Emotional Intelligence in FI

According to Wikipedia, Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the capability of individuals to recognize their own and other people’s emotions, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately. It’s about using emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s).

To me is about having a state of awareness at all times that enables you to unconsciously make shifts in your behavior while managing your emotions when in presence of different personalities. It requires a high level of adaptation to situations and environments in hopes of achieving a successful outcome.

Yeah, yeah, yeah but what has EI got to do with Financial Independence (FI), well a lot! but first, let me set the stage so that you can start connecting the dots.

When I started learning about Financial Independence, I immediately became captivated by the idea and felt overwhelmed by the amount of information out there waiting to be discovered. Books, podcasts and a number of blogs became my go-to sources of information fueling my desire to grow my knowledge exponentially. It felt like trying to drink from a water hose but I was OK with that.

Once the foundational layers were in place, (at least based on my priorities and goals) I decided to start sharing practical tips that could help others around me. This came with its own set of challenges.

Obviously, nobody had a clue I was learning all this stuff (except for my wife) but the minute I saw an opening to engage I took advantage of it. As you may imagine people were not ready for that conversation and I should have known better. I guess excitement took the best of me.

Lacking EI did not help my cause. Being frugal came across as being extremely cheap. Comments such as “why do you always ask so many questions”, “why do you have to challenge everything”, “I’m not like you”, “leave me alone” and others, came up several times from individuals that are close to me.

At this point, you must be thinking about words such as “annoying” or “obsessed”  and you’re probably right. Looking back, I realize I could have done a better a job had I been aware of how critical EI was for managing emotions and achieving a specific objective. In my case, my goal was to “teach” and/or “share”.

Through the course of my short path toward FI, I’ve remained objective but mindful of people’s opinions and perspectives. I mean, how could I not be?; do I believe I know it all? … hell no; however, I’ve come to learn a few things around PF that are worth sharing especially if the potential is there for someone to benefit from actionable advice.

But let me ask you a question … are you ready to have an open conversation about money? … I will say that in 9 out of 10 and in some cases 10 out of 10 the answer will be a firm NO. Talking about money is taboo and for some reason uncomfortable for a lot of people. It might be even worse than talking to my dad about sex.

Regardless, I’ve tried engaging multiple times but failed miserably. I guess I still don’t have the magic recipe right?. If you have it, please share it with me but please don’t charge me because I’ll ask for a deal :).

I know this topic is kind of old and has often been discussed in PF forums. Honestly, after reading and reflecting on similar experiences others have gone through, I’ve come to the realization that some folks are just not ready to have a conversation and maybe never will. If that is the case, am I to remain indifferent and just let stuff happen without saying a thing?. After careful thought my answer is YES and here’s WHY:

  • Hard to take someone else’s advice especially if not asking for one.
  • There has to be a willingness to learn or have an interest in the topic.
  • The best learning takes place through your own experiences, not through someone else’s.
  • Something has to click … think of it as an AHA! moment.
  • Shit has to hit the fan so you’ll have a genuine need.

If you’re thinking I’ve given up … The answer is NO, instead, I’m living my life and letting people come to me (if they ever come) when they’re ready to talk. In addition, the whole idea of starting a blog was to avoid uncomfortable conversations while still getting my message across.

Has this strategy worked? … I would say that early results are highly encouraging. I’ve been getting on and off phone calls and emails from individuals asking for advice. My dad, who in the past would never say a thing about money because … well,  he was older and was supposed to be teaching me, now reaches out! We may not talk about sex (I’m married now so I think that’s better) but we talk openly about money. To me, that’s an AWESOME WIN in my book.

I’m looking forward to hearing from others (including you) but in the meantime, I will continue to capitalize on the 5 elements of emotional intelligence in the context of PF.

The 5 Elements of Emotional Intelligence in PF

1. Self-awareness

Today, I pay a lot of attention to personal moods, emotions, and drives which in the end go a long way in facilitating my decision making process. If for whatever reason I’m asked to comment on specific topics on PF, I’m careful with my word selection and delivery method just to make sure there’s match between my intention and people’s perception.

