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FREE PODINAR: Coaching at Capacity with Guest Chip Carter

August 3, 2018


Learning in Action’s Live Monthly Podinar for Executive Coaches

FRI. SEPT. 28, 2018. 7:30-9:00 am PT / 10:30-12:00 noon ET


with guest Chip Carter, MTS
Senior Advisor at LeaderJam and Institute of Coaching

Join Chip Carter and Alison Whitmire, president of Learning in Action, for discussion and Q&A around how to think about your coaching capacity, how coaches can fill their capacity in a number of ways, how coaches can think about coaching at different price points.

In this presentation, we’ll cover questions like these:
– Should I reduce my rates to get more clients?
– Would I get more clients if I reduced my rate?
– How much time should I be spending on my existing clients versus finding new ones?
– What are all of the options for finding new clients?
– What would optimize my financial and other goals?
– How much coaching per week do I want to do and how can I fill my calendar to my chosen capacity?

Attendees will leave with their own answers to these questions, and more, so they can best coach to their own capacity.

*** Ask your questions when you register or during the live event. We’ll get to as many as we can! ***


Chip Carter is a Senior Advisor, Strategy & Expert Network at LeaderJam. His expertise includes coaching, technology, business process, marketing.

Learning in Action’s monthly podinars are moderated by Alison Whitmire, president of Learning in Action.
The intent of our podinars is to support executive coaches:
• To provide the best coaching possible for their clients
• To make a thriving, successful living as professional coaches

We offer individuals, teams, and organizations effective tools and methods for enhancing Emotional Intelligence in relationship, in conflict, in real-time. Serving leadership development professionals and executive coaches worldwide.



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Posted in: Business of Coaching|Podinars

Emotional Thinness: When Relational Connective Tissue Needs a Workout

July 19, 2018

My heart ached as I sat across from Tom, my stony-faced CEO client, as he explained his and his company’s situation: “I don’t know what’s wrong. It just seems like any little issue can get out of hand. My employees are quitting for what seem to me like minor issues. And I don’t know what’s wrong with my buddy, Bill. He’s not even talking to me anymore.”

I had an idea of what was wrong and there wasn’t a quick fix.

As part of our work together, Bill had taken the EQ Profile (an instrument that reveals our internal experience when challenged or under stress). I had coached Bill for almost a year and it was clear (both from our work together and his recent EQ Profile results) that he had limited access to his own emotions, a nearly empty joy bucket, little to no ability to empathize, and was easily triggered.

He suffered from what I call “emotional thinness.”

What is Emotional Thinness (ET)?

Emotional thinness (ET)? (Never heard of it? I made it up. :)) You’ve met people ailing from ET and perhaps labeled it something else. It’s a difficulty in producing relational connective tissue.

Just as connective tissues like ligaments and tendons provide structure and support for our bodies, authentic and sensitive conversations, empathetic compassion and meaningful collaboration make up the relational connective tissues that provide support and structure for our relationships. ET sufferers don’t easily produce these things.

When you engage someone with ET, you’ll notice, consciously or subconsciously, a lack of warmth from him or her. It’s particularly noticeable in a group of people, say, at a party. You may steer clear of them because they may “flatten” your mood. That’s not to say someone with ET walks around mean or cold or angry or negative. In fact, they may be smiling and happy. And your interaction with them may have a distant, transactional or distracted quality to it and your conversation may be shallow and without meaning.

ET is somewhat rare among CEOs because relationships are so important for developing a stable and productive work force and having successful customer relationships. And sometimes simple brute force, an intense work ethic or dynamic energy can overcome the fairly significant drawback of emotional thinness.

What to Do?

The causes of ET are too varied and complex to describe here. It’s fair to say that ET sufferers probably didn’t have warm, secure, attuned relationships with their primary caregivers. That’s not to say they were abused or neglected. Just that they didn’t experience that relational connective tissue they needed in order to know how to produce it.

To overcome ET, what do you do? Connecting with others starts with connecting with yourself. The right coach or a therapist can help you better understand yourself. Also, EQ assessments like Learning in Action’s EQ Profile can help you see the emotions you experience and those you don’t access, measure your ability to empathize and see things from others’ perspectives. Such instruments can help you access and understand your internal experience, and then provide you with choice as to whether or how you act on it.

