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Mark B. Baer, Esq.


The Passion of Anger Can Be Used in a Constructive Manner

Emotional intelligence includes the courage to ruffle feathers and drive change.

On April 8, 2016, I read an article by TalentSmart titled About Emotional Intelligence. What everyone needs to know. The article stated in part as follows:

"​Emotional intelligence is the 'something' in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. Emotional intelligence is made up of four core skills that pair up under two primary competencies: personal competence and social competence.

Personal competence is made up of your self-awareness and self-management skills... [and] [s]ocial competence is made up of your social awareness and relationship management skills....

TalentSmart tested emotional intelligence alongside 33 other important workplace skills, and found that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs.

Your emotional intelligence is the foundation for a host of critical skills—it impacts most everything you say and do each day.

Of all the people we’ve studied at work, we’ve found that 90% of top performers are also high in emotional intelligence. On the flip side, just 20% of bottom performers are high in emotional intelligence. You can be a top performer without emotional intelligence, but the chances are slim. Naturally, people with a high degree of emotional intelligence make more money—an average of $29,000 more per year than people with a low degree of emotional intelligence. The link between emotional intelligence and earnings is so direct that every point increase in emotional intelligence adds $1,300 to an annual salary. These findings hold true for people in all industries, at all levels, in every region of the world. We haven’t yet been able to find a job in which performance and pay aren’t tied closely to emotional intelligence."

I've been aware of the value and importance of emotional intelligence for quite some time and have published a great deal on the subject and its elements, such as empathy. On December 1, 2016, I published one such article titled Beware of Criticizing Concepts You Don't Fully Understand. Shortly thereafter, Louie b Free shared the article on Twitter with the following comment: "This is a really important article and invited me as a guest on BrainFood from the Heartland - The Louie b.Free Radio Show. I accepted his invitation and we discussed empathy for approximately an hour.  

Meanwhile, the next day, someone sent me the following instant message through Facebook:

"Very powerful to hear you say in the radio interview what you've been typing. I have too many thoughts and questions that don't break down into sound bites. One I can say is it bothers me that I see/feel you as a Predator. Where do you see yourself? Wishing you a productive and satisfying day."

As you might imagine, I was offended to have been called a Predator, especially in conjunction with well wishes. After stating that I was incredibly disturbed that I came across in such a manner in the interview, she responded, "Mark, no your interview did not come across that way. Off the top of my head, I'd say the interview was very neutral." She then said that she felt anger in my Psychology Today blog titled Don't Fall for Political Propaganda. As she explained it, I come across as a Predator because I write and discuss "passionate emotionally charged issues."

Yet, when Suzanne Lake, Psy.D., editor of the San Gabriel Valley Psychological Association's newsletter, read the edited version of that blog which I had submitted for my Psychology and Family Law column, she commented as follows:

"There is so much passion in this piece that I surmise you have some personal experience with the misuse of the term ‘lifestyle.’ If there is something that you would feel comfortable putting in, I think it would make the article even more powerful!"

According to the dictionary, Predatory means "seeking to exploit or oppress others."

In his book Power through Collaboration: When to Collaborate, Negotiate, or Dominate, Stephen Willis, Ph.D. defines Predators as follows: 

"Predators: focus on their physical, financial, or emotional gain and survival at the expense of their prey's physical, financial, or emotional survival. They focus only on their own needs and goals with no regard for the consequences to others. They have no disposition or aspiration to collaborate. In cooperative endeavors they camouflage themselves, hid their intentions, and wait their opportunity to strike. Predators do participate in celebrating and praising the successes of others as part of their camouflage and to catch prey off guard."

It is ironic that this individual called me a Predator after listening to my radio interview which came about as a result of the publication of my article Beware of Criticizing Concepts You Don't Fully Understand. In this instance, however, it wasn't criticizing concepts that was the issue; rather, it was labeling someone or their behavior due to a misunderstanding of concepts. In fact, at one point, she said that I'm a "peacemaking predator. It's why you are so good at poking holes in faulty logic." In any event, she seemed completely oblivious to the fact that referring to someone as a Predator might not be well-received. 

According to Dr. Willis, "when the levels of the Collaboration Essentials are low between people, the usual and customary confusions, differences in viewpoints, inefficiencies, or errors become subject to less toleration."

