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Emotional intelligence: What it can (and cannot) tell you

Because of something called emotional intelligence, human beings are able to identify emotions in others, discern one emotion from another, and name them appropriately.

In my work with couples, I notice that their emotional intelligence tends to bleed into unhelpful mind-reading and story-making.

One client I coach notices immediately when her partner “shuts down.”  He becomes quiet, emotionally withdrawn, and poker-faced.  Indeed, he really does shut down; her emotional intelligence is spot on.  However, what is inaccurate in my client’s observation, is her absolute certainty that he is quiet and emotionally withdrawn because he’s grown tired of her and is wishing he had stayed with his ex-girlfriend.

Fortunately, her partner happens to also be a client of mine.  He does not get quiet because his partner isn’t enough, or because he’s missing his old flame.  His mood is a direct result of his grappling with worthiness issues related to his financial success and masculinity.  His partner, being a successful entrepreneur, and ten years his senior, has a triggering effect on him.   Feelings of inferiority show up for him, and his response is to withdraw and shut down.

You may be able to spot an emotion in another…but that does not mean you know the reasons.  Before you react, take a pause and ask yourself, “I can see my partner is feeling ______, but do I really know for sure what it’s about?”

For more on this, review this past post.

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