Only by understanding yourself can you make the changes you need to establish relational connectivity and create the meaningful relationships that can withstand minor setbacks and what I call the thousand tiny paper cuts of being in relationship.


For most of us, our internal experience is the wallpaper of our lives, something we don’t directly look at, see, think about or question. It just is. And often once we do examine it, we can easily justify it. We’ve consciously or nonconsciously spent a lifetime constructing it.It’s how the child in us learned to survive and defend itself. And that child isn’t always the best person to trust in a relationship under stress.

Most of us don’t magically transform overnight, and neither did Tom. He was quite shocked and confronted by his EQ Profile report. And initially, he pushed back mightily on his results. He didn’t see himself as emotionally thin at all. He saw himself as generally happy and optimistic with some good relationships.

However, the EQ Profile provided him with a snapshot of what goes on inside of him when he is stressed (which was a lot of the time in his role as CEO of a struggling company). And once he accepted the truth of it, he was able to understand why people reacted to him the way they did. And why small issues quickly became big ones.

The EQ Profile provided Tom with an awareness about himself that was new and impacted his entire life. Like all of us, he took his internal experience with him everywhere he went. And understanding that experience – his gut reactions, his tendencies, the emotions he did and didn’t access, his focus, his beliefs about himself and others – empowered him with the information he needed to know about himself to begin to make more relational choices.

Sure, Tom and I regularly revisited his EQ Profile results in our coaching sessions over the next two years. And we did so because his internal experience (as illustrated by his EQ Profile results) continued to show up in the issues and challenges he brought to our work together. By reflecting on and understanding his own internal experience, doing more to fill his own joy bucket and looking for his own contribution to any given interpersonal conflict, Tom began to develop compensating strategies that allowed him to become more relational and more connective.


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P.S. Want to receive our blogs in your inbox? Subscribe to our Friday Conversations Blog.

P.P.S. Sometimes we need to break the rules to forge ahead. Learn why it’s important for the success of your coaching business. Register for our July 31st podinar, “Unlearning Coaching: Challenging ‘the Rules’ to Do More of the Coaching We Love.” Did we mention it’s FREE?

Not an EQ Profile practitioner? 
Click here for information on the EQ Profile. Too much to chew on? Click here for a Taste of the EQ Profile.

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Posted in: Coaching|Emotional Intelligence

How To Price Coaching: Your Responses

July 12, 2018

The topic of money is all too often taboo, including among executive coaches. How we price our services can feel like a touchy subject. (And we LOVE touchy subjects!)

We received a lot of positive feedback from our blog post about How to Price Coaching.

Still, perhaps because the topic is largely off-limits, only 22 readers responded to the blog’s anonymous survey. We’re grateful for those who took the time to answer our questions – thank you! And your responses were quite enlightening.

While the results from such a small sample of coaches don’t qualify as statistically valid, we found the answers intriguing and helpful. We hope you do, too.

Executive Summary:

The majority of respondents identify as executive coaches and work mainly one-on-one with their clients, who are C-suite and senior executives in businesses, large and small. The majority of coaches bundle their services in six and three month packages (41% do six months and 18% three months). Most packages include 360 feedback, one or more assessments and meeting with the client every other week.

As you might imagine, coaches reported quite a range of pricing for their packages, charging anywhere from $6,000 to $20,000 for a six-month package. A sizable minority of coaches charge a monthly retainer versus a package. One respondent reported charging $10,000 per month plus $25,000 if the client also wants an in-depth assessment/360. 

The average hourly rate (when calculated out roughly based upon time spent) across all respondents was $334/hour.   

While we didn’t get enough responses to know for sure, my sense is that the factors that impact the price a coach can command include:

  • The experience and/or credentialing of the coach
  • The size of the company sponsoring the client
  • The title/scope of responsibility of the client
  • The geographic market of the client.

The majority of coaches (54%) feel adequately paid, while a sizable minority (27%) felt (and IMO probably are) underpaid. Some respondents admitted that they could (and should) probably be charging more.

That’s about it for the results of the survey. And while we didn’t have the number of respondents we would have liked, based upon my experience, the results seem typical. I have many dozens of friends and colleagues who are coaches, and Learning in Action serves hundreds more coaches. And what I’ve been told by my friends, colleagues and coach clients is consistent with these findings.

