Emotional Thinness

My heart ached as I sat across the desk as the stony faced CEO explained his company’s situation:  “I don’t know what’s wrong.   It just seems like any little issue can get out of hand.  My employees are quitting for what seem like minor issues to me.  And I don’t know what’s wrong with my buddy, Bill.”

I had an idea of what was wrong and there wasn’t a quick fix.  I had performed an EQ assessment (a test of emotional intelligence) with the CEO, and had coached him for almost a year. It was clear that the CEO had limited access to emotions, little to no ability to empathize, and was easily triggered.  He suffered from what I call “emotional thinness”.

Emotional thinness?  You’ve met people ailing from ET and perhaps labeled it something else.   It’s an inability or difficulty producing relational connective tissue. Just as connective tissues like ligaments and tendons provide structure and support for our bodies, authentic conversations, thoughtful gestures and meaningful exchanges make up the relational connective tissues that provide support and structure for our relationships. ET sufferers don’t produce these things.

When you engage someone with ET, you’ll notice, consciously or subconsciously, a lack of warmth from him or her.   It’s particularly noticeable in a group of people, say, at a party. You may steer clear of them because they may “flatten” your mood. That’s not to say someone with ET is mean or cold or angry or negative at all. In fact, they may be smiling and happy.  You’re interaction with them has a distant, transactional or distracted quality to it and your conversation will be shallow and without meaning.

ET is somewhat rare among CEOs because relationships are so important for developing a stable and productive work force and having successful customer relationships. Sometimes simple brute force, an intense work ethic or dynamic energy can overcome the fairly significant drawback of emotional thinness.

The causes of ET are too varied and complex to describe.  It’s fair to say that ET suffers didn’t have warm, secure relationships with their primary caregivers.  That’s not to say they were abused or neglected.  Just that they didn’t experience that relational connective tissue they needed in order to know how to produce it.

To overcome ET, what do you do? Connecting with others starts with connecting with yourself. The right coach or a counselor can help you better understand yourself.  Also, EQ assessments like Learning in Actions EQ Profile can help you see the emotions you experience and those you’ve lost access to, measure your ability to empathize and see things from others’ perspectives, and help you access and understand your internal experience.

Only by understanding yourself can you make the changes you need to establish relational connectivity and create the meaningful relationships that can withstand minor set backs.


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Author Bio

Alison Whitmire

CEO and Executive Leadership Coach, Advisor and Consultant, “Deeply Committed, Helping CEOs See Clearer, Do More”

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