The Grinch and Emotional Intelligence

I’d like to talk about The Grinch. Whether it’s the character from the 2018 or 2000 movie or the 1957 book, we know him as the cynical and bad-tempered creature who can’t stand Christmas, tries to steal it and generally puts a dampener on all things jolly and festive.

Here’s why:

  • His behaviour may remind us of the customers we encounter from time to time. The grumpy, angry, and exhausting ones. We can relate to him.
  • When we’re feeling exhausted or overwhelmed, we might behave a bit like him (I know I do!)
  • He’s going to help me explain more about a brilliant skill some of you may have, are looking to develop or know little about. It’s a power skill and it’s going to come in handy as you approach the peak Christmas season. I know it’s only September but the sooner you try the exercises below, the sooner you can start practicing the skill, the quicker you’ll feel the benefits.

That skill is Emotional Intelligence (EI)

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Think of a time when someone showed you kindness or thoughtfulness. When someone went above and beyond to help you out. That felt good. What about when The Grinch turns up? When someone directed their anger at you, or they were not respectful towards you. That felt far from good!

The fact is experiences create emotions. And emotions, when they are strong enough, create memories. Here’s where EI comes in.

When you have the skill of EI you are better equipped to create positive experiences and emotions for yourself and others. You can also manage your negative emotions better and the negative emotions of others will have less impact on you. It’s a great skill to have when you are working with customers, you have your targets and things are extremely busy.

Here’s a more formal definition: “Emotional Intelligence is your ability to recognise and understand emotions in yourself and others. It’s your ability to manage your behaviour and relationships” Dr. Daniel Goleman (the author of ‘Emotional Intelligence, why it can matter more than IQ’)

To become more emotionally intelligent, you’ll need to master three things

1. Self-awareness. When people are self-aware, they seem to be genuinely interested and curious to learn more, they are fantastic listeners and can sense how someone might be feeling without a word being spoken. They understand the emotions they experience which means that they can name their emotions and tame them...which leads me nicely onto the second point.

2. An amazing brain scientist called Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett explains that we are not at the mercy of our emotions. We can manage them. This is self-management. People who manage their emotions choose to respond rather than react, they are consistent, measured, considerate and composed (especially when under pressure). We enjoy working with people who have EI, they keep calm when things are stressful, they take decisive action, and they are highly engaging.

3. Social awareness. This is where you’ll find empathy. It’s your ability to relate to others. To understand their situation through asking brilliant questions, rather than trying to step into their shoes imagining what it might be like to be them and how they might be feeling. Having social awareness is about being able to read a situation and the relationships between people too. You can only get to this level when you have invested in self-awareness and self-management.

The Power Skill

People who practice the skill of EI are healthier, they are happier, and businesses make more money when they practice it. Take a look at this sample of statistics:

  • 85-90% of performance can be linked to EI
  • Sales managers for a global cosmetics company with high EI sold $100k more a year than their low scoring counterparts
  • People with EI have fewer heart attacks, fewer strokes, and reduced anxiety.
  • Teams practicing the EI skills are more productive, innovative, and inclusive.

Show the Grinch the door! What to do.

The following little nuggets are intended to help you prepare yourself and your teams in the peak Christmas season… to show the Grinch the door (or some compassion, depending on the situation!).


1. Master the skill of feedback – there’s a technique called S.B.I that is really effective. You describe the situation so that the person knows what you are talking about. Then the behaviour you observed (remembering that this is from your perspective). Finally, you talk about the impact of this behaviour or the consequence of it.

Managing emotions

2. Tune into the energy – we all recharge our batteries differently. We need energy to be resilient and helpful and so consider asking agents how they recharge those Duracells and do something with the insight they give you. Enable your team to power up, create the space for it!

3. Take the power pose – this gives people confidence. Invite your agents to take the ‘Power Pose’ if they have had a difficult call or if they are feeling jaded by all of the Grinchs out there. (See links in the ‘watch section’ below)

4. Reassure the Grinch – Hearing ‘we’ll sort this out’ or ‘let me resolve this for you’ or ‘we’ll fix this’ helps any Grinch feel relieved. To do this look at your processes and highlight where you can do something to help address a situation no matter how small. The lead up to Christmas can be stressful for customers and if you’re able to reassure them you’re likely to create a loyal customer.

Social awareness

5. The agents who saved Christmas – people love stories of success. When we hear them, a hormone called oxytocin (a happy chemical) is released and this can be a great stress reliever. Consider inviting agents to describe the stories of how they saved Christmas from being a ‘disaster’ for their customers.

6. Compassion is key – check in with your team often, especially if they are working remotely. Keep your eyes peeled and your listening active for any changes in their communication. Any changes might signal that they are becoming tired, feeling exhausted or overwhelmed. Ask them how they are especially when you notice these changes, this could help them feel better.

Go deeper? Here are a few things to dive into if you’d like to learn more about EI.

 Read Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Challenge by Dr. Amy Cuddy, or
watch her TEDx talk

  • Watch the magical science of storytelling
  • Read 7 ½ lessons about the brain by Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett
  • Read Emotional Intelligence – why it can matter more than IQ by Dr. Daniel Goleman or these two Harvard Business Review articles on EI and leadership.

Written by Sandra Thompson

Founding Director of the Ei Evolution – a customer and employee experience consultancy using EI to achieve great results. Sandra’s also curator of the Ei Evolution Summit which takes place on 12 October with speakers including Dr. Daniel Goleman and Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett.

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