I had a wonderful conversation with a good friend last week discussing a condition I have labeled as Emotional Bipolar. This applies to people who are exceptionally emotionally intelligent in one dimension of life, and inexplicably, totally inept in another dimension. An example is someone who is incredibly warm, loving, empathetic, and caring at home but an absolute monster (no empathy, no compassion, no self awareness, no self regulation) to work for or with at work, or vice versa. Or it might be situational and a lot more subtle where specific situations or certain people cause someone to take less risks, speak less, and be more guarded but as soon as the situation changes or the people in the situation change, they suddenly become more collaborative, share ideas more openly and feel comfortable taking risks.
Emotional Bipolar is rooted in emotions, and previous emotional trauma. It is not behavioral since the behavior changes based on the emotional temperature of the situation or the people in it. In other words, if either the internal emotional temperature (how you feel) or the temperature of the situation (people and context) can be altered, then the freedom to healthy and productive can be achieved. The good news is that since someone with this condition already has the skills (since they are used in more emotionally safe conditions) changing both emotional temperatures (internal and external) is very much a realistic and achievable skill set.
It starts with the two core dimensions of EQ – Self Awareness and Empathy. Taking the emotional temperature of both yourself and the situation (other people) is a powerful first step. Recognizing when you are “leaving your safe place and entering something unsafe” is key. Make a list of these situations and people this week. Monitor yourself as you progress through your day and week – what kinds of situations or people cause you to be least effective or make you feel like you cannot be at your best? What kind of situations or people cause you to be at your best? Next week, I’ll share tips on using both to overcome Emotional Bipolar.