Editorial Note:

I have a genuine passion for helping coaches to make a thriving living coaching. (And frankly, I’m still figuring out how best to do that.) In my opinion, for us coaches to make a thriving living coaching, it’s on us to:

  • Clearly and narrowly identify our target clients who we LOVE LOVE LOVE working with
  • Tailor our coaching, our development, our offering, our services to that target client in a way that meets their needs, uniquely and spectacularly
  • Bring more of ourselves to our coaching (That’s a much bigger topic than I can speak to here)
  • And/or create a program that we take clients through that consistently delivers extraordinary value (e.g. Tony Robbins and others)

And when we do these things and price for the value we are creating, we’ll make a thriving living coaching.  

I think many of us are scared to increase our price for fear that we couldn’t “do something” worth that.  

So, here is a thought experiment to consider: Identify a price at which you’d make a thriving living coaching, and then reverse engineer the experience you’d have to create for your client to be in fair exchange with that. We’d love to hear what you come up with.

I’ll be talking much more on these and related issues at the next podinar: “UnLearning Coaching: Challenging ‘the Rules’ to do More of What we Love.”

Join me for it and register here.

See Below for the Detailed Survey Results


Which best describes how you identify professionally?



Which best describes your main area of focus?




Which best describes the size of the organizations you most often work with?




Which best describes who you work with most?



Which best describes how you package your initial services? (i.e. for first time clients)



What’s included in your package of services?



What do you typically charge for your package of services?

Answers from our coach respondents varied widely, from a low of $125 per hour, to $30,000 for a package of unspecified services or duration.

The range of comments covered anywhere from $6000 for six months to $20,000 for six months.

One coach priced at $1000 a month for four 55-minute sessions.

Several coaches mentioned that they charge additional fees for assessments they offer.

Two respondents noted that they don’t offer packages.

How and when are payments made?

This question brought perhaps the most variety of responses, with the majority of coaches using their own unique timetable for billing. 

The answer with the most coaches responding in the same manner: Four respondents said payments are made twice: at the beginning and the end.

Three respondents said in thirds: at beginning, middle and end.

Nearly all else said once per month, varying when within the month.

Some coaches mentioned invoicing, but most did not specify how payments are made.

One respondent said payment schedules are determined individually with each client.

What is your average hourly rate?

Responses ranged from a low of $150 to a high of $1500 per hour, and all points in between. (Only one respondent reported an hourly rate over $1,000.)

The majority of coaches came in at $250, followed by $300 per hour.The average hourly rate across all respondents was $334.

Would you say that you feel…



Why do you feel this way – in regard to the preceding question?

“It’s what [my state’s] market will bear.”
“Coaching is a passion and I still find getting paid to do something I love to be quite a remarkable thing.”
“I cannot coach full time and earn my living.”
“I vary my rate by the client, both my interest and their budget. I am trying to have a diverse set of clients so I am willing to be flexible to diversify my client base.”
“I’m aware of what other coaches charge, because I have managed a coaching program in a company.”
“Other coaches and consultants seem to charge more and not lose clients over it.”
“[Because of my level of] experience and feeling that I undervalue myself.”
“Some of my clients tell me I under charge — my peers charge more.”
“Probably for the same reasons most of us undervalue ourselves… feeling like an imposter, not good enough, it’s challenging or measure.”
“It’s what I have read is the norm.”
“Feedback from clients is positive. No pushback re: fees.”
“I price my services at a level the folks I work with can afford and use sliding scale depending on the situation.”
“I think the whole coaching practice got priced too high. Are we really worth more than therapists – I think the executive coach range set the price and got carried into other levels of the organization.”
“I’ve been at this rate for a while and I am told I deliver big value. Also, my credentialing and certifications have continued to increase.”
“Fees are all over the map, and quite dependent on the client industry- so I flex to fit.”
“I think it’s time to raise my rates. And I would like to get into more team full day retreat facilitation for a chunk of change rather than just the hourly rate.”
“I really enjoy my clients and also want to make good $$$$.”
“Being in the market of education, this is what they can afford. I could charge more but I wouldn’t have the amount of work. I am working to change this model and educate educators/institutions on the importance of a coaching model for their school(s).”
“I’d like to select both ‘overpaid’ and ‘underpaid.’ Overpaid relative to what I think most C-suite coaches get paid. Underpaid relative to what else I do with my time at [my company]. (e.g., Finalist assessments on CEO searches).”
“I am very experienced and add a lot of value, so it is commensurate for my clients pay a premium for it.”
“My clients are happy and I get referrals.”

