There is a great story in the late Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People book that I think is an important illustration of emotional intelligence.
A man attending his seminar complained to Covey that his wife kept calling him every hour to check on him.
He just could not seem to get her to be reasonable.
Curious, Covey asked him how they had met.
The man sheepishly said that he met her at another seminar and cheated on his ex-wife.
“You cannot talk yourself out of a problem you have acted yourself into” – were Covey’s wise words.
It is an idea I think about every once in a while.
I lead a discussion in our last classes of a programme at LORA, where we talk about how we want to measure our lives. Principles in this class are based on the book How To Measure Your Life by Prof Clay Christensen.
A few weeks ago in that last class, we were discussing our reactions to mistakes we have made in our lives.
Do we become defensive? Do we blame others? Do we manipulate situation and others so that it becomes about their fault and our reactions is a response to their actions? When do we take accountability and responsibility for our actions, at the outset or after heated debates?
The responses to these questions were all over the place.
After we heard from everyone, however, I did not have any intention for us to attempt to explain away the mistake.
It happened. It sucked. We learnt from it.
Not everything was going to be perfect. We are going to make mistakes and we will have to pick up the pieces and move on.
As with these things, I just hope we have a track record of action that far exceeds the one stumble.
And, besides, if we were going to right the issue in the future, we were going to do so by acting our way out of the problem.
“You cannot talk yourself out of a problem you have acted yourself into” is another way of saying “Don’t listen to what people say, watch what they do.”
You cannot defense argue yourself out of a situation you have acted yourself into.
Don’t listen to what people say, [Sometimes behind your back], watch what they do.
Politicians can say all sorts of rosy things, what matters is do they deliver.
People can like or retweet your status post, what matters is do they register.
The antidote to undesirable behavior is not talk, but desirable behaviour.
It is my belief that this understanding is a bedrock of emotional intelligence.
It is a lesson I have learnt through the years and is one I try to remember as I go about my days.