The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence

This year has seen the popularisation of a new topic in Emotional Intelligence, namely that it has a dark side.
For example in the 2 January 2014 edition of The Atlantic Adam Grant argues that if Emotional Intelligence is defined as the ability to recognize, understand, and manage emotions then Adolf Hitler, who spent years practicing his hand gestures and analyzing images of his movements allowed him to become an absolutely spellbinding public speaker, was one of its greatest practitioners.
According to Grant another proficient EQ expert is the founder of Body Shop, Anita Roddick She leverages emotions to inspire her employees to fundraise for charity. As Roddick explained, “Whenever we wanted to persuade our staff to support a particular project we always tried to break their hearts.” However, Roddick also encouraged employees to be strategic in the timing of their emotion expressions. In one case, after noticing that an employee often “breaks down in tears with frustration,” Roddick said it was acceptable to cry, but “I told her it has to be used. I said, ‘Here, cry at this point in the … meeting.”
Grant argues that as people hone their emotional skills, they become better at manipulating others. When you’re good at controlling your own emotions, you can disguise your true feelings. When you know what others are feeling, you can tug at their heartstrings and motivate them to act against their own best interests.  Emotional intelligence helps people disguise one set of emotions while expressing another for personal gain.  What is seen on Shakespeare’s stage is common in the offices and corridors of power.  For example ‘honest’ and ‘honesty’ appear 52 times in Othello, half of them used by Iago himself.  Iago is the master of the dark side of EQ as typified in his famous ironical quote where he explains what he will not do and why: “I will wear my heart upon my sleeve for daws to peck at; I am not what I am.” (Daws are jackdaws – a bird noted for thievery.)
More than two decades have passed since psychologists Peter Salovey at Yale and John Mayer at the University of New Hampshire introduced the concept of emotional intelligence in 1990. After Daniel Goleman popularized the idea in 1995, emotional intelligence became a desirable moral quality for most people as it was gradually realised that it is not always the best workers who receive raises and promotions but the workers with the best social and political skills.
However while EQ can be used to help, protect, and promote oneself and others, it can also be used to promote oneself at the cost of others. In its extreme form, EQ is sheer Machiavellianism – the art of socially manipulating others in order to achieve one’s own selfish ends.  Iago is wonderful example of this and so are corporate psychopaths.  Now there have been many recent studies that demonstrate the dominant people in group situations are often the best at deception.  Even more surprising for the researchers these people would openly admit that they would often (daily) engage in anti-social behaviour.
For those of us familiar with the seven Humm components none of this is a surprise.  A core emotional component of the Humm is the Hustler.  About 14% of the population have strong Hustler component which makes them opportunistic, shrewd, entrepreneurial, and charming. They quickly work out if you can help them succeed in life and will adopt Machiavellian strategies if they think you can.  do the deal or not. They’re also short-term – they want results now, or very soon. Promising an H a significant financial reward next year will probably not interest them. They are very loyal to their own families and team. But mostly they’re loyal to themselves and they will work hard to make sure they get what they believe they’re entitled to.  A personality with a high Hustler and high Normal will often be successful in life.  The combination of high Hustler and low Normal is generally a corporate psychopath.  I have blogged extensively about this topic and if you want to read some of them here is a list:
The Emotional Intelligence of a Psychopath
How do you recognise a corporate psychopath? Part 1
Recognising the Corporate Psychopath (Part II)
How common are corporate psychopaths in politics?
Is Kevin Rudd a ‘corporate psychopath’?


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Chris Golis - Author


"Put in a sales perspective, I loved your presentation! I got a lot from what you talked about and I will read your book."

Peter Morris, Executive Officer, Lomax Financial Group

Your presentation on 'Lifting your Level of Emotional Intelligence" to 10 CEOs scored an average 8.9 out of 10 for the topic and 8.5 for the presentation which is great. A couple of the attendees gave you a 10 out of 10, and the comments were:

- Great presentation. Very informative.

- Excellent presentation.

- made me think.

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