For those of you who have worked in large corporate settings, the term "EQ", or sometimes "EI" depending on the publisher, may not be all that foreign! In my experience I have only ever seen this type of training deployed across corporations of moderate to large size; where teams that specialize in different sectors have to work together on a task that cannot be performed by one unit alone. With that being said, however, it was actually an artist that brought the idea of sharing this concept with our audience to my mind, and I'll happily introduce him in a bit. But first, let's do a learn!
Emotional Intelligence is defined as:
"The capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions; and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically."
We, as people, use our emotional intelligence skills every single day. If you go online and do your own research, you will quickly find that emotional intelligence is often broken down into four categories, but some models can use five. Both of these models are valid and will give you a general idea of emotional intelligence. For our example today, I'm going to introduce an EQ model that has five elements, then apply it to the real world with the help of my friend, Skully~
First, let's consider Emotional Intelligence to have the following five attributes:
1. Self Awareness - The ability to know one's emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, and goals; while recognizing their impact on other's and using their "gut feeling" to guide decisions.
2. Self Regulation - The ability to control or redirect one's disruptive emotions and impulses while simultaneously adapting to changing circumstances.
3. Social Skill - The ability to manage relationships and move people around you in the desired direction. Not to be confused with a manipulative mindset.
4. Empathy - The ability to consider other people's feelings, especially during the decision making process.
5. Motivation - The ability to understand what is driving your decisions and processes at their core.
Taking these five factors into account, you can already see how having a good grasp of Emotional Intelligence would serve anyone well, but before we go any further, I'll give you a quick background of how I came to know of EQ and it's power.
I first came across Emotional Intelligence training back in 2018 when I was with Piedmont Airlines working as a Systems Training Coordinator. The concept was completely foreign to me and sadly, the training came with an entire book that you had to read. The irony is boundless for someone who can sit and write page after page, but struggles to read even the most necessary of instructions. I can't even make it through the "how-to" guide on most new purchases before my well of attention is dryer than the Mojave after a bad New Vegas joke.
But! If this article about EQ has piqued your interest and you would like to follow-up with the exact learning that I both took and then taught, you can pick that up right here: Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. I really do recommend this program to anyone who is in a leadership role, has a high rate of social-interaction, or is just wanting to get a better understanding of emotions in general. It's a great book for new and experienced leaders alike. To help me illustrate how this concept applies directly to our community, I sat down with a veteran artist to better describe how having a high EQ can help you make every day a little better.
Meet Skully, a well-known artist in the Anthro community with a Bachelors Degree in Illustration, who has been creating anthro art since around 2008. Skully began his professional career as a commission artist in 2017 and has since gathered over 17k followers on Twitter alone! His focus has been largely on commissions but now he is setting his sights on more personal projects like comics and hopes to be able to put more time aside for himself in the near future. I wanna offer a huge thanks to Skully for agreeing to do this article with me! He is honestly super nice.
When it comes to dealing with our community, here are a few tips to keep your EQ high, and your stress low, from an artist's perspective. The main points are in bold with Skully's words followed in italic print.
Set limits for social interactions, especially when it comes to business. (Self Regulation)
I think I handle social situations the same as most now-a-days, which is put in the effort given. I don't really respond to any messages that just start out with a simple "hi" and answer any questions I can when asked. When it comes to negative energy, I like to make sure my boundaries are known, especially if its a social space I've set up like a telegram chat, or discord server, or even my stream page. I don't do politics, I don't participate in the "furry faction wars", and I try hard to have good energy myself while only responding to good energy in turn.
For commissions and commissioners, I try to do what I can to just make good art and please my clients. If it gets to a point where it stops being fair to my time, I try to lean on my TOS because that's what its there for.
Learn the value of "live to fight another day." (Self Awareness)
Remember how I mentioned my TOS? This is a perfect example of why you need one as an artist. I had a back-and-forth exchange with a client and in this particular instance, I leaned on my TOS and cancelled their commission before things progressed too far. I felt bad about it, of course, but ultimately I needed to do what was good for me at the time and just send a refund. This was when I was just about to move across the country and I had a really tight schedule of things I could do. I know it sucks to get refunded, but I think artists have this weird guilt about doing what's good for them and sometimes that's to just stop working on something, send the money back, and walk away from a piece or even a client.
I think I'm very lucky that pretty much every client I've worked for has been amicable. I think people understand the "artistic process" (for whatever that means anymore) a lot more than they used to and that leads to a lot of people being more willing to negotiate with their clients and set boundaries for when behavior dips into the uncomfortable. Artists are seen a lot more as multifaceted people and not art factories anymore, I think.
There will always be those clients that don't like what's made, or change their mind on things, or have to have it "just so." That's okay too. I've been that client before, and for sure will be that client again in the unknown future, but that's the best time to talk about things, negotiate and compromise. Standing up for yourself as a creator is very important and making art that you can be proud of, and that a commissioner is happy with, is also important. There has to be a balance, of course, and I think that's why every artist, no matter size, needs to have a proper TOS, preferably written by them, so they can meditate on how they would want things to go in the event of a disagreement.
