Sometimes the best way to explain how something works is to give examples of when it doesn’t work.
Example: emotional intelligence. After many years of writing on the subject, I can share a series of tools and tricks that people can use to improve their emotional intelligence — often, very quickly.
But there’s also value in sharing examples of business leaders whose emotionally unintelligent actions brought them fame, and then saying, “Look what they did? Don’t try to do that.”
I’ve collected some of these examples below. But I hope we can agree on two points before we dive in.First, it might be easy to joke about these examples, but it’s better to think about what these famous leaders were trying to do, and theorize why a lack of emotional intelligence would have caused them to fall short. . Second, we will have to make some educated guesses about motivations. I’d rather assume they meant well, and maybe they got caught in not-particularly-good moments. You can decide for yourself.
With that, here are five clear, somewhat familiar examples of what not to do:
Mistake 1. Don’t use parallelism when looking for convergence.
This is a rule that sounds much more complicated than it is. It’s one of my favorites: look for ways to demonstrate convergence, not just parallel experiences.
Who better to illustrate than Vishal Garg, the CEO of Better.com, whose Zoom call to lay off 900 employees went viral in December for all the wrong reasons. (Video is embedded at the end of this section; go to about 0:26 and prepare to cringe.)
You may remember this. Before announcing the layoffs, Garg went into great detail about himself — especially how bad he felt about his decision. If we’re going to assume good intentions (but at least completely misguided), I think we have a handful of key learning points:First, expressing emotions can be good, but always look for convergence. Your goal should be to show that you feel the same as your audience, and for a similar reason: an emotional convergence. The counterpoint to that is to avoid parallelism – describing an unrelated experience that may have some tangential emotional similarity. That’s what Garg did here, by talking about how hard it was for him to fire people – in front of an audience made up of people who were victims of his decision. Finally, remember that sometimes there’s just nothing you can do to make an audience feel better. In that case, the best bet may be to just take the bandage off and get out of the way so they can feel what they need to feel.
Mistake #2. Don’t let your scruples interfere with your empathy.
A few years ago, Hilton’s president and CEO, Christopher Nassetta, spoke at a conference. In response to a moderator’s question, he said he “usually” doesn’t tip staff at hotels, not even Hilton hotels.
Controversy arose. I wrote about it. Then Nassetta turned off course and said he would tip “advanced” if he traveled for both work and personal reasons.
The takeaway? If we were cynical, we could say it’s something like: Don’t go onstage in front of an industry group and discourage people from rewarding your employees.
But I think the real lesson is the difference between advocating for something very reasonable (a compensation system in which hard-working people don’t have to rely on the free generosity of strangers), and expressing that advocacy in a way that involves risk. undermines the very people you want to help.
In other words, don’t let your scruples get in the way of people who need your empathy, especially if it’s your employees. They will surely notice, and they will not be happy.
Error #3. Don’t assume you agree on controversial issues.
This one hurts to share. Last year, a 7-year-old girl was shot and killed at a McDonald’s drive-through in Chicago. In texts with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, which came to light through a Freedom of Information Act petition, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski had written the following:
“ps tragic shootings last week, both yesterday in our restaurant and with Adam Toldeo [sic; a 13-year-old boy who had been shot to death by police]† In both, the parents abandoned those kids, which I know you can’t say. Even harder to fix.”
The most controversial line, which, as I wrote when it happened, showed a total lack of emotional intelligence, was “the parents abandoned those kids.”
When the reports were revealed, Kempczinski was pilloried for his “ignorant, racist and unacceptable” message (the critics’ words, not mine), while the Lightfoot spokesperson noted: “Victim shaming has no place in this conversation. ”
I think we can draw three lessons from this bad example.First, don’t assume an agreement. “What I know is something you can’t say,” admitted in writing that Lightfoot felt the same way. If she did, she obviously didn’t feel strong enough to say so publicly after the lyrics went public. Next, know your limitations. Honestly, I don’t know how Kempczinski could have really claimed insight here — or any way he could have thought sending this text message could help McDonald’s. Better not to say anything. Finally, remember your audience, plural. Yes, Kempczinski texted Lightfoot, but it doesn’t take much to predict that the mayor of one of America’s largest cities will come under a constant barrage of FOIA requests.
Much smarter to think ahead of time about how these words would sound to McDonald’s stakeholders, as they would almost inevitably be revealed.
Mistake No. 4. Don’t speak without thinking about how your word choices will sound to your audience.
Next: Jeff Bezos. Last summer, just after landing from his brief space trip, Bezos was widely mocked in his celebratory comments for a single sentence:
“I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you paid for all of this.”
Was it emotionally intelligent? Not really. But in context, I don’t think it’s as tone-deaf as it sounds. After living a lifelong dream of reaching space, I get the sense that Bezos is giving in to his emotions and wanting to thank everyone even remotely attached to the moment.
In his exuberant state, however, he violated what I think is really the cardinal rule of emotional intelligence: He didn’t give a damn about how his particular word choices would hit the ears of his audience.
Watch the 1 minute video below and you’ll see what I mean. Whatever people think about Bezos, in this case at least, it really seems in the context of thanking almost everyone else on planet Earth. The problem, of course, is that people don’t have time for context.
Emotionally intelligent people understand that, and whenever possible, they take a minute or two to think about how their words will sound before speaking.
5. Don’t let your emotions cause you to forget your audience.
Last, but certainly not least, we have to point out Martin Shkreli, the so-called ‘Pharma Bro’ and ‘the most hated CEO in America’.
The example that comes to mind is how Shkreli, after being convicted by federal court on charges of fraud that would eventually land him many years in prison, held a press conference in 2017 to declare that he was “elated” with the outcome, because the jury acquitted him of several other charges.
Being a lawyer myself, I was wondering at the time what the hell Shkreli and his lawyers were thinking, but I suspect it had to do with two things:Shkreli’s personal, emotional need to declare some victory in the matter, and forgetting or overlooking that at the time the main audience for Shkreli was not the general public; it was a single person: the judge who held his fate in her hands, and who had not yet pronounced sentence upon him.
I suspect Shkreli gave in to his emotions and probably later even realized it had been a mistake. I can’t ask him directly, though, because the judge eventually sentenced him to seven years in prison; much longer than the 12 to 18 months his lawyers had hoped, despite Shkreli’s speech outside the courthouse.
Emphasizing the positive
There are so many other examples that we could share here, but this article is quite long. If people find this helpful, I’ll follow up with a second edition.
That said, while negative examples like these are interesting, there’s also great utility in the kind of positive, prescriptive advice you can find in my free ebook, 9 Smart Habits of People of Very High Emotional Intelligence.
The bottom line? If you don’t remember anything else, remember (a) to pause before speaking, and (b) always think about how the words you are about to say are likely to end up on other people’s ears; not just how they make you feel because you said them.
Oh, and assume good intentions whenever possible.
Even if you end up thinking you’re being too charitable, I think you’ll learn much more useful lessons in the process.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not Inc.com’s.
This post People With High Emotional Intelligence Will Never Make These 5 Embarrassing Mistakes was original published at “https://www.inc.com/bill-murphy-jr/people-with-high-emotional-intelligence-will-never-make-these-5-embarrassing-mistakes.html”