I grew up in societies and cultures that were deeply judgmental. During the first decade of my life, I lived in Germany, where racism was present in society. As a kid, I had no idea that racism was a manifestation of judgment.
Looking back on my childhood in Germany, I remember that displaying emotions was viewed as a sign of weakness. You were considered to be “strong” by concealing your feelings. The phrase “men don’t cry” echoed in my ears, whether from my soccer coaches, at school, or elsewhere. As a result, I learned to be disciplined and logical, suppressing my emotions. It’s only now that I realize it is against our human nature.
At the age of 10, my parents made the decision to relocate to Turkey, aiming to immerse my sister (who was just 7 at the time) and me in Turkish culture. It was an interesting transition, and not an easy one. Turkey, in stark contrast to my previous experiences, placed a significant emphasis on appearances. Here, societal judgment revolved not around who you were as a person but rather on external factors: the brands you wore, the car you drove, the school you attended, and even the coffee shop where you met friends seemed to define your identity.
Walking the streets of Turkey, it was common to feel the weight of people’s judgments, as they assessed you based on their visual impressions. Over time, I came to understand that this emphasis on external appearances stemmed from a deeper place, a collective effort to compensate for insecurities. Remarkably, I found myself conditioned by the same cultural influences.
As a result of this cultural backdrop, my own values shifted. I developed a heightened appreciation for aesthetics and began paying more attention to visual aspects rather than nurturing the skill of becoming a good listener.
In 2012, as I made the permanent move to the United States, my judgmental tendencies reached their peak. I found myself in the midst of job interviews, but navigating these unfamiliar waters proved to be a challenge. The feedback I was receiving from the hiring teams was diplomatic yet clear: my approach came across as overly direct. It was their polite way of saying that I was too quick to judge and overly critical.
I struggled with fostering relationships in this new American culture. It was very different from what I had grown accustomed to. For instance, when someone shared a story about a problem, I often perceived it as exaggerated and immature. Instead of tuning into the emotions being conveyed, I took the story at face value and responded in my own way, lacking consideration for the emotional aspect. More often than not, I found myself unintentionally belittling the issues raised.
This approach had a clear impact. Many Americans I interacted with felt offended, some even threatened, by my indifferent and prejudiced demeanor. I began to realize that in American culture, emotions are not just accepted but cherished. People appreciate having their feelings acknowledged, and openness and informality are the norm.
Meanwhile, my own judgmental tendencies were still very much at play. I couldn’t help but tag and categorize people based on their appearance, clothing choices, and even their vulnerabilities. It was a bad habit that I needed to address, especially in a new cultural context.
At work, my coaches didn’t hesitate to point out that I needed to refine my communication style. I took their feedback seriously and set a personal goal to make improvements. However, it wasn’t until a particular day that I experienced a true “A-ha” moment.
In 2019, an unexpected opportunity arose when I was nominated for a leadership training program at work. Without knowing what I was getting myself into, I took the opportunity, delving into a diverse range of topics that encompassed everything from enhancing your executive presence to making strategic decisions. However, among all subjects, it was emotional intelligence (EQ) that truly resonated with me.
At that point, my knowledge of EQ was very limited; I knew it stood for emotional intelligence, and I had heard people mention it occasionally. Little did I realize that this topic would captivate my attention and transform my perspective. During the EQ training, I was fascinated by the trio that sizes up the whole person: IQ, EQ, and personality.
What truly captured my attention and continues to inspire me is the profound realization that, unlike IQ, which is often seen as fixed, emotional intelligence (EQ) is a dynamic skill that can be nurtured and refined with dedication over time. This insight eliminated any excuse for not developing my emotional intelligence, driving me to delve deeper into the subject, even during my personal time.
Are you familiar with Daniel Goleman? He’s a Harvard psychology professor renowned for his best-selling book on EQ, titled ‘Emotional Intelligence.’ In this book, he breaks down the topic into four distinct quadrants, which I found remarkably insightful. This breakdown offers valuable guidance, especially for beginners who may not have much prior knowledge on the subject. It was a real eye-opener for me at that time.
Self-awareness: This involves recognizing and understanding your own moods, emotions, and drives, as well as comprehending how they impact others.
Self-management: It relates to the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods, along with the capacity to suspend judgment and think before taking action.
Social awareness: This facet entails understanding the emotional states of other individuals and having the skill to interact with them based on their emotional reactions, showcasing empathy.
Relationship management: Proficiency in managing relationships and building networks, along with the ability to establish common ground and build rapport.
Understanding EQ’s four quadrants opened a new path for me. I realized that by honing my emotional intelligence, I could gain better control over my emotions, become more empathetic, build rapport faster, and even influence positive change in my personal and professional relationships.
Now, imagine that you have more clarity about your own thoughts and feelings. When you’ve got a handle on your own emotions, you naturally start noticing how others feel, making your empathy skills stronger. As you become the most empathetic person around, you’ll find it easier to connect with others and become a person who can inspire change. This transformation can boost your success both at work and in your personal relationships. Can you see how valuable that could be?
Emotional intelligence is like a muscle; when neglected, it atrophies, but with daily practice, it can transform you into an influential presence. Thanks to the leadership training program, I discovered the power of EQ, which has not only impacted my personal life but has also become a cornerstone of my coaching practice. In my coaching sessions, I create a safe space where judgment has no place, emphasizing self-awareness as the starting point for personal growth. By understanding and managing their emotions, my clients can regain control over their lives rather than being ruled by their emotions.
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