Questioning Assumptions on Emotional Intelligence

There is a lot of pop psychology, outdated science and just questionable assumptions in business circles, including quality thought. It is important for us to critically engage with this material.

The Repressive Politics of Emotional Intelligence” by Professor Merve Emre is a must read on the shaky underpinnings of emotional intelligence. I enjoyed this discussion of the problematic politics behind Goleman’s work. Professor Emre is also the author of The Personality Brokers, another important book that lays bare all the pseudoscience and problems behind the MBTI and other tests companies love so well.

Dave Snowden wrote last week on the Woozle Effect, which hits the issue right on the head. The Woozle effect is something we need to be very concerned about as concepts enter our practice.

I recommend reading both pieces, they fit nicely together.

Emotional Intelligence and Critical Thinking

Research from Tony Anderson and David James Robertson, outlined in The Conversation, suggests people with higher emotional intelligence can recognize misinformation better. 

There is growing evidence, including outlined above, that emotional intelligence has a huge impact of critical thinking. Emotional intelligence is the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.

The evidence indicates that emotional intelligence helps us navigate uncertainty by regulating the emotional turmoil from a decision and the stress around it and reduce tendency to fall to biases.

Emotional Intelligence aspects of social awareness and empathy further enlighten the decision maker’s situational awareness.

Photo by Marta Wave on


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Teaching Quality People to Listen

Been thinking a lot on what a training program around teaching people to listen and not to talk might look like and how it fits into a development program for quality professionals.

People in quality think a lot on how to make a reasoned argument, a good decision, to provide guidance, get their point across in meetings, persuade or coerce people to follow standards. This is understandable, but it has a cost. There is a fair amount of research out there that indicates that all too often when others are talking, we are getting ready to speak instead of listening.

I think we fail to listen because we are anxious about our own performance, concerned about being viewed as an expert, convinced that our ideas are better than others, comfortable in our expertise, or probably all of the above. As a result we get into conflicts that could be avoided, miss opportunities to advance the conversation, alienate people and diminish our teams’ effectiveness.

When we really listen we create the spaces to make quality decisions. Listening can be improved by these practices:

Ask expansive questions. Stay curious, build on other’s ideas are mantras I think most of us are familiar with. Suppress the urge to interrupt or dominate a conversation and concentrate on the implications of other people’s words. It is very easy for a quality professional to instantly leap to solving the problem, and we need to be able to give space. Focus on open-ended “what” and “how” questions, which encourage people to provide more information, reflect on the situation and feel more heard. Avoid yes-and-no questions which can kill dialogue.

Engage in “self-checks”. Be aware of one’s own tendencies and prepare with ways to identify they are happening and head them off. Doing this will surprisingly allow you to focus on the listener and not yourself moving beyond the words that are being said and being able to take in the speaker’s tone, body language, emotions and perspective, and the energy in the conversation.

Become comfortable with silence. This means communicating attentiveness and respect while you are silent.

Listening needs to be part of our core competencies, and unless we work on it, we don’t get better.