murdered the tetraplegic friend he had been caring for over a number of years. Their relationship had become strained and Eric wasn’t coping.
A short time before the murder he was in the pub with some friends and had tried to tell them he was having difficulties with his friend. They just laughed it off and didn’t hear his distress. This made him feel worse and he murdered his friend that night.
A little snippet in the paper yesterday said Russell Crow had been excluded from a pub somewhere in England because he caused too much trouble. Russell caused difficulties once before when he threw a phone at the concierge in a New York hotel. At the time he said this is how we settle things where I come from (NZ). He has to have been misquoted, surely!
What can you do when people like Russell Crow nut-off and get upset. Sometimes there's not a lot you can do but hold your own dignity. It is worth acknowledging that you see they are upset. It can be helpful to apologise that they have been put out, or the service hasn't met their expectation. This is not accepting blame for what has happened. It is letting them know they are not alone with their feelings and distress.