BUSINESS DIVORCES:  Emotional Intelligence

Why do I choose to write about the concept of Emotional Intelligence in a lawyer’s blog on Business Divorces?  Mainly because an attorney needs a sound Emotional Intelligence (EQ) if she is to successfully “separate the people from the problem” as I wrote about in BUSINESS DIVORCES:  The People Problem.

Also because a famed academic — Howard Gardner, Hobbs Research Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education — calls a person’s Emotional Intelligence “the level of ]his] ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them.”

And because I can think of only a few other areas of law practice where high Emotional Intelligence is more needed than in Business Divorce Law.  (OK, maybe a few, like Family Law, Guardianship Law, Criminal Defense Law, etc., etc.  BUT attorneys choosing to enter those practice areas know they will encounter emotionally fraught clients and situations.)  “Business Divorce” sounds intellectual, rational, objective and technical, like tax, securities, corporate or administrative law, for example.

Business Divorce Law, however, can sometimes require as much EQ as IQ — or more.

Basic Components of EQ

Consider the five generally recognized domains of emotional intelligence outlined by Daniel Goleman nearly 25 years ago in his book Emotional Intelligence:

  1. Self-Awareness, or Knowing One’s Own Emotions
  2. Self-Regulation, or Managing One’s Own  Emotions
  3. Motivation, or Marshaling One’s Emotions in Service of a Goal
  4. Empathy, or Recognizing Emotions in Others
  5. Social Skills, or Managing Emotions in Others

Why EQ Matters in Business Divorce Cases

When owners in a closely held company begin to bicker and fight, the battle may quickly become nasty and bitter.  Things are said that can’t be taken back.  Actions are taken that can’t be forgotten.  Feelings are hurt and remain sensitive and sore for a long time.  Bonds of trust and confidence are broken that can’t be rebuilt.

An attorney venturing into this cauldron of emotion on behalf of one of the owners needs to possess a sufficiently high EQ:

  • to avoid subconsciously adopting her client’s emotions (Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation);
  • to assist the client in turning his emotions toward supporting his interests instead of undermining them (Motivation, Empathy, Social Skills);
  • to recognize, respond to, and handle the emotional outbursts of other owners (and sometimes their lawyers) without responding in kind (Empathy, Self-Regulation, Social Skills); and
  • to turn the emotional concerns and energies of the owners from destructive into constructive ends (All Five Domains).


Everyone needs to develop a robust EQ for all walks of life.  In today’s social media-saturated world, immature displays of unfiltered emotion and outrage can begin to look like the new normal of human discourse.

In Business Divorce cases, some of the primary actors may have difficulty controlling their own emotions or dealing with the emotions of others.  The attorneys in those situations need to practice and model good and sound Emotional Intelligence.

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