In the previous (maiden) blog on EI, I introduced some initial ideas on this most important concept, emotional intelligence. If you remember, in the first article I featured Daniel Goleman’s four basic factors of EI: Self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness and relationship-management. Well I have another way to cut the EI pie, taken from my book (Follow the Yellow Brick Road: How to Change for the Better When Life Gives You Its Worst). It is also the subject matter of my new book coming out in 2014 and I am pleased to present it to you now.
Over a half-century ago Karen Horney, M.D. enhanced the psychological world with her book, Our Inner Conflicts. The now-classic book introduces the three primary ways people relationally move: we move toward, move against, or move away from others. Across the ocean in England—and independent of Dr. Horney—Wilfred Bion, M.D., used three different terms to describe how we emotionally “link” or connect to each other. He said that people interpersonally connect either through love, hate (Power) or knowing. Although the terms differ, in essence, these two psychoanalytic giants—independently of each other—identified the three fundamental ways in which we interpersonally move or connect to others.
Over the years, I have relied on these tripartite concepts to guide me as a therapist, a teacher and an organizational consultant. As I have worked with these concepts, I’ve gradually developed a model that I call the Interpersonal Triangle. The Interpersonal Triangle is strongly confirmed throughout psychological literature, as well as in other places such as systems theory, biology, organizational psychology, philosophy, religion, literature and even pop culture (too many to speak of in this article). But what does all this have to do with the Wizard of Oz?
Early in her journey Dorothy meets three companions—Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion. Each of these companions has some characteristic that is underdeveloped and in need of fulfillment. Remember Tin Man who cares about having a heart? He represents “love,” or “moving toward.” Lion, who battles for courage, represents “power,” or “moving-against.” Finally, Scarecrow, preoccupied with having a brain, symbolizes knowing, or “moving away”—mindfulness, if you may. Each of the movements can either be negative or positive in their impact, as we will soon see in the example below.
So what does this have to do with EI? I maintain that an “effective, mature and decent” human being is someone who relates to others in a dynamic yet flexible way, integrating the positive aspect of all three dimensions at the same time. And when we are not able to respond in a positive way in one or more of the dimensions, we are thrown out of kilter. Let me give you an example.
Mary owns her own small firm. Ever since she was a little girl she had a hard time with Tin Man. She believes that all the “touchy feely stuff” is a display of weakness. Because of that, she tends to overdo Scarecrow (being cold and distant) and Lion (being impatient and domineering). I was hired to help Mary find out why she was having such a difficult time retaining talent in her company. A quick (anonymous) survey of the employees, along with some personality testing, soon brought the answer clearly into focus.
Based on the feedback that I gave her, she reluctantly agreed to a series of coaching sessions (after all “needing” coaching—moving toward—is a sign of weakness). Based on the theory of the Interpersonal Triangle, we did not focus on her overdone cowardly Lion behaviors (her impatience and micro-management) nor did we consider her overdone Scarecrow (her cold disposition toward employees). Instead we focused on Tin Man–her least favorite dimension. At first we experimented with safe Tin Man behaviors; for example, giving compliments to employees who did a good job. Later we worked on more difficult Tin Man behaviors, like seeking input from the project managers on how to run a project.
Even though I focused mostly on Tin Man, my goal in this coaching assignment was to move her toward full positive functioning of ALL THREE of the characters. As she began to improve in her Tin Man behaviors, a wonderful thing began to happen. Not only did she begin to exhibit more positive Tin Man behaviors, which was most welcomed by all employees, BUT she no longer manifested the overdone negative LION and SCARECROW behaviors. Instead LION transformed into effective leadership and candor; and SCARECROW showed up more as wisdom and patience. Mary was learning to more effectively move through the three dimensions of her interpersonal world. She was exhibiting Goleman’s self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness and relationship-management. Mary had become more emotionally intelligent.
In this very brief introduction of the Interpersonal Triangle, it is enough here to raise awareness of the three ways we can relationally move—positively or negatively. And to know that if we are weak in one mode, we will go out-of-balance in the others—making us less effective in how we relate to and impact others. And when we find the “synergy” of all three we can move powerfully and effectively through the three dimensions of the interpersonal world.
Dorothy’s weakest link was Courageous Lion. When she finally found her mojo, she was able to pull the inner team together and melt herself a witch and fire a wizard (more to come on Wizards and Witches). Which character do you have the most trouble with in your life . . . as a manager, a parent, a spouse? (We are often different in different settings.) Don’t bother working on your weaknesses, work on the strengths that are underdeveloped and you will be more emotionally intelligent. And emotional intelligence is intelligence you can live with.