Center of the Maze: Emotional Intelligence

“Pretend there’s an X between their eyes and stare directly at it.” I was telling myself this during a business meeting the other day. It was something I was taught when I was a child. Pretend there’s a spot between the eyes of the person you’re speaking to and look directly at that. It’s apparently the most polite way to speak to somebody. They could have wild googly eyes or a facial scar that runs across their chin and you wouldn’t give the impression of staring. It would be impolite.

When Charlie was initially diagnosed, the neurologist said, “Right now your son sees you as though you were a couch or jungle gym. As inanimate. You’ll need to teach him ways to engage with people. He won’t become Prom King but he’ll be able to deal with people.” The way she said it didn’t offend me so much as it struck a chord. Don’t we all learn this same bullshit growing up?

I don’t recall thinking much of other’s feelings as dimensional when I was a child so much as I thought about wanting to fulfill whatever fleeting impulse wandered into my manic child brain. I loved, but didn’t know how to love. I cared, but didn’t know how to care. It wasn’t until after repeated insistence on saying sorry or giving somebody a hug when they were sad that a light bulb went off in my head and I realized not that other people existed but how other people existed in relation to myself.

How many times do we spend in our social lives engaged in a behavior that doesn’t feel innate but brainwashed, with our inner voice hijacked by those persons who told us over and over again when we were children that there is one way to act, to emote, and to engage? You meet a person for the first time and you shake their hand. Or if you were raised in Japan, you bow at the waist. Or if you were raised in Thailand you place your palms together, elbows down, and bow but only slightly. None of these are born traits. You were taught them and follow with perfect obedience.

Emotional Intelligence governs the means by which some succeed and most fail. From politicians to CEO’s the ability to connect on the human level to the degree that you can manipulate has been taught as a skill of supremacy. Don’t believe me? Ask a King who stutters what triumph can win Best Picture. We view & treat those who have mastered social manipulation with a supremacy that ensures that everything from our televisions to our political offices are occupied by sociopaths and narcissists.

This would be an academic observation, one without any real consequence to you the reader, except this neuro class system dictates your very real day-to-day lives. Trades that require attention to detail have been undermined and outsourced and replaced by a golden ring that demands you behave a certain way, honoring a specific inner voice that requires obedience to small talk and handshakes and smiles to have the honor of corporate citizenship. Emotional intelligence has usurped general intelligence to such a degree that even the value of the highest IQ can be invalidated by the most base introvert tendencies.

This has ensured that one neurotribe does very well while others, not so much. Compounding issues of race and gender, the ability to rise out of one’s current socioeconomic status is hindered when one is more attentive to the details of their work than the details of etiquette. With few exceptions, being really good at something carries much less value than being really good with people.

You are somewhere on the spectrum between Rain Man and Gordon Gekko. And at the center of the maze is a mirror with holds one selfish truth — you don’t need Neurodiversity because children like my son exist, you need it because everyone exists.