For some people, Valentine’s Day is about love, but for us at Military Mentors, it’s all about the connection and understanding. On days like this holiday, one can’t help but think about human interaction. I thought about being in Iraq during the first year of my marriage (and our first Valentine’s Day) how much communication and connection got us through it. I had a good friend by the name of John Williams with me during that time. Both of us being newly married we did as most newlyweds do and we found ourselves conversing about understanding connection through communication.

John laid out an interesting belief concerning how men and women were wired differently in how we think and connect. Taking it a step beyond the normal “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” discussion, he believed that women think and communicate in Olympic rings while men are wired to view life through an x/y axis structure. For women to get from point A to B on those rings, there is no straight path; they loop back and forth along the path and revisit times or events that happened along the way, which tends to give an emotional color to the history over the journey. To get to point B on an x/y axis, men think very solution based to go ‘over two and up three’ along the coordinate axis in the straightest of lines and quickest of solutions. I thought it was pretty telling of how we all think and connect. Being intelligent enough to understand the impact of being aware of how we socially interact is paramount not only to each of us as individuals, it plays directly into mentorship as well.

The Big Picture

This laid out for me a basis for understanding the two-way street that communication is in all of our relationships. Connecting to others isn’t just about being smart; it’s about being self-aware, empathetic and emotionally intelligent. We must understand how others speak as well as how they receive what we say. In recent posts we’ve discussed the importance of Daniel Goleman’s work that is based upon Peter Salovey and John Mayer’s psychological research into emotional intelligence (EQ).1 As a quick reminder, Goleman’s five components can be summarized as: self-awareness (recognize and understand our personal moods and drives), self-regulation (controlling judgment, impulses and moods before action), internal motivation (a passion for goal pursuits, optimism, and persistence), empathy (understanding the emotional makeup of others), and social skills (managing relationship and building networks).2 EQ allows us to fine tune the lens of how we view others and how we can then better understand and connect to them.

The Science Behind It

Recall that if done correctly, mentorship is a collaborative and reciprocal process of engagement between the involved parties.3 It is an emotional investment between each person, much like a true friendship, a couple or any other mutual relationship. It pays off in ways that intellectualism simply cannot: people with average IQs but high EQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70 percent of the time.4 Decades of research point to this as fact. Our top performers are emotionally gifted. We need to mentor others to also be emotionally talented, and in order to do so mentors themselves need to be so as well.

The reasoning

Edward Conture, PhD, a teacher from a Vanderbilt University, explained this importance in his 2003 paper entitled “Emotional intelligence, leadership style and mentor-mentee relationship”.5 He reminds us of many key notes regarding EQ as we go forward as mentors, of which a few of the most important are captured here:

1) Self-management must happen before management of others: Quite simply, a mentee will not follow you if you don’t have yourself together. The skills that you try to impart on another must be honed and sharpened first by yourself. Remember, a mentor has walked the path the mentee is trying to travel along. Hopefully you’ve done your best to know the path. Goleman’s first component of EQ is about knowing thyself.
2) We must “show and tell”: A mistake often made is that we as mentors assume that we just have to show a protégé the right ideas to emulate. This is a false assumption. We must also do the tasks and be the role model. The mentor needs to be on the journey with the mentee and be an integral part of the end-state they are both going toward. Honing our EQ to integrate both experiences is key to this idea.
3) “One-size mentorship” doesn’t fit all: We must tailor-make our mentorship to the mentee. We cannot clone; the point of mentorship is to get someone else where they want to be balanced with where they need to be. The advice someone gave you may not apply to them. The wisdom you passed along that helped out your last mentee may not work with your new one. Having the EQ to understand that is paramount to getting the protégé to where they need to be.

So What Are the Outcomes of Emotionally Intelligent Mentorship?

As we become more and more emotionally intelligent and grow others to be the same it is common sense that our organizations and institutions begin to reap the benefits. But these benefits go farther than just our job sites and workplaces, as many of our networks reach far beyond the walls you spend the majority of your day in. This is the true point of building others – serving others to enact a greater impact. In his article entitled “18 behaviors of emotionally intelligent people” Travis Bradberry lays out analysis from over a million participants to show us the key benefits of having and building in others high EQs.[6] The most important of these behaviors in mentorship circles are: gaining a robust emotional vocabulary, giving and expecting nothing in return, and maintaining curiosity about other people. Quite significantly, these are traits we all need to foster in ourselves and others in a world that can at times seem emotionally distant and cold.

The Takeaway

In the end these abilities will also help you with those day-to-day relationships that we all have. Our communicative skills and ‘connectability’ with others doesn’t just become some stove-piped talent we only pull out at work or leverage with protégés. It comes full circle, affecting our families, friends and loved ones as we raise our EQs and look to help others do the same. Valentine’s Day is as much about the ones you love as it is a reminder of the vast range of emotions we all are inextricably tied to as broader members of humanity. We seek to capture the essence of who we inherently are. Start a conversation about it and potentially spark a transformation in us all.

1 Jim Perkins, “EQ>IQ… simple math, or is it?”, accessed 1 FEB 2016, available from
2 “Daniel Goleman’s five components of emotional intelligence”, accessed 14 FEB 2016, available from
3 Chaveso Cook, “The gift exchange”, accessed 7 DEC 2015, available from
4 Pat Di Domenico, “Do you have the emotional intelligence to lead?”, accessed 14 FEB 2016, available from
5 Edward Conture, “Emotional intelligence, leadership style, and mentor-mentee relationship”, Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders, 2003, 104-115.
6 Travis Bradberry, “18 behaviors of emotionally intelligent people”, accessed 14 FEB 2016, available from

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