Shalini Samtani of ‘Open The Joy’: Emotional Intelligence; What It Is, Why It Is So Essential, And How We Can Increase It

Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated
Authority Magazine
Published in
14 min readJan 13, 2021


Allow yourself to go to bed angry. We are often told: “never go to bed angry!” I disagree. On the contrary, EQ emphasizes the importance of self-regulation and awareness. It is crucial to be able to recognize when your emotions are driving your actions and to be able to take a step back and pause. By allowing yourself to go to bed angry, you gain the time to rationally act upon your feelings with a clearer mind in the morning.

As a part of our series about “Emotional Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shalini Samtani.

Shalini Samtani has a diverse background in Law, Real Estate and Design. However, her true passion lies in bringing joy to sick kids. She is the founder of Open The Joy® a truly unique toy company that focuses on building emotional intelligence in kids; and the Spread The Joy Foundation® a registered non-profit that delivers free activity kits to hospitalized children at their bedside. Since its launch in 2019, Open the Joy has won several industry awards including Best New Products for Kids 2019 at NY Now, New Kids on the Block award at Toy Fair 2020, and Best New Manufacturers award at Toy Fest West 2020. Shalini Samtani’s leadership and the truly unique nature of her business has been awarded recognition by the Tory Burch Foundation 2020, as one of the top 50 female entrepreneurs selected nationwide.

Hear Shalini’s Story:

Learn More About Spread the Joy:

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Hi, my name is Shalini Samtani and I am a citizen of the world-born of Indian parentage in Hong Kong, before my parents who were traders and seeking better opportunities decided to move to Belize, Central America. I guess the warm climate wasn’t enough and yet again when I was 5 years old, our entire family immigrated to Montreal, Canada. My real-life began with the Maple Leaves, where I grew up immersed in Quebec culture not only speaking French but completing my early education in the same language. As a teenager looking to find myself, I wanted to do something different than the family business and decided to seek a profession and was fortunate to attend law school at the young age of 18 (which turned out to make me the youngest in my class) at the prestigious McGill Law School on a full scholarship. Three years later, I graduated at the top of my class with a dual LLB and BCL in Law (JD Equivalent). Keeping with what seems to be my life’s theme, I also got married young (age 22) to a wonderful man, 8 years elder and moved to New York! Fast forward to ten years later, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter (my second child). My seemingly normal life was turned upside down when we found out that our daughter was born with a rare medical condition. Whilst I cannot express what we went through as a family in words, I can say that the time our family spent together in the hospital inspired me, my husband, my son and began my entrepreneurial journey.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

Imagine you check your 6-month-old child into the hospital for what you perceive to be a simple fever, but instead find out that your child has been diagnosed with a rare disease for which there is no known cure? No mother or family should have to endure this, but it was from this traumatic personal experience, and many months spent alongside my child at the hospital, that I founded both: The Spread the Joy Foundation®, a registered 501(c)3 ( and Open the Joy® LLC, with the joint mission of spreading joy to pediatric patients.

During the months I spent at my daughter’s bedside, I quickly realized that there wasn’t a single company in the toy industry servicing the physical or emotional needs of the 3 million hospitalized children across America every year, let alone sick kids in hospice, home care or just not doing so well at home. I resolved to transform the experience of pediatric hospitalization and “sick time” into a more positive one for families. Working for two years alongside a pediatric psychologist, Open the Joy® and Spread the Joy® were born with the mission of providing families with the tools required to deal with times of crisis with positivity and creativity.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Truly, my success rests on the shoulders of many giants. From my husband, Lavesh who supported the business with his expertise as a finance attorney, to my father-in-law and mother-in-law, Lakhi and Glory Samtani who reside in Hong-Kong and have a background in international trade, to my cousin Vijay Vaswani in China who specialized in quality control for export, to my little nieces and nephews who served on our product development team!

But there is one person that has truly shared my journey with me, both its ups and its downs, and that’s my mother, Monica Melwani. From her unconditional support in helping raise my children so I can be free to travel for work, to the months she spent at my daughter’s bedside at the hospital — she is truly the only person who that has seen inside my heart, and shares in my desire — rather my need — to transform the traumatic experience we all went through as a family into a positive one.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

When I first started my business, our little start-up couldn’t justify the cost of even buying an entrance ticket to Toy Fair. My mom Monica charmed a gentleman with her sweet home-cooked cakes into getting us two staff passes for the event! It was brilliant! We attended the show, and wow, did we ever learn so much about the toy industry!

The next year, we launched our line at that very same trade fair, and won the prestigious award for the “New Kid On The Block.”