What else would you like to share?

“After an initial 3 month contract, I move to monthly upfront payments. These are less than 1/3 of the initial contract but do not include assessments. I feel the hourly rate is equivalent.”
“It is more difficult to gain access to clients who would pay higher rates in the international development world.”
“Coaching in organizations is more time consuming for the coach because there are so many additional meetings, such as chemistry meetings, negotiating the corporate contract, the 3-way meetings with the boss, etc. Coaches should anticipate this in their pricing.”
“Good work on this. Thanks for your efforts and information.”
“Focus on your niche. My niche is taming senior leaders who are perceived as abrasive. I also do facilitation of groups, conflict mediation, and training in cringe moment conversations. It is critical to have several assessment tool credentials such as the EQ Profile, 360 assessments, Myers Briggs etc. The more & varied the coaches arsenal of tools- the broader the opportunities. Multi industry work experience is a plus.”
“The survey is going to be misleading, the forced choice answer is problematic, often I felt I was misleading you.”
“Thank you for leading this discussion.”
“I have definitely tried out a few different package options over my years of coaching, and I also have had my clients for many many years.”
“Thanks for the article. It was great.”
“Even though I’m late, I would love to get the results of the survey!”

The thoughts shared with us were insightful and significant. We’re thankful for all the information gleaned that we now share with our larger readership.

Missed participating in the survey? It’s an ongoing topic. We’d still love to hear your thoughts! Share with us online.

Join the conversation. 

Button to click to share reader's thoughts on Facebook page.


P.S. Want to receive our blogs in your inbox? Subscribe to our Friday Conversations Blog.


P.P.S. Sometimes we need to break the rules to forge ahead. Learn why it’s important for the success of your coaching business. Register for our July 31st podinar, “Unlearning Coaching: Challenging ‘the Rules’ to Do More of the Coaching We Love.” Did we mention it’s FREE?

Not an EQ Profile practitioner? 
Click here for information on the EQ Profile. Too much to chew on? Click here for a Taste of the EQ Profile.

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Posted in: Business of Coaching|Industry

I Feel Judged By You

July 5, 2018

My son’s nanny had been with us about a year when we sat down for her performance review. Betty was smart, dedicated, and had great judgment. Great judgment both in terms of her ability to make good decisions and in terms of her propensity to cast an opinion based upon her beliefs. The former type of judgment was a strength. The latter, not so much.

After providing Betty with a glowing evaluation, I told her that just one thing was still niggling at me. I wasn’t sure how to approach it, or even whether saying it would be fruitful. But I forged on, “I feel judged by you.”

Betty was taken aback, clearly unprepared for my comment. “What have I done to make you feel that way?” she asked. “It’s not anything you’ve done or even said,” I replied, “It’s just what I feel.” She was slow to respond. Finally, weighing her words carefully, she said, “I believe that children should be cared for by their parents.” Essentially, Betty was saying, “Good parents don’t hire nannies.” Huh.

What a paradox?!

What Is Judgment?

Judgment, in this context, happens when we form an opinion of someone or some action based upon our own past experiences and/or beliefs. While we take in some information from the present, we tend to focus on the information that supports our bias based in the past.

Judgment can be based upon our past experience with that person. However, judgment is more typically the result of early childhood relationships and experiences, developed as a kind of emotional and/or physical survival strategy. Our judgment applies those past survival strategies to the present, whether or not they apply or are even beneficial to us.  

BTW, Betty’s mom died when she was a toddler and she was cared for largely by her not-much-older siblings.

Why Do We Judge?

We judge for many reasons, but mainly, it’s in our nature. From the beginning of time, to survive we have had to assess quickly the present situation based upon our past experiences. (e.g. We hear someone’s stomach growl and think it’s a tiger. Run!) We judge others with the same speed (and degree of accuracy).

We judge because it’s easy and energy-efficient. Judgment is black/white, right/wrong, good/bad, should/shouldn’t, innocent/guilty. Seeing and attempting to understand people as shades of gray or bundles of both good and bad (as are we all) is time and energy consuming. (And it’s in seeking the gray, accepting the bad with the good, that Emotional Intelligence lives.)

