Do you know what it means to be truly intelligent?
Wait, don’t answer that yet.
I want you to think about that question as I share with you what happened to me yesterday.
Yesterday morning, as I excitedly ran into a nearby store to pick up my brand new cell phone (the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, in case you were wondering), I noticed a guy already inside of the store who was absolutely losing his mind over the fact that the charger for his new cell phone wasn’t working.
I can still hear his high-pitched whining now:
“This is bullshit! I paid $300 for this phone and I should get accessories that work! What in the hell is wrong with you and your shitty store? This is absolutely unbelievable! Why would you think that it’s okay to sell me faulty products?!”
Thankfully, it didn’t get as bad as this situation or else I would have jumped in and regulated with the quickness, but it was fascinating to watch this guy get so worked up about an issue that was so easily solved. I’m not kidding when I say that he was getting so red-faced and furious that it looked like either a heart-attack or an aneurysm was only moments away from happening.
During this guy’s crazed tirade, the customer service rep stayed amazingly calm, cool, and professional as he sincerely said, “I’m very sorry about that, sir. Somehow you must have gotten a faulty charger. Let me go to the back and replace it for you right away.”
Only at that point did this guy finally start to calm down a little bit and act like an adult, instead of like my 2-year old daughter after I turn off her favorite Dora the Explorer episode.
Minutes later as I walked to my car with my brand-new cell phone in hand, I couldn’t help but to wonder why people think that it’s okay to take out their anger on people who don’t deserve it.
It’s not like it was the customer service rep’s fault that the charger didn’t work. Mistakes happen. It’s a part of life.
After giving it some thought, I now know why the customer acted like that.
It’s because he’s not intelligent.
Luckily for him, just like his cell phone charger issue, it’s a problem that can be fixed.
The Intelligence That Really Matters
Is being truly intelligent solely about the number of degrees that a person has?
Is it about the amount how high a person’s IQ is?
Is it about how many consecutive times that a contestant has won on Jeopardy?
I used to believe that those were signs of people who are truly intelligent, but I don’t anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for book smarts–I come from a family of highly-educated people, but to be completely honest, I don’t place as much value on intellectual intelligence as I do on something else:
In its simplest terms, Emotional Intelligence refers to how in touch you are with your emotions and the emotions of others.
I can only speak for myself, but I think that it’s far more meaningful to have a solid grip on our emotions on a daily basis than it will ever be to have a college degree.
Honestly, what good is a Ph.D if you act like a toddler at the first sign of stress?
I’m sure that everyone reading this has had the misfortune of dealing with a person who consistently lets his/her emotions control him/her, instead of the other way around.
It’s the boss who is great to work for when she’s in a good mood, but when she’s having a bad day, she transforms into an emotionally-abusive bully.
It’s the husband who consistently takes out his frustrations at the office on the people who deserve his anger the least (aka, his wife and kids.)
It’s the customer who makes a habit of screaming at customer service reps–and usually, the customer’s targets are the reps who are in no way responsible for the problem that he/she is currently having with the company.
It’s the person who constantly loses his temper at the drop of a hat.
These people are not emotionally intelligent. There’s no need to sugar coat this fact.
I believe that true long-lasting happiness will continue to elude these folks until they learn to how to become emotionally intelligent.
Unfortunately, besides being unhappy, there may be an even worse consequence for them than that.
The Cost of Not Becoming Emotionally Intelligent
The benefits of having a high emotional intelligence are almost too numerous to mention:
Better interpersonal relationships. More professional success. Enhanced conflict resolution ability. Refined leadership skills. Overall better health (the negative effects on our overall body chemistry every time that we lose our temper are very real).
Not to mention, emotionally intelligent people possess one of the most powerful positivity traits in the world, too.
While that’s all 100% true, I want to talk about the other side of the coin.
In other words, we need to talk about the danger of not having emotional intelligence.
Simply put, people who lack emotional intelligence usually end up hurting people.