My big take away was: “when there is a will, there is a way!” We had tried getting educational passes to the show, press passes, but kept getting rejected. Finally, all it took was some kindness and an orange cake.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

DELIVER. Deliver on what you promise. It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver than to over promise and under deliver. At the early stages of any business, you’re selling yourself and your ideas a lot (without large amounts of inventory to back you up). When it comes time to deliver, like most business, those teething pains will be there. Be prepared for that.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

When developing the concept for Open the Joy®, my bible was Start Something That Matters by Toms Founder, Blake Mycoskie. I read it during the year my daughter was going in and out of the hospital. What resonated with me was his premise that there is another way to think about business, a way that isn’t simply driven by profits and that we needed to change how we defined success. Mycoskie highlighted, step by step, methods to make a “cause” based business not only profitable but also meaningful.

As I read the pages of that book, I couldn’t help feeling like it was written for me! Mycoskie understood my ambition not only as an entrepreneur but as a human. In his book, he explained that when he founded TOMS, it filled both his professional needs and his desire to do good in the world- and that’s when he understood he was on the right path. This philosophy drove my work in both Spread the Joy® (a registered 501© 3 that delivers free activity kits to hospitalized children across America) and Open the Joy® that manufactures toys aimed at building emotional intelligence in kids.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“Don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can.” I knew that after my daughter’s diagnosis, our lives would be different from others families. But I also believed that hidden within every challenge in an opportunity for growth. I decided to focus on that opportunity to better our lives, and the lives of hospitalized children across America.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

As I mentioned, I founded a charitable entity called the Spread The Joy Foundation®. This is the passion of our cause. In many ways Open the Joy® was founded to support this mission because I believe, charity does truly begin at home. Seeing people come together for this wonderful cause has inspired me to continue my mission and never give up until we are in all the hospitals in the United States, bringing families and their loved ones closer together.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority about Emotional Intelligence?

EQ has played a very important role in my life. Following my daughter’s medical diagnosis, I knew her and my son’s lives would be different than other kids. They would have to live with a sense of added caution and I felt the need to equip them with the skills to cope with this difference. This desire led me to learn about EQ. Through working with therapists to design activity kits that foster EQ skills in kids, I’ve dedicated countless hours to learning about the benefits of EQ and tirelessly working to create toys that will provide kids with a fun and engaging way to hone those skills.

For the benefit of our readers, can you help to define what Emotional Intelligence is?

EQ encompasses a wide variety of skills but at its core, EQ can be summed up with one guiding principle: take the time to pause and think before reacting. This principle can be applied to the 4 main pillars of EQ which are self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, and relationship management.

Self-awareness is all about introspection. EQ reminds us to take time to recognize our own emotions.

Self-regulation is about control. When we have the EQ skills to be aware of our emotions, we can pause to control and prevent impulsive, emotion-driven actions.

Social awareness is the most important and influential for kids because it is all about empathy. When a child has strong EQ, they are able to use their understanding of their own emotions to understand others’ perspectives.

Relationship management centers on the idea that by being cognizant of one’s own emotions and feelings, and being sensitive to the feelings of others, people can develop strong relationships where both parties feel understood and respected. The cultivation of EQ is so important in the creation of social skills that help guide an individual through our interconnected world.

How is Emotional Intelligence different from what we normally refer to as intelligence?

For the longest time, the definition of intelligence has been dominated by the idea of IQ while EQ has taken the back seat. Intelligence has focused on numbers and data and peoples’ humanity was often overlooked. However, the importance of EQ has become more apparent as studies have shown that developing EQ skills in kids from a young age is crucial for necessary social skills. The cultivation of EQ is about cultivating the heart rather than the mechanical mind.

Can you help explain a few reasons why Emotional Intelligence is such an important characteristic? Can you share a story or give some examples?

The current COVID pandemic has stressed relationships and our emotional capacity like never before. I saw the influential power of EQ skills in helping my children cope with this uncertain time and am in awe of its power to keep their hearts steady. Because my daughter had previously been hospitalized and we had worked on developing her EQ throughout that period, she was far more prepared to handle the turbulent and stressful nature of the pandemic compared to my son. Having honed her EQ skills, she felt better in her skin, and didn’t become as overwhelmed by the shocking and abrupt change to all our lives.

Would you feel comfortable sharing a story or anecdote about how Emotional Intelligence has helped you in your life? We would love to hear about it.

As I mentioned, my career focuses on building EQ in children. The influence of EQ on my children has been so heartwarming and fulfilling. One such example was when my son, who was only 5 at the time, was hit by another little boy in school. The little boy was asked to apologize to my son, and his teacher witnessed my son look him in the eyes and reply: “I forgive you.” The teacher was in awe of his reaction and called me up to tell me that in her career, she had rarely seen a child express forgiveness in such a sincere way. I had taught my kids that forgiveness was a conscious choice to let go of hurt feelings- and I was so proud as his mother that his five-year-old mind understood when to make that choice.

Can you share some specific examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help a person become more successful in the business world?