We judge because it’s satisfying. It gives us what we want, each according to our own personalities. (Our judgments are always about us.) Our judgments make us right, better, justified. And that is comforting to our small self. However, it also keeps us locked in separateness from those we judge.

What’s the Harm?

Judgment is costly, to both judger and judged. When the judger judges, she has essentially decided what she thinks, feels, and believes. Period. Done. End of conversation. Judgment traps both the judger and the judged.  

The attitudes and the behaviors of the judger (created by the stories that the judger makes up about the judged) limit what she can see to what conforms to her judgment. The cost then, to the judger, is that she misses the opportunity to learn from and be challenged by the judged. Losing the chance to find a place of growth and opportunity for herself. Missing the value that is or could be created by the judged.

The cost to the judged is more pernicious. The judged feels persecuted for an unknown crime. And, consciously or more often unconsciously, feels boxed in by the judgment placed upon them, held within the invisible walls of limitation set by the judger. The judged begin to doubt their ability to expand beyond the confining and unyielding judgment of the judger. In this way, judgment can become self-fulfilling, which can be experienced by the judged as self-defeating, and by the judger as making her right.

We all judge all the time. It’s part of the human experience. The key is being conscious of our judgments so that we can be free of them. And in being free from them, be in relationship with each other and in connection with ourself and the present moment.

Because if judgment is black, then acceptance is white. And acceptance is what provides the possibility of a present, transformative experience with others.


The challenge for the judger (which is all of us, BTW) is to accept the possibility that their judgment might be just that, a judgement, projected from themselves and not a fact about the other. The work for the judger is, as Susan Scott would say, “to interrogate reality.” To check out their assumptions, to be curious and open.

Identify your most troubled, important relationship and consider: how are you judging them? How do your judgments keep you right, better than, separate from? How might your relationship improve if you did nothing more than drop your judgments, give up the need to be right, and become accepting of, and curious about, who they are? Give it a try!


I don’t remember now if I continued to feel judged by Betty after our conversation, and it didn’t matter. She was invaluable to my son and our life.And I suspect that naming the elephant in the room was enough to dissipate the wall of judgment between us. She ended up working for our family for eight years until we moved out of town.

Interesting twist, three years after that initial review, Betty corralled me one afternoon to tell me she was pregnant. She was expecting the unexpected. Long story short, a few months later, Betty gave birth to her daughter. After her paid maternity leave, Betty came back to care for my son in our home, bringing along her own daughter. It was a win, win; a relationship of true interdependence.

Join the conversation.

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P.S. Want to receive our blogs in your inbox? Subscribe to our Friday Conversations Blog.

P.P.S. Did you know…. you can use insights gleaned from the EQ Profile to better recognize and break through coachees’ patterns, even without them taking the assessment? Learn how in July at our new Master Class: Insight Mapping.

Not an EQ Profile practitioner?

Click here for information on the EQ Profile. Too much to chew on? Click here for a Taste of the EQ Profile.


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Posted in: Emotional Intelligence

The Emotional Intelligence (or Not) of Immigration

June 27, 2018

For most of my life, I’ve shied away from political topics. Political discourse has always felt somewhat-to-completely futile to me. (Perhaps it’s my ‘wants’ orientation that needs a kind of ‘do this – get that’ relationship to get me motivated.)

Also, I’ve found that political issues have a way of bringing out the ire in otherwise kind and generous people. And I’m not eager to have that heaped upon me.

Now, futile or not, ire or not, I can stand quietly by no longer. My hope is that what I write brings about understanding and connection that ultimately makes a difference.

So, with great trepidation, I wade into the timely and highly political topic of immigration with a blog post (guaranteed to be at least partly futile and somewhat ire-inducing) that hopefully sheds some light on the Emotional Intelligence (EQ) aspects of this issue.

Note: While I’ve been accessing anger and experiencing at least a couple of its gifts (in particular, direction setting and motivation), my intention is to keep that anger out of these posts (as anger rarely connects us all).

