58. What do Boundaries have to do with Emotional Intelligence? A discussion about EQ, awareness, management, relationships, and boundaries
Mary: Let’s talk boundaries. I’m here with Patricia Ortega and we are discussing boundaries and emotional intelligence. Hey, Patricia.
Patricia: Hey, it’s good to be here today.
Mary: Thanks for coming. It’s so great to have you. Emotional intelligence. We’ve heard this lately. When you hear the word emotional intelligence as the expert here, what does that actually mean?
Patricia: Yeah. So emotional intelligence can be something that really feels intangible. I know I was talking to a client not too long ago. And, you know, we were talking about different skills to build and how to bridge a gap. And one of the skills that came up was an emotional skill, but they couldn’t quite put their finger on it. They’re like, I’m not sure why I’m not successful in this area, but I also don’t know what to do about it. And so to put you know, something a little bit more tangible to emotional intelligence, there’s actually two key facets to it. One is related to yourself and one is related to others. And within each of those, there’s two parts to them. With yourself, one of the pieces is self awareness. So how well do I know myself? And then that changes how you interact with the world around you. And the other part is how well do I manage myself? Now, this includes, you know, how do I manage my emotions when they do come up? How am I able to adapt or be flexible in new situations? How do I achieve outcomes? This involves the discipline and all of those things that come right, grit and motivation. And then also what is my outlook towards the areas around me? What’s my outlook towards my current situation and that type of thing. So that’s like self, self awareness, self management.
Now, the second part is that social and relational, right? So there’s social awareness and then the social relational management. So it’s very, very similar in the social awareness. It’s like, are you aware of the emotions of other people? And are you able to understand the dynamics of the group that you’re a part of? That’s the awareness piece and then you have the relationship piece, which is, you know, can you influence other people? Can you inspire others and lead them, even if you don’t have that official title and authority and many of us call this, one version of this is managing up, right? You don’t have the title, but you’ve got that savvy. There’s like something about your communication that influences your manager to change a behavior, make an improvement, change the way they interact with you. That’s all part of that relational management. And you also have things like conflict management, coaching, you know, teamwork, collaboration. Those are all part of that social management side of the emotional intelligence. So that’s how I would break that down.
Mary: Thank you so much for that breakdown. I really appreciate it. And why do we need emotional intelligence. How is this relevant to kind of the world around us?
Patricia: Yeah, this is a great question. I think for a long time, emotions were not at the forefront of the marketplace in the workforce. It was very kind of bottom dollar oriented because we had very different motivators. You know, if you look at prior generations, the motivator was I need a paycheck and I need to stay in the same job for 20 years, 30 years for my entire career. And now that we’re changing positions every two years, a lot of companies are now thinking, okay, well, why are people changing positions every two years? There’s a lot of different reasons for that. But part of it is that we are now in a place where we’re not as dependent on the income and the stability. We’re much more flexible, much more agile. And so now we want something above and beyond income and stability and your compensation package. And so that’s really revolves around culture, positivity, having a place where when you show up at work, you feel like they are encouraging you and challenging you to be a better person, not just to get the work done and to clock in and out.
And I think that’s the reason why it’s so important from a company perspective. But when you turn around and you think, okay, well, that’s nice for the company, but what about for me, if I’m a candidate, if I’m an employee. The reason why it’s so, so important is I believe it’s Harvard Business Review, I’ll have to look it up. But there was a study that was done, and I think there’s multiple at this point that proves that high IQ is not actually an indicator of success. In fact, high EQ is what far surpasses IQ as an indicator of success, meaning you don’t have to be the sharpest tool in the toolbox, but you do have to get along with people and have a positive outlook and be able to influence the people around you. And that starts with knowing yourself first.
Mary: I love it. Awesome. How did you get into talking about emotional intelligence?
