Practically Speaking…What’s This EQ About? And Does It Really Matter?

EQ (emotional intelligence) is how well we (and others) understand and manage emotions, as well has how well we establish and maintain relationships.

In our previous posts on EQ (Emotional Intelligence), we defined EQ and shared how EQ has impacted the bottom line for several of world’s largest companies. In this post, we’re going to focus the discussion on practical ways EQ can impact our everyday lives.

You’ve been a customer, right? At some point along the way, you’ve had something go wrong. The cable guy didn’t show up on time. Your expensive car repair didn’t fix the problem. Your flight got cancelled. Your food was cold or over cooked when it was served. A check bounced and you had to deal with the bank. You get the picture. We’ve all been there.

EQ has a lot to do with what happens next because, as we’ve previously learned, EQ is how well we (and others) understand and manage emotions…as well has how well we (and others) establish and maintain relationships.

Here’s how this can play out in a not-so-positive way. Let’s say your flight just got cancelled. It’s been a long day…you want to get home. You walk up to the service counter…the airline representative doesn’t even look up. Instead they mumble something under their breath as they continue looking at the computer screen. As you wait “patiently” to be recognized…you’re growing angrier by the second. You finally can’t take it anymore. You want service…and you want it now! Loud enough for everyone around to hear, you say, “Excuse me. Is it possible to get a little bit of service around here?” The reply is predictable. “Look! No one—including you—is going anywhere right now anyway…give me a minute for my computer to come back online. Then I’ll see what I can do.” From this point on, the interaction never recovers.

What just happened? Chances are this person has received extensive customer service training. They know what they should say or do…but they let their emotions get away from them. All their customer service skills go out the window. And be honest! You weren’t so innocent in the whole matter either. It was your “excuse me” comment that got the conversation off track from the beginning.

Here’s another situation to consider…one that plays out on roadways everywhere…and one that can have much more detrimental consequences.

Say you’re driving down the road when, out of nowhere, another car whizzes around you. You have to swerve to avoid a collision. Your heart rate quickens…your muscles tense…you grit your teeth and grip the steering wheel, white knuckled. You break out in a cold sweat. One thing is for sure. You’re so mad you can’t see straight. Nothing else matters except not letting the driver “get away” with it. You speed up…smiling…with thoughts of the other car in the ditch.

All the situations I’ve described have one thing in common. Each person involved, in their own way, suffered an EQ meltdown of sorts. They let their emotions get highjacked. Once highjacked…the encounter was on a fast track for an unproductive, maybe disastrous, outcome.

Does EQ matter? Absolutely! Can you relate? I bet you can. I know I can!

What are some lessons to be learned? There are several:

  • First. If you’re someone who’s involved in customer service training…recognize that having service skills is only part of the equation. It’s essential to help employees strengthen their EQ so that when emotionally-charged situations arise with customers, they have the EQ to turn those situations into wins instead of losses for your organization. We’d be happy to discuss more about this with you.
  • Second. Pay attention to what highjacks you emotionally. Awareness is the first step to managing your emotional reactions. When challenged, take some deep breaths…count to 10…smile and force yourself to make a positive comment…put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
  • Third. Think altruistic thoughts if you have a situation like the driver I described earlier. Maybe there’s a medical emergency. Maybe there’s something wrong with the car. (That really happens…it happened to me years ago.)
  • Fourth. EQ impacts our lives constantly. We can’t escape it. The better you understand and manage your emotions…the easier it will be to establish and maintain relationships with others. Often times, the difference comes down to responding with empathy not reacting on impulse.

A final thought! Last night, my husband and I watched the movie Up In The Air. George Clooney’s character flies around the country firing people on behalf of companies who are unwilling to face employees who are being laid off. Talk about EQ being put to the test! My heart ached for each person Clooney’s character fired.

There were several interesting ironies in the movie. Here’s one. Clooney’s character was incredibly successful in his job—firing people! Why? Because he never let the other person’s emotions, however raw or visceral, hijack him. He stayed in control of his emotions 100% of the time. His EQ was off the charts when it came to doing his job.

Try this experiment. Watch a movie or TV show. Observe the interactions between characters and how each handles emotionally-charged situations. Use these on-screen performances to build your own EQ awareness. I promise, there will be no shortage of demonstrations to draw on.

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