by Susan Dunn, MA, EQ and Life Coach
What makes another person difficult? When we don’t understand where they’re coming from. They yell at us in an argument when we want to quietly reason; or they disengage when we want to talk it out. They say they want a vacation and then plan a full agenda while you it was sitting on a beach veging that you wanted. People don’t make sense. That makes them difficult.
The success of relationships depends how you deal with other person’s “difficultness.” You can learn some action-points (when X does Y, do Z), in which case you’re basically book-bound, or you can learn how to figure out what’s going on at a deeper level, so that you can apply your knowledge to myriad of situations you’ll be confronted with in real life that will never fit what you learned in book or seminar, with host of people you encounter, all of whom are difficult unless you have an identical twin.
I’ll admit I have an edge here. Not only because I study and teach emotional intelligence, but because I have an identical twin sister. Identical twins have same genes. We tend to think of genes in terms of physical things, and IQ, but they relate to EQ as well.
We’re aware that genes determine that X can be a great basketball player. He’s over 6’ tall and athletic. Genes also allow Y to be a physicist. She’s got an IQ over 150, conceptual ability and a knack for numbers.
However, in perhaps more important aspects of life, your personality and temperament, we’re talking about emotional workings of brain, or emotional brain. The neocortex is where we think, analyze and reason, and our IQ is largely determined at birth. The limbic brain is seat of emotions, and if people’s IQs vary, so does their EQ – how they work emotionally. But our EQs are not set at birth; we can always develop our emotional intelligence.
Our understanding of functioning of brain has escalated tremendously in past few years with new research tools. We can’t peer into brain and see cognitive intelligence, but we can see what happens when emotion happens in brain. For instance, brain scans show that emotional parts of a neglected orphan’s brain work differently than a “normal” baby’s, i.e., one that’s been well care for and had its emotional needs met.
That having been said, you aren’t likely to find someone who functions emotionally same way you do. Close with an identical twin, but even then there are fluctuating hormones and individual past experiences (“nurture”) which influence our emotional makeup. And it’s emotion that motivates all our behavior.
So accepting that no one else works quite way you do is beginning. The unhappiest people I know – and I’m a coach who works with people around EQ – are those who think world should be a certain way, way they think is right, and that they can’t be happy until everyone does it that way, their way. It’s almost easier to be with someone insensitive and not tuned in, than intense individual convinced they have a message for you, and you’d better listen up, right?
So what’s same about everyone, and what’s different? We all want pleasure, and to avoid pain. The catch is, we all use different means for getting pleasure and avoiding pain, and we each define concepts differently. That’s way to “relax,” Alison plays two sets of tennis, and Sharon goes to day spa.
If you want to figure someone else out, then, you need to move to meta level. We can understand “meta” better by examples than definitions. It comes from Greek “with, after, or among.” You can see problem already. It can also mean “change or transformation,” as in “metamorphosis,” changing shape, like caterpillar that becomes a butterfly. It also means “more comprehensive, or transcending,” and that’s what we’re after. (And in physics it means something else.)
Now in emotional intelligence, we work on applications: Learning facts or theory, and applying it to situations in your life non of which will ever have been covered in lesson in class, if you know what I mean. For instance, let’s take “people want pleasure and not pain”. Why, then, does Emily spend 14 hours a day at work and then pursue a graduate school program at night and on weekends? This would be your definition of “pain”. Emily has a different definition of “pleasure.” The plot thickens.