One of the first things we are taught as children is to, “treat others as you would like to be treated,” and to “do to others as you would have done to you.” That is good advice for children, because it is the easiest way for them to understand how to act before they can comprehend the idea that not everybody thinks like them.
Nobody likes to get hit, so don’t hit other people. You like it when other kids share their toys with you, so share your toys with them. All very understandable.
As adults, however, this is the wrong way to examine our interactions. Buying your girlfriend a new speaker system for her birthday is indeed treating her as you would like to be treated, but as anyone who has bought a gift that was way off base for a significant other can attest to, it is not going to score you any brownie points.
In a Harvard study, 50 students in a class were split into two groups. Both groups were given a flash-card with a picture, that if looked at one way would show the face of an old woman, and if looked at in a different manner would show the face of a pretty young woman. 25 students were shown a picture that accented the face of the older woman, and 25 students were shown a picture that accented the face of the younger woman.
After 10 seconds, the students were told to turn the cards over and the illusion was shown on the projector, this time with neither woman accented. The professor asked the students what they saw, and for 20 minutes they argued back and forth, even resorting to insulting each other, until the professor stopped the conversation and showed the class that there were in fact two faces in the picture. If ten seconds can create beliefs so strong that classmates would openly insult the intelligence of one another, imagine what a lifetime of different perception can do? The takeaway: do not fall into the trap of believing that what is important to you, and the way that you would like to be treated, is the same for other people.
Emotional intelligence is measured by how well we do or do not understand the feelings, desires, and fears of those with whom we interact. Figure out what is important to the people that are important to you, and treat them not as you would like to be treated, but as they would like to be treated.