2. Self-regulation

Controlling your emotions is not easy, especially when engaging in heated debates. I try to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods as much as I possibly can. I’m also pushing myself really hard to do more listening instead of talking so that I can have the time to think and respond more effectively in a given situation. As a rule fo thumb, I also remain silent especially if nothing positive is going to come out of my mouth.

3. Internal Motivation

It pays dividends to be explicit about your intent and motivation. If you don’t state that at the very beginning then it could lead to unintended misunderstandings. You might be surprised but, I’ve been asked what’s in it for you? my response is just a state of disbelief and the realization I’ve screwed up in some way or fashion. Nowadays, I set the stage by providing my reasons which in general circle topics related to happiness, living a meaningful life, curiosity in learning all things PF and most importantly sharing as appropriate.

4. Empathy

People call me naive but one of my strengths is that I tend to be an optimistic individual and always give people the benefit of the doubt. I believe there’s tremendous value in getting context (especially around PF) and understanding someone’s intent so that you can properly translate the meaning of emotions and actions.

5. Social skills

I would like to believe I’m putting an effort in managing relationships and building networks. My goal is to find common ground by listening … and I mean listening, which in my world means getting to know the person as a human being; what they like, dislike and what ultimately drives them.

Turning the Volume Down

EI is a soft skill I definitely want to continue to get better at. I’ve been able to use these concepts at work and other settings; however, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’ve faced lots of challenges; with heated debates that have brought less than nice comments to my ways of life.

In the PF community, this appears to be a common theme. For some reason, terms like FI, FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) and frugality are mislabeled to such a degree that we tend to be categorized as freaks or weirdos. I think that’s wrong. Just because we are trying to do things differently instead of following the “norm”, it does not mean there has to be something wrong with us. With that being said, let me share the five rules (leveraging EI) I use to control and influence all the “noise” around me. This is common sense stuff that allows me to effectively “turn the volume down”.

1. Know your audience

No value in bringing topics that are of no interest to the crowd. Even if you hear things you don’t agree with, realize information and context are everything. The personal aspect of PF could be a driving factor behind decisions being made in front of you so don’t judge if you don’t want to be judged and live and let live. Learn to appreciate healthy conflict and if asked, share your perspective without enforcing a hidden agenda.

2. Perception is not always reality

I’ve always believed that perception is in fact reality; however, in the context of PF, this is not necessarily true. Being frugal has nothing to do with being cheap or miserable. If you live a meaningful life investing in things that bring you joy and happiness then who cares what others think?. I’m a simple guy, as long as we have our faith, stay healthy and together as a family then it’s all good.

3. An increase in income does not equate to an increase in spending

I’ve been fortunate. I have a job I’m passionate about that happens to pay well. But does that mean I need to maintain a certain lifestyle that’s expected of me?  Do I need to sell my old used car and buy a new one? do I need to go on an expensive vacation or eat at a restaurant all the time? Absolutely not. I don’t need to spend a ton of money to be happy so my plan is to keep doing the things I love while delaying gratification in hopes of achieving FI sooner than anticipated.

4. Peer pressure is overrated

How many times do you find yourself doing stuff to please others? If you are, then I urge you to stop. Invest in experiences that bring you true happiness, surround yourself with like-minded individuals and don’t let others influence your financial decisions.

5. Don’t waste your time trying to impress others

Nobody cares about the brand of car your drive, nor the school you went to (or still go to) or how much money you make or spend. If you have kids, please don’t even go there comparing them with other kids to make yours look smarter. Invest your time wisely and live your life for who you are and the legacy you want to leave behind.

Final Thoughts

Instead of adding some bullets like I normally do, I encourage you to think about these five rules and see if you have others you would like to share that I could include!

Until next time … JJ

2 comments

  1. Sadly like you I also realized that offering advice only works about 10% of the time.

    But I came to the conclusion that rather than reaching out, I’ll just have to be a shining example (at least in finances) to people so that the people close to me will seek me out themselves. Because I want the best for them, but it’s futile to try to convince someone who doesn’t want to know or feels they have it all figured it out.

    Like you said, sometimes it has to hit the fan.

    1. Hi MWM, thanks for stopping by. I agree with your comment 100%, it’s tough but I guess all we can do is try. Like you, I try to keep a low profile and lead by example. Surprisingly this has brought unexpected but very rewarding attention. All my best JJ.

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