Good Advice

Emotional Intelligence

The last couple of days have been a very interesting opportunity for some serious reflection on how I deal internally with stress and criticism. I won’t go into huge detail as to why – suffice to say that my cage has been rattled quite unexpectedly and violently so, and I’m still trying to steady myself.

But at this point, after hearing a lot of things I never imagined were true and dealing with some folks who really, REALLY got under my skin – unintentionally, but nevertheless they did – and just dealing with a whole lot of generalized crap, I’ve been able to pause and suck in a few huge breaths, and think more clearly.

Dictionary.com describes emotional intelligence as “skill in perceiving, understanding, and managing emotions and feelings.” I don’t like the word “intelligence” in this context, because at first blush, the very phrase itself suggests that a low emotional intelligence level is something akin to being stupid, and I’m pretty sure that’s not true in most cases. And in my case, I see myself as someone who can perceive and understand the emotions of others very well, but oftentimes I don’t do so well in managing my own, and I definitely don’t think that makes me stupid. Not sure what it does make me, but unintelligent isn’t it!

Out of curiosity, I took one of those “About.com” quizzes I found in the Googledom to test my own “EI” score. Here are my results:

“Your results indicate an above average score on emotional intelligence.

People with a better than average score on emotional intelligence tend to be good at interpreting, understanding, and acting upon emotions. They are usually quite good at dealing with social or emotional conflicts, expressing their feelings, and dealing with emotional situations.

It’s important to remember that no matter how good your score is, there is always room to improve your emotional intelligence. Consider areas where you are not as strong and think of ways that you can learn and grow. Take stock of your strong points and find ways to continue to develop and apply these skills.”

Hmmm. Interesting, because given my somewhat visceral reaction to comments made about me and other people’s behavior, I would score myself somewhere in the vicinity of the toilet bowl.

Obviously, these sorts of Internet exercises must be taken with a grain of salt (or two). Filling out a 3-minute pop quiz on the web and interpreting the results as anything other than superficial is kind of like giving your very last dime to buy sand in the Sahara Desert. And unfortunately, that doesn’t bode too well for the reality of my score. But at least in this case, the quiz master’s follow-up advice seems pretty sound:

Consider areas where you are not as strong and think of ways that you can learn and grow.

This is where the pausing and the breathing comes in real handy. And the reflection.

So, ok – a few people said some things that really surprised and angered you, but didn’t necessarily attack you personally, so there’s really no reason to get on that boat. And then, someone irritated the crap out of  you and displayed rude behavior, but that’s not really your problem and it’s way over and done with now, so why are you insisting on replaying that tape over and over in your head? And oh – just because you made a mistake here doesn’t mean you will never get there.

And so on.

One of the benefits of getting older is that it becomes easier to see the value in stopping (or at least slowing) the out-of-control freight train that emotions can often emulate by forcing one’s thinking into an objective, outside-of-oneself framework. It’s sure as hell not easy, and I don’t have as good a grasp of that skill as I’d like, but I’ve had lots of scenarios lately just begging to use the practice. All the more emotional intelligence for me, right?

I’m thinking that, barring a tragic natural disaster or some other nuclear meltdown in my personal life, tomorrow will be a better day.

 

(And just in case you’re interested, you can take that quiz here.)

A Bit of Sage Advice

Always check your paint cans.

To wit:

Our kitchen has been in dire need of painting for a very long time, so I decided it was time to do so over the weekend. After some prep work on Saturday, we decided Sunday was The Big Day. We already had two gallon-sized cans of paint – I believe the color was “Honeysuckle Lilac Beige Dream” or something equally ridiculous and trendy. We’d had this paint for some time, since we’d actually intended to do this painting a few years ago.

Well, ok – seven years ago. Some decisions just shouldn’t be rushed, you know.

Anyway, Sunday came, and after taking the cans back to the big-box hardware store to have them re-shaken, ensuring they were still good (does house paint ever really go bad?) – we cracked open one of the cans and spent nearly four hours with brushes and rollers – a few walls and lots of ledges and crevices and tiny little strips next to door frames – some areas were a serious pain in the ass. Some areas we had to go over twice, which was an even bigger pain in the ass. But good tunes were on the radio, the weather outside was brilliant so the windows were open to beckon the fresh air, and it was getting done.

All the while, I was thinking to myself: Wow, this is really white.

And I kept thinking, as I painted and painted and wiped up dribbles and climbed up and down the step stool, about a million times it seemed. I didn’t think it was going to look quite this…white.

But I reasoned. Maybe it will be better when it dries.

You might already see where this is going.

We finished up, all sore and hungry and paint-splattered, totally ready to call it a day, and although everything was pretty darned white it looked nice. No problem – anything was better than the way it was, in any case. We could deal with it.

Now, we’d gone through one entire can of the paint. But there were still a few spots needing touching up. So pop went the other can, a bit more paint was poured, and back to work I went to cover those few renegade places, while the other half went out to the living room to watch a bit of the news.

After a few moments, it finally, slowly dawned on me that what I was now slathering on the walls was darker, definitely more beige – Honeysuckle Lilac Beige Dream, to be exact – than the paint we’d already spent the entire afternoon using – which was likely just good ol’ Base White. It wasn’t blaringly obvious, as if we’d just accidentally lost our minds with a can of Glossy Red Lipstick Flame Orchid, but it was noticeable. So, after a few choice strings of words left my mouth but still amazingly enough under my breath, the following exchange ensued between me (in the kitchen) and the husband (in the living room):

“Charles, I don’t think the paint in this can is the same color.”

There was barely a brief second of silence, and then –

“Oh yes it is!”

“Um, really – I don’t think so.”

“Yes, it is! The labels both have the same numbers and the same name on them.”

“I know, but seriously – come look at this!”

“Just let it dry for a while, ok? It’s fine.”

Ok, fine.

So I went downstairs to my office and futzed round on Facebook for a little while. When I went back to the kitchen, my heart sank straight to the bottom of my stomach faster than a brakeless bullet train down the side of Mt. Everest. But all I could do was laugh, except that I didn’t sound amused so much as a bit deranged.

“This isn’t good news, is it?” piped up the husband from the living room.

“Nope.” I said.

He finally came into the kitchen, looked at the spot I was pointing to, and uttered a single word beginning with “F” and ending with “K” at a relatively high pitch and volume.

Oh, yeah, baby…freakin’ Honeysuckle Lilac Beige Dream!!

Fortunately for us, it only took about an hour and a half to re-do everything, since we had a really nice base coat to work with.

So, now you know.