I attended a one-day university for engineers. Near the end of the day, a man named Bob stepped up to the lectern to introduce the next speaker. "Our next topic is Emotional Intelligence," he said, advancing the slide. A photograph of a 6-year-old boy appeared. The boy wore a shiny blue soccer uniform and was in full pursuit of a soccer ball. It was Bob's son.

To introduce the topic, Bob said that as a father attending his son's soccer games, he saw many parents witnessing the entire event through the lens of a video camera. He put his fist up to one eye as though he were holding a small camera to it.

He then said that those who watched the game from behind a camera could not jump up with joy when their child scored their first goal, or run out onto the field to join the team as they embraced their hero, or participate wholeheartedly in the support of the team.

Nor is it likely, he said, that a camera man could respond when his son was injured, or be the first one at his side, or engage with the other parents, or enjoy the animal spirit of competition.

"So that's my view on emotional intelligence," he said, and then he introduced the speaker. For me, Bob's short speech of introduction was a stunning moment of authenticity and a very personal way of introducing the topic. He had thought about what emotional intelligence meant to him, and evoked it with an image of its absence.

Perhaps because the preceding two hours had been a series of presentations on highly technical topics, or maybe because, as a parent, I had often been preoccupied with work issues during my daughter's soccer games, I was moved by his metaphor.

Because he was not condemning the use of video cameras. He was pointing out that there is often something standing between us and our willingness or ability to live deeply in the moment. And by making that point through storytelling--the personal story of him going to games and seeing parents with cameras stuck to their faces--he was able to dramatize the importance of the topic.

When he finished talking, something happened in that room full of 250 engineers. The atmosphere changed. The silence got more silent. We were ready to listen.

Published on: May 21, 2014
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