Paul Butler | Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Paul Butler: Going the Extra Mile

We recently moved into a brand-new home and although we love the modern, contemporary architecture, we’re already noticing one of the design features that could cause neighborly challenges — the open-air balconies.  

In workplace terminology, one of our new neighbors seems to lack emotional intelligence (EQ). He exhibits an affinity for having long and loud telephone conversations late at night and in the wee hours even before the proverbial rooster crows. What makes matters worse, he thinks it necessary to have his conversational partner on speaker phone, so we all have to listen in stereo. The only saving grace is, they converse in a language we do not understand.  

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to manage both your own emotions and understand the emotions of people around you. There are five key elements to EQ: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.  

Is my new neighbor self-aware of his choices? Does he have empathy to those living right next door in these cozy Californian neighborhoods, or does he lack social skills? I’m not sure what psychologists, social scientists or even the homeowners association would make of all this — but what I do know is, emotional intelligence is not new. In fact, it’s as old as those hills I gaze across on what remains of the ranch that’s been carved up just for us and, soon to be, 26,000 other homeowners.  

The principle that is the solid rock on which the shifting sands of psychology and sociology sit is the timeless truth of the Golden Rule — to treat others in a way you would like to be treated. My parents innately understood this, too, when I remember them unveiling to me the radical notion, as a teenager, that there are people in the world other than me. Who knew? Clearly, though, my new neighbor doesn’t. 

Sadly, in today’s working world people seem to be encouraged, applauded and even empowered to, “just do you.” One of the recent best-selling business books was titled, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A (Flying Fig)” by author Mark Manson.  

OK, it wasn’t “flying fig,” but I’m sure you’ve heard of the book or can guess what the F-word is. Over 8 million copies have been sold. I wonder if the author is proud of his contribution to the increased lack of civility, common courtesy and bad manners we have to endure in most of today’s working world?  

Does not giving a fig help someone lead others better? How about working on a team? Is customer service enhanced by me caring less about the customer and instead just looking out for my own interests? 

I was aghast the first time I saw the crude book cover. It was stuck in my face and the face of a fellow passenger on a flight, when a business-type man sat plumply and proudly between us. He devoured the pages of his new DIY manual for his workplace. On the bright side, he did offer me his peanuts. 

The Good Book echoes the eternal key for emotional intelligence (EQ) — you know, that old-fashioned trait of considering others, when its gilded pages breathed out: “Don’t just look out for your own interests, but also the interests of others.” Like, perhaps helping your neighbors get a good night’s sleep by not shouting on your cellphone. Did I say that out loud? 

In a similar vein, a new business podcast has popped up out of nowhere that’s gaining traction titled, “My Truth.” The only problem is, what if your “truth” is in direct conflict with my “truth,” or worse, is not actually true?  

It seems to me that rather than feeding the beast of selfishness, we instead need to be starving it. When I consider the best leaders I ever worked for as an employee and now consult with, they thought more of others than themselves. When I consider the most effective workplace teams, they purposefully selected terms that serve each other, by speaking interdependently using words such as: “We,” “Us” and “Together.” As the old adage goes, “There’s no (letter) I in TEAM.” 

Whether we call it “common-sense” or “emotional intelligence” I do so hope I don’t see my new neighbor on his balcony reading Manson’s book, else I fear the figs may indeed begin to fly. 

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]. 

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