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Whose Fault Was It?

I thought we had a call scheduled for 10 a.m. today,' the client was telling me, with irritation in her voice. A client working on emotional intelligence, she was truly 'showing her stuff.'

She was making me feel like an idiot, and also making me mad.

I had it down for 9 a.m.,' I said, 'but I could - ve been wrong. Anyway, I'm glad we've connected. I have time now, do you? We can get to work.'


It was at 10 a.m.,' the client replied, digging in for the long haul. I was about to start earning my money.

I train people in Emotional Intelligence, so this was both an 'ah hah' moment for me, and an 'ug.' 'Ah hah' as the coach 'I was experiencing in real time one of the things that's holding this client back. And 'ug' as a person, because I was experiencing in real time what's holding this client back.

No matter how far we move toward mastering EQ, we never get rid of those negative emotions, BTW. (The 'ug - .) It's a matter of getting information from them. So I note them, and consider what my response will be, if any. EQ is about choices.

What's the 'ug' about? I knew we'd be wasting time and energy while this client attempted to (1) figure out whose fault it was, and I had a feeling (intuition) she needed it to be MINE; and (2) get her feelings affirmed that she had been wronged. And I had the feeling (confirmed), that she was going to be a bulldog about it. Nothing short of someone's head on a platter would do!

The 'ah hah' was that she was inducing in me the same feelings she induced in the people she worked with, so I had one explanation as to why she got passed over for raises and promotions, and why she had been called 'difficult.' Now 'difficult' had a face.

Areas of low EQ had shown up on her assessment, the EQ Map (, but I was glad to see her playing them out, because then I could help her get unstuck.

Fast forward 5-10 minutes; it seemed like an eternity to me! She has gone over the details, using practically the same words each time, beginning to hammer at me that I admit it's my fault.

I'm sorry to say I have her email stating the time I had written down, so there it is in black and white, and ultimately I produce it as we discuss her rigidity and need to 'shame and blame' that's part of her problem at work (and at home, too, I suspect, because we don't leave ourselves either at the office, or at home 'we go with us!).

Nor does she handle that well. Constructive discontent, an EQ competency, is decidedly lacking.

Her office environment is team-oriented, as many are today. The more work becomes team-oriented, the more tempting it is to start the 'blame and shame' game, and there is hardly anything more destructive to team work. Some people who are excellent working on their own, fall completely flat in the group environment.

She's bright and good in her field, and has previously worked independently. She refers to her team-mates as 'holding me back,' and finds working with a team to be a strain. I imagine it is for her team as well, because her interpersonal skills are so low, and when she feels pressured, she becomes rigid and they get worse.

Just getting rid of someone whose behavior is bugging you is the way teams get destroyed,' says David Schmaltz, author of 'The Blind man and the Elephant, Mastering Project Work.' 'On really high-performing teams, people don't waste time obsessing over who did what. For better or worse, the whole team did it.'

My initial statement is that 'we' had a miscommunication; it doesn't matter where it originated, we are now together and can proceed.

When I proceed with coaching, and become 'curious' and ask her why she has spent 10 minutes talking about this, she comes on strong 'proud of what she's done.

I'm very punctual,' she says, 'and a stickler for details. A perfectionist. I believe in doing things right. If we were supposed to call at 'we need to know where the problem is 'you need to 'I didn't 'you should - ve 'I was right.' she goes on and on, typically proud, even arrogant about the very trait that's causing her so much trouble.

I listen until she's through talking and then ask the coaching question: 'And how has this been working for you?'

I've never asked this question and found the client to lack insight at that point. It's a matter of tact and timing.

Emotional Intelligence starts with self-awareness, and we need to know how we're coming across to others.
So how do you improve your Emotional Intelligence? The good news is it can be learned. Take an EQ assessment (, take The EQ Foundation Course', and work with a certified EQ coach.

These are social and emotional skills, so you can't JUST read about them. You need to put them into practice, and work with someone who can give you good feedback. Group work is also good. I have interactive group teleclasses for this purpose.

The benefits to developing your EQ are immediate, and also long-term. They're well worth the time to learn. EQ matters more to your success and happiness in career and relationships than IQ. It's especially effective if a project team, partnership, or entire office, all participate. Then there's a common vocabulary and a common culture.

In today's multicultural work environment, where there can be people from many different nationalities, ethnic backgrounds and ages, parts of the country or parts of the world in one office 'and the same for clients and customers. One person's culture may be affiliative and chatty; another's competitive and brusque. One may be strong in work ethic, another relaxed about deadlines. One hierarchical, another lateral.

Where's the common culture? How on earth can we tell where we're coming from? In training EQ coaches from around the world (and there is global excitement about this), I would say it's Emotional Intelligence. It makes immediate sense to everyone who studies it. There's a lot of 'Oh that,' which happens when something is well-explained. It becomes obvious. After all, emotions are the common language we share with everyone else on this planet.

In this case, it may well have been 'my' fault, or 'her' fault, but whose fault is it when someone becomes offended or shocked when they're kissed on both cheeks rather than greeted with a handshake? When one person considers a contract the end of the discussion, and the other person considers it the beginning of a very LONG discussion? When in the culture of the country you're dealing with, the head person never talks, his assistant does, and you blow it completely?

It takes a lot of understanding these days. EQ increases our ability to understand one another, and therefore to get along, and therefore to work together well and to accomplish great things.

About the Author
Susan Dunn, MA Psychology, Emotional Intelligence Coach, I help people become better communicators and develop their emotional intelligence through coaching, Internet courses and ebooks. Susan is the author of "Nonverbal Communication."

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