From the moment we are born, we are taking in information and filing it away – everything from the way mom looks at us during a 2 a.m. feeding to the way we pick out a new shirt in a department store. Our content filter, that reservoir of knowledge critical to our survival, keeps all of this information filed away in clusters so we can make quick decisions, “I love that shirt” or “Eww, what are you wearing?!”
While this system is very efficient, is also very lazy. For example, the “I love this shirt” response is efficient, it quickly arrives at the decision. However, it does not take into consideration the price of the shirt or how much money we have to buy it.
Now, you can see where the lazy part can be a real problem. If we simply act upon “I love this shirt,” we end up with way too many shirts and not enough money. The same impulse that kept us from being eaten by a sabretooth tiger in prehistoric times will also cause us to own a closet full of shirts that we never wear. That is where emotional intelligence (commonly referred to as EQ) steps in to help us make better decisions.
Emotional intelligence is the space between receiving experiences and our logical brain having the opportunity to process the information to form a reasonable response. It involves a person's ability to comprehend what motivates themselves and others, manage their emotions and self-control, have empathy for others, and develop good interpersonal skills that allow them to better understand and work effectively with others.
People considered impulsive or who have impulsive tendencies often have a low EQ. Also, our EQ can be better (or worse) depending on the environment or situation. For example, some people may handle the stress of work better than the stress of home. They may be in a good mood and easygoing around their friends, but be stiff and impersonal in the office. This of all goes back to the content filter. Everyone has unique “triggers” that will make them act out of character.
Perhaps you have a rough unemotional exterior, except when you see a puppy dog. The dog triggers an emotion outside of your normal behavior. The better we become at understanding our triggers, the more we can begin to control them and provide more consistent responses regardless of the environment.
Millennials and EQ
So what does all of this have to do with millennials? In a word, everything! If you do a reasonable amount of research on millennials, you will find individuals with high EQs, which means that their generation is capable of even higher EQs. If you compare their average EQ score to the average baby boomer, you will find that the boomers have a much higher score. Now the question is, why? The answer is simple: experience. Baby boomers don't have higher EQs because they are boomers, they have higher EQs because they have more experience.
By comparison, if you were to study enough boomers, you would find cases of low EQ in their demographic. The key is every generation has people with below and above average EQ scores. Some people are nurtured through life to have a higher score and some are not.
If you could travel back to 1967 and test the boomers of today back then, you would find those same people had lower scores. EQ is like a muscle, it can strengthen or weaken with use and the proper training (or lack thereof).
Why EQ matters in insurance
Learning to read people, what they are feeling and their veracity is an important aspect of the claims process. Developing a stronger EQ affects our perceptions of a given situation.
Some may believe that millennials have lower EQ scores. Part of that involves differing perceptions of the world. Neither perception is right nor wrong; they are simply different. A strong EQ comes from a wide range of experiences and being open to looking at situations through a different lens.
We tend to look at the world and say, “my way is the best way,” and then we look for people who align with our feelings. This is commonly called the “mob mentality” and it is apparent everywhere from high school cliques and drug gangs, to political and religious affiliations.
Very rarely is there a hard absolute answer. Good people do bad things and bad people do good things. Depending on the act and the perception of “good” in the person, we will extol or criticize that person. Think of the last time someone you really like said or did something you did not approve of or condone. Depending on how much you like or dislike that person, and how much you approve or disapprove of the act, this will modify your content filter and shape your perception of that person.
Like the other generations, millennials will continue to develop their emotional intelligence as they gain more experience. They certainly do face challenges other generations did not, and they have different tools they can use to address them. Not better, not worse, just different.
Mike Shelah (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the founder of Mike Shelah Consulting. An admitted “LinkedIn geek,” he loves talking LinkedIn, sales and emotional intelligence to anyone who will listen.