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Interaction Intelligence: Another Call To Action

“No [hu]man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and [they are] not the same [hu]man.” - Heraclitus


What is IIQ?


In March of 2021, I introduced the concept of Interaction Intelligence® (IIQ) at a conference on workplace inclusion. IIQ stands on the broad shoulders of Edward Thorndike Daniel Goleman’s Social and Emotional Intelligence® (EQ) respectively, but adds the element of Time.


Each Interaction is new. Since each interaction is layered by the experiences that happened since the last meeting, each possibility is new. Even if we see someone daily, between now and the last time we saw each other, we have absorbed different content. We have new data.


It’s what Hiraclitus called “universal flux,” but if so, then how to achieve universal Flow? One way to get granular about how each interaction is unique is to look at the Social and Perspective Sciences, which measure human preferences.

Practicing IIQ elevates the real-work application of Goleman and Thorndike’s theories because it doesn’t rely on one group to adapt more than another.


To develop IIQ, like surfing, requires ongoing practice and vigilance. The more different we are from each other, the more work we have to do to ensure that communication (sent and received) has taken place. The more familiar we are with one another’s ocean’s, the more equipped we are to not make dangerous decisions.


Whoever said that “communication is the most dangerous thing a person can do,” wasn’t kidding.


We want a better world, but we don’t know how to discuss creating it together. Our human-ness sometimes gets in the way of our humanity. But it’s natural to have biases. We are wired to confirm the stories we hear.


When we encounter something that doesn’t match our expectations, then conflict arises from the need for various approaches to Dissonance Reduction. To be human is to be Biased, but so is our ability to be aware of when our bias is hurting someone or not.


The higher the Interaction Intelligence, the more likely a person is to match their intent to their impact to include the component of, “Do no harm”. The study of IIQ is a concrete starting point to distinguishing between healthy biases and unhealthy ones.


While IIQ would hang off of a tiny branch of Dr. Goleman’s “Social Skills”, it illuminates Cross-Cultural Competency development (CCCD) as a sharable goal that most can agree we need. CCCD requires years of practice for individuals, unless they are TCKs or have had to survive across cultures and then we see these groups adopting and understanding how biases play a healthy and unhealthy role in our lives.


Community building will require a lot of patience with each other. As John Kotter says, “Transformation is a process, not an event.” Kelli McCloud has a technique for bridging differences called: “Storytelling and Storylistening”. What if we could just listen better...if only it were that simple.


Interaction Intelligence honors the process of developing Emotional Intelligence. It focuses on the fact that it’s ongoing, not just a belief system. Things are constantly changing, what Heraclitus called, “universal flux,” so building IIQ is also ongoing.


I believe this is a worthy aspect of the discussion because part of all of this Self and Other Awareness is exactly what makes it impossible for any one of us to be totally “woke”.


There are 8 billion + and counting of us. It’s impossible for us to know the other billions of ways of seeing the world, but we can start with the person who is right in front of us.


Definitions of interpersonal and intercultural competence are evolving, but Deardoff’s definition from 2000 is still relevant today. He identifies three areas of development: Attitudes, Skills and Knowledge. Not just knowledge and not just agreement, because sometimes those come with Resistance to The Mirror.


When we are guided by Respecting Others, Accepting our Differences AND Doing No Harm, we don’t have to know everything about each other, we just have to lean into our curiosity as a concrete first step.


I believe that the current power structures can be rewarded for their role in getting us here AND asked to improve. I also believe that if someone isn’t aware yet, then that is a diagnosis of where to start the transition, not a statement of correctness about a person’s worth.


What people are rewarded for today is different than what they were rewarded for yesterday. Respect is holding the space for those who had to survive a past about which we know nothing.


Therefore, when you are learning about a new person’s worldview:


  • Pause

  • Be curious

  • What is their success?

  • Through what lens did they have to see to survive in their world. For what do they get rewarded?

  • Check your bias

  • Listen at a level 2 or higher

  • Focus on NEEDS when disagreeing to keep respect and authenticity aligned

  • Repeat


“If you are biased, you are human.” It’s probably why we all made it this far and didn’t get killed off 10 thousand years ago, so go easy on yourself.


This is tricky stuff and it requires a lot of love (at home) or compassion and empathy (work), to respect that each person is allowed to not be perfect for your current moment’s needs. Whether you do or don’t believe in BLM, the stories we need to listen to aren’t our own, they are of those who are different from us.


I’ll never forget when I saw Hannah Gadsby in New York City performing her one-person show: Nanette.


She said, “Diversity is strength. Difference is a teacher. Fear difference, you learn nothing.” “We think it's more important to be right than it is to appeal to the humanity of people we disagree with.”


Therefore we lean into our healthy and unhealthy bias so that we can choose more mindfully. It’s just one more thing that each one of us can do today. When we call someone “wrong” we are only showing the world our ethnocentrism, not stating a Truth.


What part of our IIQ is most important to develop today?

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