The 6 Collaboration Essentials and their respective point values are: (1) Communication [1 point], (2) Understanding [2 points], (3) Competence [2 points], (4) Respect [3 points], (5) Trust [4 points], and (6) Safety [4 points].

Willis explains that "when the Collaboration Essentials of Trust and Safety are at high levels, the same problematic behaviors are accepted with understanding and worked with. For example, when people present a position and tweak their reasoning to defend or advance it, low levels of the Collaboration Essentials leads to competition, entrenched positions, escalating conflict, and erroneously depicting others as Predators — even when the most collaborative types and motivations are involved. In contrast, the same behavior accompanied by high levels of the Collaboration Essentials leads to increased communication, progress, and innovation."

Interestingly enough, in Emotional Intelligence Has 12 Elements. Which Do You Need to Work On?, Daniel Goleman and Richard E. Boyatzis discuss how people can overlook the value and importance of emotional intelligence by defining it "much too narrowly." They described the 12 elements as follows:

* Emotional self-awareness (a competency nested within the Self-Awareness domain)

* Emotional self-control (a competency nested within the Self-Management domain)

*Adaptability (a competency nested within the Self-Management domain)

* Achievement orientation (a competency nested within the Self-Management domain)

* Positive outlook (a competency nested within the Self-Management domain)

* Empathy (a competency nested within the Social Awareness domain)

* Organizational awareness (a competency nested within the Social Awareness domain)

* Influence (a competency nested within the Relationship Management domain)

* Coach and mentor (a competency nested within the Relationship Management domain)

* Conflict management (a competency nested within the Relationship Management domain) 

* Teamwork (a competency nested within the Relationship Management domain)

* Inspirational leadership (a competency nested within the Relationship Management domain)

Goleman and Boyatzis explain that emotional intelligence isn't only about "sociability, sensitivity, and likability", but also includes the ability to deliver difficult feedback to employees, the courage to ruffle feathers and drive change, the creativity to think outside the box."

They explain it as follows:

"[A person with] strength in conflict management would be skilled in giving people unpleasant feedback.... Bringing simmering issues to the surface goes to the core of conflict management....

And if [a person] were more inclined to influence, [they] would want to provide that difficult feedback as a way to lead [their] direct reports and help them grow. 

Similarly, if [a person] had developed [their] inspirational leadership competence, [they] would be more successful at driving change. A leader with this strength can articulate a vision or mission that resonates emotionally with both themselves and those they lead, which is a key ingredient in marshaling the motivation essential for going in a new direction. Indeed, several studies have found a strong association between EI, driving change, and visionary leadership....

In order to excel, leaders need to develop a balance of strengths across the suite of EI competencies. When they do that, excellent business results follow."

Now, remember, the individual who kept referring to me as a Predator said that I'm a "peacemaking predator. It's why you are so good at poking holes in faulty logic." Isn't she referring to "giving people unpleasant feedback.... Bringing simmering issues to the surface"? According to Goleman and Boyatzis, that's "the core of conflict management."

By defining emotional intelligence "much too narrowly", it's completely understandable that the levels of the Collaboration Essentials might be low between people.

Remember, I come across as a Predator to an individual who felt anger while reading or hearing me discuss "passionate emotionally charged issues."

In his book The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path, Robert E. Barron said the following:

"The passion of anger can be directed positively. This takes place, Thomas Aquinas tells us, when one seeks the righting of a wrong in an ordered and moderate way. Thus the person who is filled with righteous indignation (think of Jesus cleansing the Temple or railing against the scribes and Pharisees) experiences the passion of anger but under the discipline of justice....

But the sin of anger is the lust for vengeance untethered to reason. It is, not simply sensing the indignation of injustice, it is acting on this sensation disproportionately, allowing passion to cloud judgment. How easy would it have been for Martin Luther King to have surrendered to sinful anger, given the hatred that his people had lived through. Part of his genius and sanctity was precisely his stubborn connecting of his people's anger with a keen sense of transcendent justice.... King knew that passion without righteousness (the sin of anger) is a short road to both moral and political chaos."

As far as righteousness is concerned, empathy toward others is a precondition to an ethical and moral life. This may well explain why we are experiencing such moral and political chaos in our society today.


About the Author

Mark B. Baer, Esq. is a mediator, collaborative law practitioner, conflict resolution consultant, co-author of Putting Kids First in Divorce, and co-founder of Family Dynamics Assistance Center.