I’m not about talking hurting people physically (although sadly, that does happen in extreme cases), I’m specifically talking about hurting others emotionally.
These people use consistently use other people as their emotional dumping ground, and oftentimes, the people who are on the wrong end of their terrible treatment are people who don’t deserve it at all (not that anyone deserves to be someone’s emotional dumping ground, but you know what I mean.)
I have a lot of experience with this topic because I’ve spent plenty of time on both sides of this issue.
In my younger days, I was a total hot-head and whenever I had a bad day, I would reflexively take it out on my friends, my coworkers, and even my family members.
I seriously cringe just thinking about it.
On the other side, I’ve dealt with bosses, ex-girlfriends, and some people who are still currently in my life who make a habit of displacing their anger on me and other unsuspecting people in their lives on a frequent basis.
I can honestly say with complete confidence that every person I know with low emotional intelligence consistently hurts other people.
It might not happen intentionally, but it does happen.
Let’s be real–treating people like shit whenever we’re angry or having a bad day isn’t okay at all. In fact, it’s one of the most accurate signs of emotional immaturity.
This is why becoming emotionally intelligent is so important.
A person can be highly intelligent intellectually and still be the biggest soul-crushing asshat walking the face of the earth.
The same can’t be said for a highly emotionally intelligent person.
That’s why when it comes to positivity, this is the type of intelligence that’s worth mastering.
The Skill of Emotional Intelligence
The good news is that just like happiness, emotional intelligence is a skill that can be learned.
Just so there’s no confusion, emotional intelligence isn’t about suppressing our anger or frustration.
That’s equally as bad (maybe worse?) as letting our emotions run out of control, completely unchecked.
Emotional intelligence is all about expressing our anger and frustration in a healthy and mature manner.
Below are some tips that I’ve personally used that have helped me a ton:
The Six-Month Rule: When you’re getting really worked up about something, ask yourself: “will this really matter to me 6 months from now?” I can’t speak for everyone, but that question helps to put things into perspective in a hurry for me. I bet if the customer at the beginning of this post followed this rule, he would have saved himself from a lot of needless drama in the store yesterday.
Know Your Triggers: If you don’t know what type of things consistently set you off, you will always be at the mercy of those triggers. It took me a while to figure out what my triggers were, and more importantly, why they triggered me so easily. Once I was able to define them, they ceased to hold power over me.
Avoid Getting Hijacked: Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve lost your temper, completely blew up, and then you after you came to your senses you spent the rest of the day (or longer) apologizing for losing your mind? If so, that’s an “emotional hijacking.” The good news is that all emotional hijackings have warning signs. The key is to be aware of how our bodies respond when we get angry and then use a calming technique (my personal favorite is a deep breath through my nose) as soon as we feel that anger response starting. If you wait until you get hijacked, it’s way too late.
Meditate: Best. Stress. Reliever. EVER.
Own Your Feelings: The traffic on the way to work doesn’t “make you angry,” you make yourself feel angry. Your significant other calling you fat doesn’t “make you sad,” you make yourself feel sad. This one is definitely an advanced technique, but the realization that you are the one who is 100% in control of your emotions can be an absolutely life-changing revelation.
The Real Geniuses
I believe that the true geniuses in the world aren’t necessarily the people who have multiple degrees and can solve a Rubik’s cube while reciting the entire U.S. Constitution from memory.
The true geniuses are the people who have mastered the battle between their two ears like a boss.
The true geniuses are the people who refuse to use their loved ones as dumping ground whenever they have a bad day.
The true geniuses are the ones who can stay calm even when everyone around them are losing their minds.
The true geniuses are everyday people just like the customer service rep from the cell phone store yesterday.
In the end, we either control our emotions or they control us.
Given the options, there’s only one option that’s truly the smart choice.
Do you consider yourself to be emotionally intelligent? Do you have any tips to stay calm when you get angry or stressed out? Jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!