Patricia: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, if we were to go way back, right? I’m not going to go as far back as when I came into this world, but I will kind of give you a little bit of a background. So my mom suffers from schizophrenia. And so there was just so much chaos in the home and just a lot of, you know, depression, anxiety, like all of these issues. And as I was making those decisions that we all make about our career, one of the pieces that I knew I wanted to focus on is just to kind of understand like the human mind a little bit more. So that was part of it. And I didn’t know anything about emotional intelligence back then. I just thought I’m trying to figure out how people, like how these things happen. But I also had a lot of baggage. Like, let’s be honest. We all carry some baggage and I had a lot of baggage. And so I went into this interview, this, you know, well suited up, older man with a deep voice who’s like the vice president of student affairs. Right? So he interviews me and I fall apart. I just completely start crying at the very first question. This is one of my first professional positions. And I left that interview, obviously I didn’t get the job, spoiler alert, but I left that interview and I go into the elevator and I remember thinking, I will never be able to get out of survival mode unless I’m able to advocate for myself in a career context.
And so between that kind of, I want to understand the emotional side of things to I want to be able to advocate for myself and have career savvy. I ended up going and getting a master’s degree in counseling and then focused in like career counseling, higher education counseling, like just everything around growth mindset, mental toughness, grit, and all of that. And in that is where I started to learn about these emotional competencies, really emotional intelligences. And that’s when the light bulb went off of, you know, if I can really, truly connect human to human with another person that makes anything in this world possible. And I think that’s where I got really excited about emotional intelligence.
Mary: I love it. I love it. And let’s talk about emotional intelligence and how it relates to boundaries. What are your thoughts about how boundaries play, interact with this idea of emotional intelligence?
Patricia: imagine boundaries, right, if it was like yourself and others, right? As you know, boundaries is that line between the two, right? How I perceive myself, how I, you know, interact with myself really. And then there’s kind of how I interact with others. And it’s, there’s this like in my mind, right, there’s this like invisible bubble, right? Where oftentimes the first person who breaks the boundary is not the other person. Oftentimes, the first person who breaks the boundary is us. We tend to put ourselves in the backseat, or we tend to inadvertently give someone else permission to come into our space or to break our boundaries because maybe we’re not clear on what those boundaries are, or maybe we didn’t have those boundaries modeled for us, or maybe there’s this deep internal need that we are hoping to get fulfilled and we think that by letting someone into those boundaries we’re gonna be able to exchange that need for that kind of, you know, breaking of the boundary. And for me having that emotional intelligence and when I talk to clients, it’s always been let’s start with your level of self awareness, who are you? Like who do you believe that you are? Who do you desire to be? And is there a gap there? And let’s figure out if there is and why there is a gap and how to fill that gap so that we are the person we intend to be and in being that person, we just feel more whole right? To where we don’t need to exchange what’s within our boundaries for something that we feel that we need on the outside of that.
Mary: Hmm. Interesting. So the self awareness piece when I’m working with clients and we’re talking about boundaries, it’s kind of the foundation is about self esteem, right? How I think and feel about myself. And then once we set that foundation of increasing or becoming more aware of our self esteem, then the next step is really to get very clear about deciding our boundaries, which also I think is about self awareness, right? And I tell my clients you get to decide what’s okay for you and what’s not okay for you. I’m not going to tell you what your boundaries should be. I don’t know that other people get to decide what, what your boundaries should or should not be. We’re not shoulding on each other here. It’s just about figuring out where you are comfortable and where you’re not comfortable. What you need, what you don’t want and being really clear about that. And so I agree that self awareness piece is part of the intersection of emotional intelligence and boundaries.
Patricia: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And I’m curious from your perspective, right? Like as we’re talking about boundaries meets emotional intelligence, what are your thoughts as far as social awareness? You know, I mentioned self awareness and where that comes from, but where do you think, you know, social awareness and boundaries coincide?
Mary: Hmm. Such a good question. So people that struggle with boundaries also struggle with social relationships, right? I mean, you’ve got relationship with self and relationship with others, and usually there is a correlation there. And so what I see happening is when people struggle with boundaries, they often feel mistreated by others. They often feel resentful or taken advantage of, or that like their needs aren’t taken into consideration by the people that they have relationships with. And we empower them in coaching to go ahead and become more aware of their own needs. And we teach them how to communicate around those and how to follow through around those. So that’s the solution.
