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Choices and Emotional Intelligence

By Daniel Bobinski

First you’re born, then you pay taxes, right? Wrong. You don’t have to pay taxes. Of course, if you don’t, you will experience consequences you might not like. For example, an acquaintance of mine spent a year in federal prison because he didn’t pay taxes for nearly a decade. Stated another way, he made a choice to skip paying taxes, and then he suffered unpleasant consequences because of his choice.

The point of my story is that first you’re born, then you have choices. One key to success is knowing the ripple effects of your available choices and then selecting the best available option. Some folks call this smart thinking. Others call it wisdom. Making good choices in how we manage ourselves and our relationships is part of good emotional intelligence.

In all of my classes and coaching, one phrase I have people memorize is, “Value the differences.” I do this because I want people to know they can make emotionally intelligent choices in their communications. By driving home the principle of valuing differences, people develop a mental mindset to look for how different strengths contribute to the team. One ripple effect of valuing differences in team members is that a team gets stronger.

Many of us need to make a conscious choice to value differences. Why? Because our human brains tend to be a bit tribal, which often results in criticizing differences. In other words, it’s human nature to associate with like-minded people and disassociate from those who hold differing views and values. This isn’t a universal truth nor is it necessarily a criticism, but it stands as a social norm more than we realize.

How might this look in the workplace? Let’s say a new employee gets hired because she has great skills, great experience and fresh ideas for how to approach problems. Everyone agrees she’s a great choice and is glad to have her on the team. But several months into her employment, a few folks on your team start criticizing the way she approaches problems. What was previously seen as a fresh approach is now viewed by some as rocking the boat.

If this team is not careful, they could easily split into two camps, each criticizing and not valuing the other.

In every workplace, co-workers have diverse behavioral and cognitive styles, as well as diverse beliefs and attitudes about things. To practice good emotional intelligence, we have some choices to make. First, we can choose to criticize differences. This is often a subconscious default, as it takes little effort to do this. The ripple effect is often a divided workplace.

Another choice is focusing on the value in people’s differences. By doing so, our minds start seeing connections and strengths we might not otherwise see. This leads to creative problem-solving and higher levels of efficiency and effectiveness. Another benefit is people looking for how each person’s strengths helps the team perform its mission.

Bottom line, first your born, then you have choices. And choosing to value differences is part of good emotional intelligence.


Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed. is a certified behavioral analyst, a best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. He loves working with teams and individuals to help them achieve workplace excellence. Reach Daniel through his website, www.MyWorkplaceExcellence.com.

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