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EQ: It’s Arguably Everything

Athea Davis |
March 4, 2024

I remember hearing many years ago during multiple education training sessions, “Leave your emotions at the door.”  No one at the training session really questioned it back then, but I recall thinking, “Our emotions are a part of us. They can impact our cognition and our behavior. How do we simply leave them at the door?” It’s a false dichotomy. 

In the 1970s American feminists recognized another false dichotomy –  the personal and political. It became a feminist rallying cry, “the personal is political”. Feminists at the time said you couldn’t separate the two domains. In order to understand women’s inequality and inequities, they argued you had to understand women’s personal experiences within the social structures in which they lived and functioned. 

Emotions, emotional intelligence (EQ), and the social and power structures in which we work and live are akin to the 1970s feminist slogan, “the personal is political.” I’m not interested in arguing for or against feminist politics then or now. And whether you identify as a feminist or not, doesn’t really matter. That’s not the point. The point is that the slogan used by the feminists in the 1970s gives us a good analogy to understand EQ. They couldn’t separate personal issues from the political domain and vice versa because they are integrated. We are humans operating within human created systems with complex and multi-layered functions of cognition, emotion, and action. There’s no such thing as leaving emotions at the door when you enter the workplace, a classroom, or a meeting. 

Even on our best days when we can detach from our emotions and get the work done, teach the lesson, or have a decent conversation at a meeting the thread of emotions is running deeply through the background of these actions. At some point in these interactions, the calm and steady stream of emotions running in the background will have more of a heated presence and cause disruptions in our thinking, relating to others, and getting things done. 

At some point in these interactions, the calm and steady stream of emotions running in the background will have more of a heated presence and cause disruptions in our thinking, relating to others, and getting things done. 
At some point in these interactions, the calm and steady stream of emotions running in the background will have more of a heated presence and cause disruptions in our thinking, relating to others, and getting things done.

When you have to challenge someone’s assumptions on critical decisions and planning, advocate for yourself, set boundaries, work on a team with common objectives and goals, give or receive feedback, share your mistakes, get the job you want, pitch a new idea at work, deliver an impactful lesson, create partnerships within in community, tell a roommate or a partner or your own kids that how they’re operating within the lived space you share is working or not working, or leading a team to the finish line all require emotional intelligence. Our own emotional and mental states not only impact how we relate with others in the work we do, but also how we relate to ourselves and how we learn. 

EQ is arguably everything. I use the term arguably because while EQ is everything in a sense, other functions and factors are also vital to how we learn and relate like our cognition – conscious and unconscious, biology, environment, and the cultures and personal systems in which we are raised and live. 

I was recently listening to the Huberman Lab podcast. The host, Dr. Andrew Huberman had Dr. Kay Tye on his show talking about The Biology of Social Interactions and Emotions. It’s a great episode and I highly recommend it if you’re interested in learning more about the neuroscience of social interactions and loneliness. But there is a point in the conversation that kind of stopped me in my tracks. If I recall correctly, I was actually driving and made a mental note to listen to this part in the conversation several times and then finally took notes. 

Dr. Huberman asked Dr. Tye if she was aware if kids are being trained to be empathically attuned and have a healthy and robust theory of mind. Her response struck me because I didn’t anticipate this content in the conversation and as someone who is committed to social and emotional learning in schools, my ears perked up awaiting her response. I was ready either way – whether she was going to say these skills are a good thing and necessary or whether they don’t really matter and we’re wasting our time. She shared a personal story that matches the data that I know about that EQ matters and it impacts arguably everything. 

Dr. Huberman asked Dr. Tye if she was aware if kids are being trained to be empathically attuned and have a healthy and robust theory of mind.
Dr. Huberman asked Dr. Tye if she was aware if kids are being trained to be empathically attuned and have a healthy and robust theory of mind.

Dr. Tye mentioned that she’s a parent with kids in public school and as far as rating and accountability standards go she alluded that the school was rated “ok”, but what really seemed to resonate with her about her children’s public school is that they took a more whole child or holistic approach to education by teaching kids emotional regulation and being kind and considerate to others (EQ skills). “I think that’s actually really important…my kids will learn math when they need it and figure it out, then most of the things they learn they will forget and will have to relearn it again later. So the things you really need to learn no matter what you choose to do [in the world] are things like regulating your emotions and engaging others in a healthy and sustainable way. Those are the things that end up really mattering.”  (Click to check out that part of the conversation around 1:28:40). 

While the feminists argued in the 1970s that the “personal is political” as a way to break down a false dichotomy and shine light on how people, power, and systems work in an integrated web, EQ is much the same way as it relates to cognition and learning, and behavior and action and interrelating with self and others – the emotional is intellectual, it is behavioral, it is relational. It’s not separate from any of these functions. It’s integrated into these functions and the systems in which we live, learn, and work. Learning, knowing, and teaching kids EQ skills is not only arguably everything, it is everything.

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Athea Davis
Athea is a mindfulness educator, author, and podcaster helping students, educators, parents, & leaders de-stress for success.

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