The Emotional Intelligence of Immigration is About Boundary Setting and Compassion

I’m no expert on immigration. And I don’t have a solution to the challenges that illegal immigration presents to our country. I do know a bit about Emotional Intelligence as we define it at Learning in Action. And the EQ essence of the immigration debate is boundary setting and compassion.

As it relates to boundary setting, you might be thinking, “Well, duh!”  Border/boundary – same/same. OK. From an Emotional Intelligence perspective, boundary setting is about defining where I stop and where you start, what’s ok and what’s not ok between us, and what’s mine and what’s yours (particularly when we are in conflict). The ideal boundary from an EQ perspective is one that allows us to be both separate from and connected with each other. (Says easy, does hard.)

And if we tend toward thicker boundaries, compassion can keep us connected while we work out our differences. Compassion is the glue that can help us stay in relationship in tough times. Compassion connects us with others through shared thinking, feeling and wanting, and honors the inner experience of others.

Staying separate and connected (with healthy boundaries) and compassionate can be extraordinarily complex, energetically challenging and incredibly uncomfortable, particularly when we are in conflict. I call it “withstanding the thousand tiny paper cuts of being in relationship.” And it’s tough to get it just right and most of us don’t. And we can try.

Blurred Boundaries

Because the ideal EQ of both separate and connected is so challenging, most of us tend to lean one way or the other – toward either being unseparate or unconnected – when we are under stress. When we lose our separateness, our boundaries can tend to blur, making it difficult to separate what’s me or mine from what’s you or yours.

When we experience blurred boundaries, particularly under stress, we can tend toward one or more of the following:

  • Take more responsibility than is ours to take (e.g. taking on the physical responsibilities of others and/or responsibility for the emotions of others)
  • Allow others to take advantage of us (e.g. allow others to expect more of us than is reasonable, though we may not perceive it as too much at the time)
  • Enable others to not do their part (because we are doing it for them, often before they choose to do it for themselves)
  • Not be able to define clearly what’s ok and what’s not ok in relationship (perhaps because others violated our boundaries when we were growing up and there is no space in our brain that can define what a boundary is – that’s a whole other blog post to come)
  • Fear/belief that setting a boundary will end the relationship (perhaps because we’ve become so unconsciously enmeshed in the relationship that drawing a boundary can feel like an ending of both self and other)
  • Become exhausted and overwhelmed taking on too much, disconnecting us from our own joy

Do you identify with any of the above statements?

To be clear, most of the above occurs outside of our consciousness. Those of us who lean toward blurred boundaries tend not to recognize the porousness of our experience because it’s the wallpaper of our lives. We don’t see it about ourselves except perhaps when someone with healthier boundaries points it out. (It’s often something we’ve learned that we don’t know we’ve learned.)

When our boundaries are so blurred, we can literally lose ourselves. And as a nation, if we applied our blurred boundaries to our immigration policy, it would pose an incredible challenge. On our resources, on our energy, on our own joy. So, clearly, saying, “Hey everybody, come on in! We’ll be responsible for you!” is not healthy. Not healthy to us as American humans or as a nation.

Boundaries Too Thick

When we don’t err on the side of blurred boundaries, we’ll tend to err on the side of being unconnected or disconnected from others. Creating boundaries that are too thick when we are challenged. When we are disconnected from others, we don’t feel their pain, we distance ourselves from their humanness, we “really don’t care.”

When our boundaries are too thick, we can tend toward one or more of the following:

  • Believe in the idea of ‘every man for himself’ (perhaps because we learned from an early age that we had to look out for #1)
  • Not consider the impact we have on others, being unempathetic to the feelings/needs of others (perhaps because we weren’t attuned with as children, no one recognizing or sharing with us in our feelings/needs)
  • View interactions with people as transactions versus relationships, ‘dealing’ with people, instead of relating with them (perhaps because that’s been a successful strategy for us in other parts of our lives)
  • Become angered by others not behaving as we expect them to (perhaps because we learned to look outside of ourselves as our point of reference, and life rarely gives us exactly what we expect)
  • Separate ourselves from others through blame, judgement and devaluation.
  • Believe that the end justifies the means, placing policy over people and their welfare.
  • Ascribe to the idea that being right ‘trumps’ all else. (It’s about the principle!)

Do you identify with any of the above statements?

