Mask on your face or heart on your sleeve?

As kids, we grow up hearing that good grades are the key to getting into a good college.  And during college, the right extracurricular activity, volunteer role or internship are the keys to landing a good job after graduation.  Historically IQ has been the primary indicator of success, and if you fell short on intellect, hopefully you could make up for it with athletic, musical or artistic ability, physical appearance or something else.

Until the 90’s, when Daniel Goleman popularized emotional intelligence, EQ was non-existent as an indicator of success.  Emotional intelligence is defined as “the capacity to recognize, control and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and with empathy.

Evidence continues to grow, indicating that EQ is a stronger predictor of success than IQ.  How is that possible?  Because while genetics play a large part in determining IQ, EQ can be learned, practiced and mastered, meaning while IQ is generally static, EQ can increase over time.

After learning more about EQ, I was intrigued and decided to investigate certification training.  I chose the Six Seconds model because their mission of “1 Billion people practicing emotional intelligence,” resonated with me.  I also liked that Six Seconds has tools that can be used with adults and children.  For me personally, this training provided the opportunity for work/life integration at its best.

I spent last week in New York City, digging into and learning the Six Seconds model.  While the model provided many insights into how I can work towards improving my own EQ, there was an exercise that I found particularly interesting.  The purpose was to reflect on the “masks” we wear in life.  Our mask could be related to work, family, community, personal life or other elements.  Whatever the elements, the key questions are 1) what does our mask present to the outside world and how do we want to be seen and 2) what do we want our mask to hide and what don’t we want people to see?

Those who know me well know that what they see is what they get and rather than a mask, I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve.  Whether it be frustration, sadness, enthusiasm or joy, it’s usually pretty clear what emotion I’m experiencing at any given moment.  I pride myself on authenticity and taking a genuine approach in my personal and professional life and don’t do well with games, politics and positioning.

That said, I’ve been thinking about all the places in life where masks show up.  If we are practicing EQ, the question I’ve been wrestling with is; mask on your face or heart on your sleeve?

In our personal life
Each and every one of us has “stuff” in our past or present that we don’t necessarily want to wear on our sleeve and publicize to the world. Our stuff could be from our childhood, personal relationships, prior jobs, or any number of things.  At the same time, sometimes I think we forget that everyone has stuff that ultimately shapes us and becomes a part of who we are. If we were all a little bit more open to and accepting of our own stuff wouldn’t it be easier to be more open to and accepting of others?  Is it better to mask our stuff and pretend it doesn’t exist or wear our heart on our sleeve and embrace it?

On our resume
According to Inc., 85% of candidates lie on their resume.  Why?  Because as candidates, we want to position ourselves in the best light for a position we may not really enjoy, in a company whose values may not align with ours, representing a product or service we may not actually believe in.  Is it better to put on our mask and end up in the wrong position or wrong company, or wear our heart on our sleeve and possibly dodge a bullet?

At the office
The 40-hour work week has become a thing of the past and the super hero mask has become part of the standard issue uniform in the office. Running from meeting to meeting, getting back online at home after hours, being available while on vacation, traveling for business on weekends and holidays and essentially never shutting off has become the norm. Is it better to keep our mask on and risk our family, our health and our overall well-being or wear our heart on our sleeve and raise the white flag?

These aren’t easy answers and often the mask is a familiar and comfortable accessory.  I’m curious to hear what others have to say; mask on your face or heart on your sleeve?

“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne