Gen X Takes on Emotional Intelligence

Multi colored question marks on black background

Gen X Takes on Emotional Intelligence

July 10, 2023
  • Human Resources
  • Innovation
  • Recruiting/Retention

This is a story about our team’s work with Emotional Intelligence (or call it EQ) and my experience with it. It’s an honest story and almost entirely true (except for the things I’m about to wildly overgeneralize).

For starters, being told to write a blog about the subject is a trippy experience for me as a member of Gen X. We are (wild generalization) not known for being particularly well-versed in the appropriate expression of emotions. Well, Drew Barrymore is pretty good at it now, and Paul Rudd seems chill, but a lot of the rest of us could use some work.

We were raised (generally) by parents who said, “You don’t need to like your job. Just find something that pays your bills.”* entered a workforce that instructed us to leave our emotions at the door and were just starting our careers when Daniel Goleman’s book “Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ” was published in 1995.

We joined a workforce just discovering the revolutionary concept that how we bring ourselves to work, the energy we carry, the way we express ourselves, and the feelings we’re trying to repress matter fundamentally to our success and the success of everyone around us.

Some of us worked so hard to use that new knowledge to keep the peace between our kids (Millenials and Gen Z) and our parents (the Boomers) that we skipped over what it meant to our careers. In other words, the “Forgotten Generation” went ahead and forgot ourselves. 

Maybe that’s why I was apprehensive (to put it mildly) when our team set a goal to examine our Emotional Intelligence. I know it’s not one of my strengths.

The plan was simple: we borrowed an Emotional Intelligence quiz from another department, took and scored the quiz independently, and then scheduled time to debrief the results together.

So, how DO you face the quizzing, the discussing, and the strategizing when you already know that you’ll come out of it with a lot of work to do? Do you give in to the fact that you’re slowly turning into Mr. Burns when you thought you were a cooler and smarter Homer Simpson? No! You apply what I insist on calling the “Vanilla Ice Strategy” and move forward knowing that if there’s a problem, Yo, I’ll solve it.

In the end, it turned out that, despite my Gen X tendencies to use movie quotes and song cues in place of human emotions, my score was comparable to the rest of the team. In fact, we all turned out to be relatively self-aware and at least able to identify when we should be regulating our emotions, even if we don’t always get it right.

The most helpful thing for me, though, was reflecting on the anxiety it caused me.

You see, one of my favorite pieces of logic has long been to watch what people hide because it tells you if they know the difference between right and wrong. Knowing that the idea of measuring my EQ and disclosing my results to the team gave me pause and told me that I had work to do before I even set pen to paper.

And what’s that work? 

For starters, it’s remembering that people can see me, specifically my facial expressions. Having never perfected a truly neutral-looking face, seeming neutral when it’s important to process and not choose a side takes conscious effort. That’s an effort I don’t always remember to put in.

Next is some internal work, including mindfulness strategies, to keep me grounded in the here and now and not spinning off to the worst-case scenario. Because you can bet that once I start imagining how wrong things can go, I can’t help but share that with anyone who will listen. And people don’t need all my baggage.

Thirdly, and maybe most important, to cultivate daily gratitude and bring it with me into my work. Sometimes, in the daily taskiness of things, I lose sight of the fact that my team and I get to create for a living. Something that didn’t exist when I woke up this morning will be dreamed up and made real by the time the sun sets tonight. If not by me, by someone close to me. How cool is that?

Are you interested in trying this kind of self-discovery on your team? 

*That’s not hyperbole. It’s an actual quote from my Dad.



Suzanne Campbell

About the Author: Suzanne Campbell is the Lead Creative & Band Champion on the Exclamation Marketing team and the self-proclaimed evangelist for Brand Voice. She’s picked up a lot of smart ideas from a lot of amazing people in her more than 23 years of experience and you can frequently hear them on the Awsomology podcast.