We’ve all heard the saying: “business is all about relationships, relationships, relationships!” At the heart of all corporations are people, and success in the business world is determined by how well one navigates those relationships. Higher EQ helps humanize those relationships and thus make them more successful. Appealing to our business partners' humanity will ultimately ensure better long-term co-operation, repeat business and a genuine desire to work together.

Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have better relationships?

One of the most powerful benefits of developing EQ is the cultivation of empathy. There is a concept known as the “taking the view from the balcony,” through which we are encouraged to adopt a broader perspective on conflict. Oftentimes, when faced with opposing points of view the instinctive reaction is to bury your head in the sand and dig your heels in deeper. This leads to a narrow view of the situation in which we only see our own perspective. However, this concept encourages us, through self-regulation, to pause before reacting and try to see the totality of the situation. In doing so, we automatically empathize with the other person’s perspective. In my own relationship with my husband, I’ve learned that heading out to the metaphorical balcony during moments of conflict has been really helpful in mending hurt feelings.

Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have more optimal mental health?

Because EQ is so imperative in the development of strong healthy relationships, people who have low EQ can feel isolated and can become trapped in negative thinking. Further, because EQ helps to cultivate social skills, a lack of EQ can lead to social anxiety. When one has strong EQ skills, they are better able to understand and interact with others and therefore can feel more confident and assured in social settings.

Ok. Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you recommend five things that anyone can do to develop a greater degree of Emotional Intelligence? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Allow yourself to go to bed angry. We are often told: “never go to bed angry!” I disagree. On the contrary, EQ emphasizes the importance of self-regulation and awareness. It is crucial to be able to recognize when your emotions are driving your actions and to be able to take a step back and pause. By allowing yourself to go to bed angry, you gain the time to rationally act upon your feelings with a clearer mind in the morning.
  2. Say thank you when you pee! This may seem like a quirky ritual, but after my daughter temporarily lost kidney function, I became so much more aware of and grateful for my own kidneys. We often take for granted our functioning bodies and many other aspects of our lives, but by pausing once a day to make gratitude a ritual, we can become more appreciative. I always tell my kids that gratitude is a muscle, flexing it daily, it becomes stronger.
  3. Become time’s best friend. There is a medical remedy called the “tincture of time,” or in other words, administering time itself as a diagnostic or therapeutic intervention. Simply stated, time heals. Certain ailments or hurt feelings can only be healed by time and it is important to see time as our friend. In the fast-paced and hectic world that we live in, we need to remember the value of patience: patience with ourselves, our relationship and our lives. Make it a habit to give “time the time, to do what only time can do!”
  4. Put the following post-it on your mirror: Don’t forget to take care of you! Close your eyes for a second and think of the 5 most important people in your life. If you didn’t include yourself in the list, you’re not alone. The majority of people often forget to value themselves. Our days are spent servicing our family, friends, and co-workers and it is often hard to take a moment to remember to be kind to yourself. Remember, “you can’t pour from an empty cup!” By making self-introspection a daily ritual, we can definitely strengthen our EQ.
  5. Find the pot’s handle! In situations of conflict, people with a lower EQ often act irrationally, driven by the intense emotions being felt in the moment. In a helpful illustrating metaphor, acting irrationally can be thought of as grabbing the hot rim of a pot because it may be the first thing seen. But through self-regulation and self-awareness, we understand that every situation has a solution- or a better way to “handle” it. Next time you’re in a bit of a hot situation, try to look for the pot’s handle! By taking the “pot by the handle”, you can avoid hurting yourself and others.

Do you think our educational system can do a better job at cultivating Emotional Intelligence? What specific recommendations would you make for schools to help students cultivate Emotional Intelligence?

Yes, I absolutely think that the current education system can do a better job of cultivating EQ. The US education system over values IQ and, while necessary, it doesn’t encompass the whole picture of intelligence or well-being. This had led to higher levels of suicide amongst teens and increased violence and school gun shootings across the country.

I believe that EQ should be part of the core curriculum that is taught to elementary school children just like it is in other countries, such as Japan. Ideally, the curriculum would cover the 4 main facets of EQ through role-playing exercises, conflict resolution techniques, and anger management workbooks.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would love to grow our mission of spreading joy to sick kids across America. We need your help! Please visit us at

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)

I would love to sit down with David Heath, the co-founder and CEO of Bombas. The sock focused company has an amazing and inspiring give back mission where for every purchase, an item is donated to the homeless. Further, Heath talked about how by working to help underserved populations like the homeless, the Bombas work environment became filled with gratitude. I just loved this! If you’re reading this David, give me a call!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Visit us at or follow us on Instagram @openthejoy

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.



Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated
Authority Magazine

Entrepreneur, angel investor and syndicated columnist, as well as a yoga, holistic health, breathwork and meditation enthusiast. Unlock the deepest powers