In the last two posts we’ve discussed two important ways we “move” or respond in our relationships: power and mindfulness (or knowing). The ‘power” response describes our ability to use our personal agency to take forward action. In the mindfulness response we step away from the situation in order to focus on “knowing” about the situation rather than reacting to it. There is a third movement or dimension called the heart dimension, or you can think of it as “love.” In the third response, heart or love, we show respect and regard for the other person involved in a situation. Like power and mindfulness, the heart dimension can operate not only in the positive zone (as described above) but also in the negative zone as well. My recent trip to India illustrates this well.
In an article published by Scientific American titled “The Dark Side of the Brain: Too Much Emotional Intelligence Is a Bad Thing,” the author suggests that “profound empathy” sometimes comes “at a price.” The suggestion is made that people with too much empathy are likely to be sidelined by stress more than those who do not have as much empathy. The author points to a Frankfurt study where students who were rated as having higher emotional intelligence (as determined by an empathy measure) also had higher levels of stress during an experiment (as measured by the level of cortisol in their saliva). While the study itself may be perfectly valid as far as it goes, there is a notable problem with the magazine article’s conclusion: the author equates emotional intelligence (EI) with empathy. This is a rather common mistake.
I am always in search of people who exemplify the convergence, synergy, balance, or integration of Power, Heart and Mindfulness—the three dimensions of emotionally intelligent people. These are the people who bring positive energy and productivity to every relationship they touch, whether the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the janitor at a local high school, your (favorite) uncle—or the First Lady of the United States. As a case in point, Michelle Obama’s emotional intelligence shines through admirably in her public speaking.
While watching the First Lady speak at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, I saw a woman who had the dynamic balance of Power, Heart and Mindfulness. I was not just listening to a good speech, but a good woman as well. Whether you are Democrat, Independent, or Republican, if you were listening, you had to know this in your gut. You might disagree with her politics, but she represents a minority of people who can find the relational sweet-spot at the intersection of power, heart and mindfulness. Continue reading “Michelle Obama’s Emotional Intelligence”