Learning & Development

Why the Will Smith Slap Is a Sign of Diminishing EQ

Art and artists reflect the societies they come from. This is something we actively celebrate with countless award shows spanning different mediums and communities—for example, the Academy Awards.

Will smith emotional intelligence

The 94th annual Oscars were historic for a few reasons. Marlee Matlin was the first deaf actor to win an Oscar. Ariana DeBose was the first Afro-Latina and openly queer person of color to win the coveted award. Barriers were being dropped. Historically marginalized communities were finding representation, but nobody is talking about it.

Everybody is talking about how Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on live television. It was an unfortunate incident that has overshadowed events far more deserving of the spotlight. People can assign blame and shift responsibility between Rock and Smith, and Twitter has not shied away from trying, but it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is how this event is reflective of our society as a whole and the degradation of empathy.

The Lost Value of Empathy and EQ

We live in a time that no longer values or depends on empathy or emotional intelligence (EQ), at least not as much as previous generations. Why? Because people are having fewer and fewer meaningful interactions. Ultimately, this can have devastating, long-term effects on the mental health of individuals, the success of companies, and the nation as a whole. Let’s start broadly.

It takes a level of EQ to successfully land a date. Person A has to flirt with Person B without appearing too forward or too distant. Each has to learn body language and how to effectively empathize in order to successfully play that game of cat and mouse we so often see in romantic comedies. It takes patience, understanding, and sacrifice, as the stakes are high. Nobody likes being rejected. Well, now, thanks to dating apps like Tinder, we can skip the cat and mouse. Apps like these streamline the dating process, cutting out the need to fumble through awkward conversation, learn communication skills, or even develop a sense of investment or patience. Not a match? Just swipe again.

This sort of digital streamlining has been creeping into the business world, as well. Studies show that employees and business partners are having less face time than ever. Getting a job (similar to the dating app concept above) used to require connections, EQ, and communication skills. Apps like LinkedIn, while useful, streamline this process, as well.

On first glance, you could argue that if EQ is no longer needed for success, then why care? We should care because the self-oriented, IQ, individualistic (to a fault) culture is not sustainable. It isn’t a sustainable way to run a government, which we have painfully witnessed within our last few presidencies. It isn’t a sustainable way to run a business, and it isn’t a sustainable way to live a fulfilling life with friends and family.

The Bottom Line 

So, no, what happened at the Oscars is not directly related to the rise of Tinder or LinkedIn. But it is indicative of a larger cultural mindset. It is a symptom of an unhealthy decaying sense of empathy in a modern world. We are witnessing the beginning of an entirely new problem.

Instead of seeing how deep the rabbit hole goes, I’d rather drum up some solutions. Maybe it is time we put a bit more emphasis on developing empathy.

Brad Federman is the chief executive officer of PerformancePoint, LLC.