But I think that what I see is unfortunately, sometimes assumptions around other people’s intentions, which may or may not be true, right? So I will, as an example, I’ll hear people say that they, you know, this person was disrespecting my boundary or this person was disrespecting me. Right? And I’m like, whoa, whoa, whoa. Like we’re going to give this person a generous assumption, the benefit of the doubt that like, what if that person didn’t know that you needed some downtime in the middle of the day and you didn’t speak up and now you’re frustrated that you didn’t get the downtime that you needed and you feel taken advantage of by this person, but it was your job to advocate for your needs and I’m going to generously assume that this person was being a human and trying to meet their needs and wasn’t trying to bulldoze you. And so I think that the assumption piece is where I see it coming up a lot. I will ask my clients things like, what’s the most generous assumption that we can make about that person about how their experience as a human could have contributed to what you are perceiving as a boundary violation?
Patricia: I love that. You know what that reminds me of? I love how you’re explaining, kind of giving that generous assumption. That’s one of the things that, this was a while back and remembering a PowerPoint I did a long time ago, I haven’t brought that concept up in a while, but we tend to view everything coming out of us and measure it based on intent. Right? So everything that I say, I know my, my own heart, or at least I think I do. Right? And so everything that comes out of my mouth and all the behaviors that I kind of put out into the world. I look at them for their intent. But I don’t know everyone else’s thought pattern. I don’t know their heart. I don’t know anything else about others. Right. And so everything that’s inbound, what people say to me. What behaviors they have towards me, interactions, I measure those based on impact. So it’s like, if I’m measuring everything coming out based on intent and everything coming in based on impact, there’s gotta be a gap somewhere in there. I like the way you, you explained that generous assumption, which I think is really what fills that gap.
Mary: Yeah, absolutely. And when I’m coaching clients that have a difficult relationship with a family member or an intimate partner or someone that, you know, maybe it’s a business partner or coworker, someone that they have a close relationship with. Part of that discussion is around, Hey, when you said these words, whatever those words are, when you said these words, this is how I thought and felt about it, right? Like that’s the impact. I’m going to assume that that was not your intention. And I’m, I’d like to request something differently next time.
Patricia: I love that. I love that. And this is that widening of Johari’s window. Are you familiar with Johari’s window?
Patricia: So Johari’s window is this concept. I wish I could show it to you on video, but it’s this, imagine this window, right? That has the X and the Y access and this window on the top, you, you’ve got everything, you know, about yourself and then everything you don’t know about yourself. Now I’m not going to complicate anymore. We’ll kind of start with that, but everything, you know, about yourself, there’s no discovery there. In order to move, right, open up the window so that you know more about yourself, you either need to ask people and be open to what their feedback is, or you need to allow people, they’re just going to share things with you that they discover about you. And now you know yourself a little bit more. And that’s like the self discovery piece. And then there’s kind of the window that other people see of you, right? And there’s things that you share openly and you tell them. But as you get to know someone, as you have those conversations that you’re talking about, it reminds me of, you know, kind of lowering that, I don’t know if you could, would call it a bridge, but the more you share with someone else, the more they know about you. And then it’s like, Oh, wait a second, so you didn’t mean what you said? Well, this is how I took it. And then they’re like, wait, you took it that way. I never would have thought. And so what you’re doing is you’re widening the areas that you know about each other. And so now you’re both learning about yourselves. You’re learning about each other and now there’s less room for miscommunication. Which is really cool.
Mary: Yeah, that is cool. I love it. I love it. So communication is another way that like emotional intelligence and boundaries intersect.