In terms of non-business though, I have had a few times where someone was interested in talking to me but it was because they liked the idea of "Skully" as a character/artist and less of Skully the person. This isn't uncommon, lots of people online deal with this kind of situation but ultimately I think it depends on someone's level of investment. The instances I've been involved with where something got heated was either from crossing a personal boundary, or having communication failure, or just a simple misunderstanding. I think its generally worth talking it out but some people will never see your point of view or appreciate your boundaries and it isn't always worth the mental investment to try and convince those people. You have to do what's good for your mental well-being and for me that was to just disengage.
Stay aware of your emotions and learn to rise above. (Social Skill)
I come from a very splintered family, if you ease your definitions of Mother and Father I have two people with the title of Dad, and 3 people I would call Mom to polite company. I'm extraordinarily thankful for all of them, but this point revolves around my birth mother. For starters, my mother is a recovering alcoholic and she is completely lovely; I also call her every weekend just to keep in touch. I like to think we have a good relationship now, but when I was a budding teenager she was the kind of alcoholic that would say and do things that would stay with those subjected to those words and actions forever, while she would tend to forget.
I won't get into details but I think about that period a lot when I'm about to engage in something I know will make me upset or angry. Maintaining a stoic attitude was the only thing that really kept me going at that time because if I could make myself emotionally distant I thought I would stay safe. There came a point, however, where it wasn't safe for me to continue living with her, so I had a period of time where I was effectively homeless. Nomadically changing where I slept and who I would stay with while attending school. Eventually, I asked for help and was able to legally move in with one of my fathers.
I'm sure this feels like I'm getting away from the question, but here's the point: For the next handful of years I had set a staunch set of boundaries with my mother. Things like "I will not pick up my phone after 7pm," or "if you bad-talk my father I will end the conversation," things like that. I very much had to distance myself emotionally from this person that looked like my mother, but wasn't because she would be in a state of mind that made her a completely different person. And sadly that other person just wasn't someone I could talk to.
Learn to establish boundaries. (Motivation)
I try to really keep a professional attitude in the Anthro community, its just what I was taught in college. Ironically, I've had to learn to be more casual on places like Twitter where that's more acceptable and encouraged. If someone messages me, I'll try to match their energy and level of engagement but of course that's not always possible. One thing I do try to stick to though, is to not do free art. Something I learned early in my art career that still pops up today, is that there are manipulative people online who will only engage with an artist to gain something. I'll never forget the person who taught me this, some random person I talked with over Skype who was upset at how I wouldn't sketch them something, so they blocked me and called me a nobody. However, sometimes the clout of "I'm friends with X person" is good too. So anytime I'm engaging with a new person I try to keep an arms length until I can feel them out. Taking some time to establish boundaries and intentions is never a bad idea, especially if you have something of value to offer.
To be honest, all I seek when it comes to engaging with the anthro community is to have a good time. There's a lot of [stinks] out there (can I say (Nope, Mariah edited this part out :D) ?) and just chit chatting and sharing art and making [stink]posts is important. Compartmentalizing and setting boundaries and building spaces where you can be emotionally fulfilled are [very] important and that's really all I wanna do for the people who follow me, or like my dumb drawings, or who wanna help me keep my livelihood up with commissions.
Feelings aren't like name tags. (Empathy)
Mariah here, I'm closing this final point because I want to take a moment to explain empathy in a little more detail. Empathy is a word, just like the other 171,476 in the English dictionary, that can be easily overlooked and just thrown onto a screen. On it's own it, to use a colloquial phrase, it often goes "in one ear and out the other" because we all know exactly what it means, right? Let's pause for a second and really think about it.
It is generally considered that there are two major components of this concept: Affective and Cognitive empathy; and each one tackles something a little different. Our Affective empathy is considered to be our capacity to respond with an appropriate emotion to another's mental state, while our Cognitive empathy is our capacity to understand another's perspective or mental state. The reason I am expanding on this point is because it is also believed that people can be better at one, the other, or struggle with both. What's more, it is also absolutely possible to lack empathy, but that doesn't give you an excuse to ignore the feelings of others; even if you can't feel or understand them yourself.
The Anthro community is vast and full of a wide range of people who create from the heart. There will be times when you come across pictures, crafts, podcasts, youtube videos, twitch streams, and many other forms of media that you don't particularly care for or even agree with. Something you should keep in mind though is that feelings aren't like nametags. The people who create content don't immediately know what you like, what you don't like, or what you're going through in life just by looking at a profile picture or 160 characters and icons below it. A lot of the toxicity that we experience in our community stems from a general lack of empathy for one another, and I think a little understanding here would go a long way.
From one member of the community to another, I want you to know that it's okay to not like something. It's okay to mute words, unfollow creators, and even block people who make stuff you don't enjoy. That's the beauty of the internet! You don't have to see anything you don't want to. But, before you post that comment about why whatever it is you're looking at is bad, or gross, or whatever, think about the person who made it, how they might feel about it. How that image, or craft, or podcast might be their only outlet, or escape, from whatever it is they are going through. It's okay if you don't like it, but if it isn't outright illegal, then you are free to unfollow, block, and move on; instead of starting a pointless drama fire.
Emotional Intelligence is a powerful tool that we can all benefit from and I hope to see the toxicity in our community lessen over the coming years. With everything else from politics to pandemics going on, I think we all have enough to deal with without turning our crosshairs on each other. We are Anthros, so let's share our knowledge, learn together, and reshape our community into something we like~