“Not education. Not experience. Not knowledge or intellectual horsepower. None of these serve as an adequate predictor as to why one person succeeds and another doesn’t.” This statement from Patrick Lencioni is referring to the idea that emotional intelligence (EQ) is the greatest predictor of success. The term EQ is relatively new in the past 30 years but the concept isn’t. It is the idea that by being aware of your own emotions and those of other people, we can interact more effectively and drive the results we want.

I learned this concept at work, but gained a much better understanding in the years that followed. On its face, it isn’t a major revelation. For instance, when someone is worked up that may not be the best time to present your new groundbreaking idea. However, I truly learned to appreciate it during our time in the hospital. On days when Rebecca was feeling down, I learned to focus on all the positive supportive gifts and cards she had received and that I had placed around her hospital room. Though I might have wanted to give her a pep talk and get her doing more physical therapy to improve her health and chances for transplant, I learned that maybe it would more productive if we focused on her comfort and state of mind.

Emotional intelligence consists of personal and social competencies. Personal competencies are both self-awareness and self-management.  So as I looked at the situation of Rebecca in her hospital bed I had to recognize that I was desperate to see her health improve and my tendency was to promote any efforts to build up her strength. The two things I REALLY wanted her to do consisted primarily of eating and physical therapy.

Social competencies on the other hand involves social awareness and relationship management skills. Much of the time what she wanted was to be more comfortable and to get some rest. With that context and 17 years together, I was in a decent position to recognize not only when she was growing concerned with something, but what might comfort her at the time. So, if she was emotionally exhausted and I wanted her to do PT I might make a deal that I’d rub her feet while she took a nap but then later that she would so some of her standing exercises. This recognition was key to developing a solution she would agree to.

As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t constantly push her to do her exercises or negotiate for them in every situation. If I did that she would have begun to see me primarily as that person. I also couldn’t only rub her feet if she would to PT in return, then every interaction would begin to become transactional. That is why the relationship management piece in my mind is the trickiest. The way we made it work was to put each other first and focus on all elements of the relationship. I needed to try to improve her day, better understand what she was feeling and going through, and even help her sort out her scattered sedation-impacted memory.

In the end, it tied into the idea that each day mattered, whether in the hospital or outside of it. That we weren’t looking for Rebecca to get better so we could live our lives, we were living them right then and there. The hospital can be an emotional place so there is no better place to practice emotional intelligence then right there in your room. Of course, none of this is groundbreaking, it’s kind of common sense. But some people get so caught up in achieving a goal that they lose that connection with the people involved. The investment of others is what makes the most challenging goals possible and why it’s no surprise that EQ is such a powerful predictor of success.