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Q. After listening to your presentation on EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), I have been working on raising mine. It’s such an oxymoron: the more functional I become in my behaviors, the more quickly I seem to recognize dysfunctional behaviors around me, and I find that irritating. A year ago I wouldn’t even have noticed!

A. Genuine personal growth is like slowly removing blinders. You gradually tend to seemore, not less. You begin to catch yourself more quickly when you exhibit less-than-effective behaviors (e.g., taking things personally, jumping to conclusions, overreacting). Eventually you become your own therapist, in a sense, and move beyond simply recognizing these less-than-desirable behaviors; you avoid them. But when you cannot ignore them, you simply implement the 20:80 Rule to minimize the negative effect on you.

Some people even say, “It was easier when I was in denial.” Yes, you do see more. However, because you see more, you can always choose to see less, in some situations. That is, just because you are more alert to low-EQ behaviors in yourself and others, you do not need to address them in anyone but yourself. Recognizing low-EQ behaviors in others provides you with information that can be immensely helpful in setting and implementing your own personal boundaries, and in role-modeling higher-EQ behaviors.

As for becoming irritated: in my experience it’s a choice whether or not to become irritated by recognizing low-EQ behaviors in others. Irritation is often the outcome of unrealistic expectations—expectations that others are on a similar path to raise their EQ. Many are not, and that’s just the way it is. A realistic expectation for you is to exhibit high-EQ behaviors on a consistent basis rather than expecting that anyone else will. Sometimes when you give up unrealistic expectations, role-model high-EQ behaviors, and live the 20:80 Rule you can be a catalyst for positive change.