Mr. Mafioso, Emotional Intelligence, and You

in College

I love Mr. Mafioso on AskMen. "Look, college boy," he writes, "there are certain lessons that all the books in the world couldn't teach you."

Strikes a chord with me. I came out of college quite the college girl. It was a college in rural Minnesota, very academic, very intellectual. How academic? How intellectual? More students pass the MedCAT from this school than any in the nation, or did at last count. It produces doctors and lawyers, but not necessarily rich ones; more typically labor lawyers and inner-city clinic doctors, or med and law-school professors.

I think it attracts more than its share of NFs - Idealists (only 8-10% of the population). Whatever job the Idealist has, it's a means to an end: saving the world. This is the college boy Mr. M. is talking about, and the college girl who has to learn to put on her Big Girl Panties, because one can never save the world, but one can lose one's job.

When I left that ivory tower and landed my first job, they saw me coming. Determined to be honest, brave and true (and believing that others were), I got all the extra work, my "job description" expanding to match the infinite boundaries of my naivete; I got the worst equipment; I interviewed students in a closet (I was a career counselor); and of course I was ostracized just for good measure. Eating lunch alone, I read a copy of "How to Survive in the Real World." j.k.

What I did was get street smart. You know how someone in the office is doing better than they ought to considering their education and skills, and you can't figure out why? Then you notice - she's got street smarts. She always lands on her feet, she knows the score, she reads between the lines, she gets out when the getting's good, she can add two and two, she can smell a rat, she knows a good thing when she sees it, she knows it takes two to tango ...

It's Emotional Intelligence -- what Mr. Mafioso talks about in "Street Lessons."

He begins with the litany that idealistic intellectuals can't accept: "The world isn't fair. It isn't nice. Nobody cares if you get stiffed, if your feelings get bruised or how hungry you are." We're all in the same boat, he alerts us, and it can be a rough ride. "Everybody's trying to get a piece of the action, trying to survive. And the street is equally cruel to everyone."

I've seen clients have to experience this many times before they were willing to let go of how they thought the world should be, or wished it were and started dealing with it the way it is (reality-testing). Eventually, with coaching, they quit telling their co-workers nicely (for instance) that they really don't know what they're doing after getting shot enough times with a gun they had loaded and handed to someone.

Mr. Mafioso then tells us the thing we least want to hear - that it's out-of-control. You can be on top one day, wondering what the big deal is, then get bagged. "By any of a number of things: family, work, health, divorce, tainted spinach-"

His rules reframed in Emotional Intelligence language?

1. Keep your guard up. This gels with EQ's "trust radius?" A component of Emotional Intelligence is "trust until proven otherwise." It's not seeing the "otherwise" that gets us in trouble.

2. Stay out of arguments. Wait, he says, until they've worn each other out, and you can see who the winner's going to be. As I put it in my How to Handle Difficult People Internet course, only "fools rush in where angels fear to tread". That quote was from a book I'd read in college. Once I got it aligned with reality, I was fine. Before that, typically I rushed in because I thought I could not BE a fool, I had a college degree.

3. Meet only when necessary. Mr. Mafioso thinks only girls enjoy meeting just to talk; that Real Men meet only to make a decision. Everyone knows that ... except your boss, right? The one with the M. B. A. from Harvard.

4. Know people. But, he adds, that doesn't mean they need to know YOU. Having friends means connections, opportunities, and information, all good things; but don't disclose anything superfluous (as in the loaded gun above).

5. Don't be too proud to retreat. The next sentence is one that hangs up the Idealists, and is often difficult to dispel. Sometimes it's the single goal of my coaching, to get them to quit fighting on principle. If you can't win, he says, give up, back down, go into witness protection (ha ha). Having a strategy beats bravery he says. I think he means "bravado." And "discretion is the better part of valor." Sometimes a college education IS an advantage.

Mr. Mafioso ends that it's back on the bricks for him, "learning everything the hard way and hoping my kid doesn't have to do the same. There's no cure for this thing called life, so it's best to learn certain things early on. Nothing can truly prepare you for it, but if you keep your head on a swivel, you'll suffer fewer 'unfair' surprises."

KEY POINTS here about the kid. When teaching your child (or people you're coaching, mentoring or managing) emotional intelligence:

1. You're teaching it whether you want to or not, so get conscious and teach GOOD Emotional Intelligence, not BAD Emotional Intelligence.

2. You are never through learning Emotional Intelligence. It also cannot be learned from a book. Therefore, get coaching.

3. Let them learn their lessons. Don't rescue them unless the house is on fire.

4. Better yet, be really (EQ) smart. Set up the lessons so they can learn them while they're still under your protection.

5. Connect the dots for them about what you're teaching.

Don't forget to do this (connecting the dots for them). It's the part most teachers leave out. Like most of us ask our kids, "How would you feel if Bobby did that to you?" and "How do you think Bobby feels now that you spit on him?" But we fail to tell them we are teaching Empathy - understanding that you have feelings and so does everyone else. Labeling helps to de-mystify the things that mystify us most in life - emotional things.

Tell them you are going to teach them stewardship, give them 3 months allowance at one time, tell them it has to last, and then be there when they spend it all at once and have nothing left. Connect the dots for them, giving it language. It's easier to learn this when you have a net.

Now, back to my NF client that I'm coaching in Emotional Intelligence.

"I can't do that," she says, "it's against my principles." She is preparing to self-sabotage...again. She says it is against her principles to essentially stand up for herself. To watch her own back, so to speak.

"Look, college girl," I tell her. "Just put on your Big Girl Panties," aka stress tolerance, creativity, flexibility, resilience, interpersonal skills and the other components of Emotional Intelligence.

It keeps your head on a swivel.

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Jerald Shin Shapiro has 1 articles online

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Mr. Mafioso, Emotional Intelligence, and You

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This article was published on 2011/04/06