Maybe it’s the alignment of the stars. Maybe it’s the close-but-no-weo sense of summer coming. Maybe it’s the economic climate, the tension of the Democratic primary, or those frantic last days of the school year (how many fun events can you cram into two weeks?) that are making people testy.
Whatever it is, I’ve experienced a lot of people Behaving Badly over the last two weeks. Turf wars. Cover-ups to hide mistakes. Some blog action (in another forum) that consists of reactionary, bigoted downright mean ramblings. And I mean “mean.”
So the question arises: What’s the emotionally intelligent way to deal with people who are not emotionally intelligent?
The answer has primarily to do with flexibility.
So often when people are being jerks to us, our reaction is either to lash out and be jerks back or freeze. It’s the classic fight or flight response.
But the real beauty of cultivating emotional intelligence is that you become aware enough of your own feelings – and attuned enough to the behavior and feelings of others – that you can monitor your own response. That is, you develop a range of options for dealing with a range of behaviors.
E.g., with some people the best approach might be, “I felt humiliated when you criticized my work habits at the staff meeting yesterday. If you have concerns about how I do my job, I’d prefer you speak to me in person about them.”
That’s a great way to approach someone who’s pretty emotionally intelligent, respects the use of “I” statements, and believes in taking responsibility for one’s mistakes.
It may not be the wisest way to approach someone who, in the past, has taken your head off when you try to discuss issues. “Talking it out,” in other words, is constructive in some cases and just plain foolhardy in others. After all, who wants to have their head taken off?