Patricia: Yes. My goodness. Absolutely. It’s I think communication is, is such a, what’s the word? It’s just so curious to me. Because we think, like we think, oh, I’m going to say this word and this word and this word and I’m going to be understood. And it sounds so simple, right? Like, you know, how many times have we said the same three words with just a slightly different tone, and it means something completely different. Right? And I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have selective hearing if I’ve created a caricature about somebody because I haven’t had enough verbal and nonverbal communication with them, enough honest widening of that Johari’s window that what ends up happening is they may say it in a tone that sounds friendly to them, But again, I’ve created a caricature and so now I’m like, of course, they would say that, of course they would you know what I mean, I take it the wrong way. So I I completely agree with you, communication is, It’s at the forefront of emotional intelligence when you’re talking about like social awareness and social management for sure.
Mary: Awesome. Awesome. Well, Patricia, what are just maybe a couple of tips or tools that you can offer to listeners about ways that they can assess or improve their emotional intelligence?
Patricia: Yeah I think that one of the simplest ways, one of the telltale signs that maybe this is something to start paying more attention to, pick up a book on or start talking to people about is if you feel misunderstood, or if it seems that there’s a lot of miscommunications with people. And remember that if it’s just one miscommunication with one person, it might be a coincidence. But if you have similar miscommunications with two or three different people in different contexts, well, the only thing they have in common is you and right? And I’ve been in those moments. We’re all human. I’ve been in those moments where I’m like, okay, I think I feel a little sore about something. I think I got to go back to my journal and like, you know so that’s one thing is if you start to see similar issues happening with different people, then there might be something to look at.
And I think the other part is to really, you know, being able to work with a coach, right? Being able to work with you, being able to work with me with any coach, really, with someone who can walk you through questions that you wouldn’t dare ask yourself. It is, you know, if you’ve gone through, you know, the development process of getting like your bachelor’s or going through a big retreat, it’s those intensive activities where there’s a safe space created, where you can say, Hey, this doesn’t really feel good and I don’t know why. I feel like my response doesn’t match, right? Those types of experiences are extremely powerful and they’re one of the best ways that we as human beings can grow. And so that would be the other piece. So number one, see if there’s a telltale sign that there might be something you can work on. And then number two, the best, fastest, less painful way to work on it is to really work with a coach who can create that safe space for you.
Mary: Mm. I love it. Thank you so much. Awesome. Tell us a little bit about who you help.
Patricia: Yeah, absolutely. So really what I’m focused on right now is helping technical leaders who you know, can benefit from the opposite side of the spectrum. So I’m very much like a persuasive communicator. We create career stories. We look at the emotional side of things to be able to connect with someone else. And so if you’re a technical professional, who’s looking to make a career shift, to level up or to make a career change. I work with you to really find a true confidence based in fact, it’s not a fake confidence, but we find the true confidence, your unique value proposition, what career you want to hop into, what company you want to be at. And then we help you to craft your career story and your communications and embedded in all of that are these emotional intelligence pieces so that when you start communicating with other people, you’re able to truly connect human to human and not only connect, but also influence, inspire, engage and garner their investment for when that decision time comes.
Mary: Hmm. I love it. If people want to reach out to you, what’s the best way to contact you?
Patricia: Yeah. So I always think of it as like one, two, three, right? So if you are, you know, you just want to kind of connect, you just want to be in the sphere, right? Get into the party. Then I would hop into my LinkedIn and it’s you know, linkedin.com/in/pmortega/ . And I’ll give you the link cause that’s hard to remember. And then the second way is if you want to get just a little bit deeper, you want to get some emails from me, I do have a freebie. That’s a career transition checklist, which walks you through all of the steps that I walk my clients through to get hired in a new industry or in a new position, but there’s going to be someone, and you know it’s you, if you’re really excited right now, and you’re like, I need to get on the phone with her ASAP. And so I’ll also give you my link to my Calendly and then we can hop on for a phone call just to talk about how we might work together. Awesome.
Mary: Awesome. Thanks so much for being here, Patricia. I love talking about this stuff.
Patricia: It was a blast. And I absolutely love your perspective, your style, and you have this, like this, this positive directness that I really appreciate. And so I’m really excited to have gone on this podcast with you.
Mary: Oh, thank you so much. All right. We’ll see you next time.