Management Articles


Global Warming: Is This Emotional Intelligence?

By: Susan Dunn

Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, coaches individuals and executives in emotional intelligence, and offers workshops, presentations, trainings, Internet courses and ebooks.  She is a regular presenter for the Royal Caribbean and Costa cruiselines.  Visit her on the web at and for FREE ezine.

Have you heard the term “GEIC" – global emotional intelligence quotient?

Someone wrote in to my “Ask the EQ Coach” column with this question, and I had to hunt around to find out what it meant.

The woman who wrote said she worked in a very diverse office (as many of us do today) and dealt regularly with international clients as well. She wondered if there was some EQ related to working with other cultures.

Here was my reply to her:

Ah, good question, and pertinent to those of us working globally. And you and I aren't the only people wondering about this.

Hillary A. Elfenbein is interested. She's a senior researcher at Harvard Business School and has published a number of papers on her specialty, emotion in the workplace, particularly individual and cross-cultural differences in the communication and regulation of emotion within organizations.

A quick summary of her findings and then on to GEIQ.

Finding on Emotion Recognition Within and Across Cultures

"Emotions were universally recognized at better-than-chance levels. Accuracy was higher when emotions were both expressed and recognized by members of the same national, ethnic, or regional group, suggesting an in-group advantage. This advantage was smaller for cultural groups with greater exposure to one another, measured in terms of living in the same nation, physical proximity, and telephone communication. Majority group members were poorer at judging minority group members than the reverse."

This says to me we can learn to recognize one another's emotions with exposure, practice and interest, which surely you have in your work with other cultures.

This is why dog's recognize human nonverbals and emotions better than chimps, do, despite the disparity in DNA -- dogs have 'lived with us' for centuries and chimps have not.

As to GEIQ, this term was coined by Stephen Rhinesmith, founding partner of CDR International, who's planning to write a book on the subject.

Globalization, he says, isn't where you do business, but how. You'll do better, if you understand the other person's culture, and to do that, first you have to understand how you're a product of your own culture. Remember how the cornerstone of EQ is self-awareness?

Rhinesmith defines 4 steps at getting good at this:
  • Cultural self-awareness-The extent to which you're aware of your own cultural biases and behaviors, especially those that may potentially cause problems for you when you operate across borders.

  • Cultural adjustment-The ability to self- regulate when you move from one culture to another, thereby avoiding extreme culture shock or to inadvertently offending others whose biases and behaviors differ from yours.

  • Cross-cultural understanding-The ability to understand how people from other cultures see the world and interpret their relationships with other people; empathy on a global scale.

  • Cross-cultural effectiveness-Responding to people in a culturally appropriate way.
This very point came up recently with a client of mine, Doug, who was preparing to go to Costa Rica with his boss. They were leaving the US, a competitive culture (Rhinesmith calls it "doer-oriented") and entering Costa Rica, an affiliative culture (aka "being-oriented") and he wanted some tips. (Generally the farther south, the more "being-oriented", certainly Latin America.)

Because I work in a city that's 60% Hispanic I'm familiar with this way of doing business -- generally you talk about personal things and family, and get to know one another for 50 minutes of the hour (of every hour), and then you do business.

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Doug's high in empathy and readily applied it. However his boss has low GEIQ. When they were met at the airport, the Costa Rican businessman started inquiring about family and mutual acquaintances, and the boss interrupted him, to 'get down to business' before they'd even left the airport. Doug was able to save the sale later on by using his high GEIC.

We can assume that global EQ can be developed, just as personal EQ can. And remember, the cornerstone of EQ is self-awareness. You'll increase your cultural self-awareness as you deal with people from other countries through experience -- by getting it wrong and processing what goes on.

Work with a coach, read about other cultures, and have your feelers out as you relate across borders. I've recommended before, Michael Lee's "Opening Doors" and it's a good place to start. I hope this was helpful.

© copyright, Susan Dunn, 2003

Other Articles by Susan Dunn

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