Jule Kim introduces a concrete metaphor comparing emotional intelligence to a set of markers. She says that some people only have 3 markers to work with, only three shades with which to express or reciprocate emotions. Others have far more, a full spectrum of colorful emotions with which to experience life.
I really appreciate the beautiful simplicity with which she targets the lack of emotional complexity that some of us feel. While not specifically naming men in her video as the people with fewer emotional markers to choose from, I felt directly referenced. She was describing the limited palette of anger, love, and fear that have guided much of my life. It is how I have processed the world around me and navigated my relationships.
In the video, she advocates for asking big questions like, why someone needs a particular emotional color or why they might need it from a particular person. These are essential questions to finding common ground between two different people. But she also leaves other questions unasked like, how do we expand our palettes? And that is the question I am most intrigued by.
If I only have a few markers at my disposal, but I see that others, including my wife and children are capable of making incredible emotional tapestries with theirs, how can I feel satisfied with my measly three shades? Just as my oldest son’s art has come a long way since drawing small anthropomorphic animals to now include painting still life and building out whole new languages of drawing that have no easy comparison to other styles, I too can find new colors. For both of us, it has taken practice.
I now regularly practice naming feelings within myself or trying to see how others are feeling by listening and responding in kind. It is not something that comes naturally, and the further I get away from my three core emotional colors, the more energy it takes. And yet, it isn’t hard to practice. Naming emotions is something that I can do from anywhere, while I am doing almost anything. Just because it wasn’t taught to me or encouraged within me when I was young does not mean that I cannot learn it.
I do not feel inadequate because other people in my life have a wider range of options when it comes to their emotional intelligence. Rather, I see it as an opportunity to learn from them, as they are the ones who have worked for each one of their markers of feeling. I am now working to do the same, even if it took me a few decades to realized I needed more than three markers.
Thank you to Jule Kim for her transformative metaphor. Please take the time to watch her video and follow her for more on imposter syndrome and self-love.