Monday, December 2, 2019

Appreciation and the lack thereof

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. —GK Chesterton
I started this blog entry after observing people with absolutely no manners; by that I mean, it never occurs to them to say 'please' or 'thank you'. I get that I am somewhat obsessed with manners. I was brought up with a mixture of French weird - "don't put your elbows on the table" and Irish country "anything goes" but with five siblings, all bets were off. We policed each other cruelly, not to improve manners but to impose some sort of hierarchy, but that translated into manners.

I wondered how you could get past teenage years without someone having drilled into you not only "don't talk with your mouth full", "don't smack when you are eating" but also the need to say please and thank you at the appropriate time and more important, to understand the idea behind these words, simple appreciation for what others do for you, no matter how small. More so when someone puts them self out to help you. It is irritating when you make room in traffic for other drivers without any acknowledgement, but so much worse when you really inconveniencing yourself for someone and get no thanks.

As I did some research I realized this was not so much a function of manners, but more a matter of emotional intelligence (EQ). The more I read, the more it made sense to me. One particular person I knew, let's call her Jane, displayed not only the above mentioned bad manners but many other traits which I discovered are associated with low EQ.

Jane frequently talked of a friend, she had many years ago, let's call her Mary; they were both stay-at-home moms and spent their days together, drinking coffee, shopping, laughing and generally enjoying each other's company. "What happened to Mary?" I asked, Jane replied "Her husband died and she was devastated; I stayed away from her after that because she was so boring about it". I was horrified, firstly that she would have so little sympathy for her friend, and second that she didn't see anything wrong in her response to her friend's tragedy and didn't feel the need to comfort her. Not exactly a "friend in need". I had a very hard time understanding how someone could be so callous.

I looked more closely at Jane's other behavioral traits and became aware of indications that this woman had absolutely no empathy at all. She frequently said things like "you are getting fat" without any understanding of not only how rude that is, but also how hurtful it is. The other interesting think I noticed is that she didn't feel deeply herself. Least of all gratitude. She felt entitled to everything she had and everything anyone did for her, and often it wasn't enough. She had no problem asking people to do things for her, without any thought to how it inconvenienced them; and without a please or thank you.

Definition of empathy from this article:
"Empathy is our ability to identify what someone else is thinking or feeling, and to respond to their thoughts and feelings with an appropriate emotion," writes Baron-Cohen. People who lack empathy see others as mere objects.
At the same time as I was noticing these qualities in my acquaintance - I can't call her my friend because she is incapable of meeting my definition of a friend, I was introduced to the theory of Emotional Intelligence through training at work. This led to my conclusion that Jane had very low EQ and lack of empathy was just one of the indicators.

This article describes the benefits of high EQ in the workplace:
  • Nearly 90% of top performers have a higher level of emotional intelligence.
  • Emotional intelligence accounts for 90% of career advancements when IQ and technical skills are roughly similar.
  • Emotional intelligence is responsible for 58% of your job performance.
According to this article other indicators of low EQ are:
  • Being argumentative
  • Oblivious to the feelings of others
  • Thinking others are overly sensitive
  • Refusing to listen to other points of view
  • Blaming others for mistakes
  • Inability to cope with emotionally-charged situations
  • Sudden emotional outbursts
  • Difficulty maintaining friendships
  • Lack of Empathy
This article is more specific about the qualities associated with high EQ:
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Empathy
  • Motivation
  • Social skill
Yes, Jane definitely has very low EQ and it comes as no surprise that there is a correlation between EQ and IQ, as described here. But even more interesting is that high EQ is considered more important that high IQ as a determinant of success - see this article.

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