So, what’s emotional intelligence? Emotional Intelligence (EI) is defined as “The ability to perceive and express emotions, understand and reason with emotion, and regulate emotion in self and others.” Too often in sports and perhaps even at work or in personal relations, people are not in control of their emotions. Because they are not in control of their emotions, they cannot perceive the affect their emotions are having on others. When Phil Jackson was coaching the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, Dennis Rodman, who was known for being overly emotional, Coach Jackson said that he used Zen Buddhism to manage Dennis Rodman by giving up control. This willingness to let go is a form of emotion perception. He knew that if he got emotional, it would trigger even more of an emotional response from Rodman.
Arthur Ashe, the first black male player to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, was once asked how he dealt with a wrong call by a judge or unsportsmanlike conduct from an opposing player since he didn’t seem to show any emotion on the court. His response (paraphrased): I just refuse to shake their hand at the end of the match. How cool is that response? I wish more athletes would take this approach. This doesn’t mean we have to take all of the emotion and celebratory acts out of sports. I do enjoy watching Victor Cruz doing the salsa. Let’s just tone it down a little which may actually benefit the athlete more in the long run.
Remember Serena’s meltdown after a foot fault in the U.S. Open in 2009. Her tirade almost overshadows the fact that Kim Clijsters won. Was I the only one nervous when she got a foot fault in the 2013 finals on her to winning her 5th U.S. Open title? If she didn’t practice emotional intelligence in that moment, would she be champion today? Maybe not. What gets lost when athletes practice the opposite of emotional intelligence is their athletic artistry. Remember John McEnroe? When you think of John McEnroe, do you think of him as a tennis player first or as a yeller. I think the latter first.
Do your emotional outbursts precede you or misrepresent who you are?
A true test of emotional intelligence in the workplace is when you can carry out a plan by your supervisor or team when you don’t believe in it. When you have passionately advocated for your position to no avail, do you walk away in a huff or can you keep it together and give your best effort to another plan? This doesn’t mean that you cannot show disappointment. It is how you show that disappointment. When a former supervisor wanted to do something in a way she knew I disapproved of, her plan was to keep talking and talking to try to convince me otherwise. Finally, I said, “I’m never going to agree with your course of action versus the other proposals. But, it’s your call as the manager. I don’t have to do agree with your plan to enact it.” It didn’t violate any of my ethical values, so I was ok.
What would have been your course of action?