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How to integrate Emotional/Social Intelligence into your Diversity and Inclusion Culture

In a recent Interview with Daniel Goleman, who many consider the preeminent author and noted psychologist on the topic of Emotional Intelligence, he considers whether Emotional Intelligence is increasing in society, “I don’t know that we are becoming more emotionally intelligent, I would like to hope we would, but I think that the number of inter-group wars that are going on, the inter-group hatred going on, the levels of familial abuse, in other words, indicators of emotions out of control, in dangerous ways, don’t look that great.”

This paints a stark picture for our society at a time during a pandemic when Emotional and Social Intelligence is needed now more than ever. And even more importantly, Emotional Intelligence is not necessarily the first thing on people’s minds when dealing with race relations, diversity practices, and inclusive company culture. Often these are thought of as disparate things when it comes to training or coursework.

The definition of Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of your emotions and the emotions of others. And for Social Intelligence it is the ability to take stock of where you and others are emotionally and managing your relationship in real-time to effectively communicate, influence others, minimize conflict, and build better relationships. As the ability to be aware of your emotions is deeply tied to Unconscious Bias and the ability to mitigate biases, Emotional and Social intelligence plays a crucial role in any training or corporate culture conversations.

Leaders who wish to make the most of their training, need to increase their emotional intelligence when discussing challenging topics such as race and gender equity. A fair amount of Emotional Intelligence is required to discuss these topics because they usually stir up a lot of emotions including fear, hatred, or anger among employees. When these negative emotions are heightened, employees may experience a fight or flight response to a given situation or conversation. This means they either get defensive, blame others, blame themselves, or avoid having any meaningful conversation altogether. For example, if a white male colleague accuses a black female African American colleague of being “an angry black woman,” these words alone will more than likely stir up a heightened sense of emotion in the accused. With increasedSocial and Emotional Intelligence, employees can navigate challenging conversations that are critical to the implementation of diversity and inclusion initiatives and help those with lessEmotional Intelligence acumen to avoid racially charged language, hatred speech, or microaggressions.

According to Marjorie Derven, an expert on D&I and Emotional Intelligence, in an article published by the Association for Talent Development in 2014, “Increasingly, we are working across borders, cultures, and very diverse team members—driven by changing demographics and globalization. These changes make EQ (Emotional Quotient (aka Emotional Intelligence))foundational for success. However, EQ is not enough: we also need Diversity & Inclusion practices to become embedded into our organizations to maximize talent and marketplace opportunities.”

Industry and organizational leaders must begin to integrate Emotional/Social Intelligence with their Diversity and Inclusion practices, culture, and training within an organization in order to create lasting change and get inclusive values to “stick” in an organization.

Some of the ways that they can do this include:

  • Recognizing the tenet of Unconscious Bias—and that all individuals operate with their own biases and related histories.
  • That individual biases can be mitigated with the right training and awareness.
  • That Emotional/Social Intelligence plays a part in helping leaders determine appropriate policies and direction for tasks such as inclusive hiring, diverse promotion practices, and instilling cultures that seek to benefit all groups and ethnicities, and not certain populations.
  • Integrating Emotional/Social Intelligence training into essential core curriculum of an organization, association, or corporation.

What can you do to begin the process? First look at the methods you use to train employees on both Diversity & Inclusion and Emotional Intelligence—are they working? Are you integrating courses on both topics together or are they separate enough that employees are not making the connection? Are you refreshing your employees’ knowledge of the topics on a regular basis? And finally, are you changing policies and procedures because of the insight gained from these courses? If the answer to some of these questions is “no,” or the questions are leaving you blank, then perhaps it is time to revisit your training and understanding of Emotional Intelligence.

For more information about Emotional/Social Intelligence and training options, contact CJ Gross ( or Chris Morin (