Perhaps not? Some of it sounds pretty mean and heartless. And when we are being challenged (the way that we can feel that illegal immigrants challenge us), we can be triggered into a default way of thinking, feeling and wanting that we are barely, if at all, conscious of. We can have an inner experience like what’s described above, without being aware of it.

Conscious or not, too thick boundaries are not healthy for us as humans or as a nation. As humans, when our boundaries are impenetrable, they keep us protected and everyone else out. And it keeps us alone. Physically, emotionally, or both. It prevents intimacy, connection, love. Something we all need. As humans and as a country.

As a nation, thick boundaries (whether through walls or policies or tariffs) assume that we can survive somehow completely on our own in the world, without friends, without allies, without alliances. And we can’t. Not in the long run.


Regardless of our tendencies to lean toward blurred boundaries or too thick boundaries, empathetic compassion can keep us in relationship when it’s hard to be in relationship. Empathetic compassion taps into our heart, connecting us with the feelings and needs of others.

When we are empathetically compassionate, we know, care and share in the feelings of others. It keeps us leaning toward others versus away when the going gets tough. People who don’t experience empathetic compassion, simply don’t care about the thinking, feeling, and wanting of people, especially when they are in opposition with them.

Many things can block people from experiencing empathetic compassion. Personal hardship, wealth, racism, righteousness. (See more on Empathy in this related blog post.) And it’s rarely a conscious choice people make. It’s often a result of how their brains have been shaped by the events and relationships of their lives.

We’re All Human

Most of us are unaware of how boundaried or compassionate we are when we are being challenged. These aspects of our internal experience are largely unconscious to us. (That’s why we created the EQ Profile – to help make what’s unconscious to us about our inner world, more conscious).

For the most part, boundaries and compassion are not conscious choices we make. Rather, they are the result of the relationships and events of our lives and the meaning we’ve made from them. Those relationships and experiences have influenced our beliefs about what’s required for us to survive in the world.

And the experiences that have created those beliefs have shaped how the neurons in our brains have wired together and determine what feels comfortable and right to us. And what feels comfortable and right gets reinforced as our patterns of thinking, feeling and wanting play out. So, for some people, what feels comfortable and right, what feels necessary for survival, is to keep others out.

Understanding this, that our boundaries and our degree of compassion, are not completely our choice, helps me to understand and be empathetic toward the people who favor separating children from their parents as a deterrent to immigration.

To be clear, I’m not saying these people aren’t responsible for their actions or that connection or compassion are beyond their choice. I’m simply suggesting that understanding how these folks may have come to their position, understanding their perspective, helps me give them some grace. And I can regard them with compassion as fellow humans. I can give them what they don’t give others or perhaps themselves.

The Emotional Intelligence of People Who Favor Separating Children From Their Parents

It is easy for me to make up a lot of mean and sinister stories about the people who decided separating children from their parents would be a good deterrent to immigration. Making up stories is what we humans do. It’s part of our neurobiological make up. And those stories we make up can easily turn into judgments that then further separate us.

So, I can’t and won’t speak to the motivations and intentions of the people who made these decisions. I wasn’t there. I don’t know.

And the EQ orientation of those people is one of thick boundaries and low compassion. With such an orientation, illegal immigrants, parents and children can be otherized, blamed, judged, dealt with, and ultimately treated as objects. And all of that can be justified with the belief that the end justifies the means.

People in favor of separating children from parents don’t want illegal immigrants coming into our country, using our precious resources, taking our jobs. And they can feel comforted in that stance with the belief that they are in the right. After all, it’s the illegal immigrants who are breaking the law. They are the ones putting their families at risk, not us. They are responsible for their choices. We are just enforcing the laws of our country, as is our right. Right?

And people who favor this type of treatment of parents and children, illegal or not, immigrant or not, have developed their orientation (whether they are conscious of it or not) as a means of their own physical and/or emotional survival.

The Emotional Intelligence of Immigration

Emotional Intelligence is messy. And staying connected and separate and compassionate is challenging and hard and complicated and often uncomfortable. And what’s right isn’t easily determined. And staying in relationship while we figure out our challenges can be energetically draining.

Immigration is messy. It’s complicated. It’s not easy to see what’s right. If it was easy, we would have figured it out.

And whether referring to EQ or immigration, turning our backs on the pain of others is never the answer. It just can’t be. When we disregard the suffering of others, we are denying and degrading a part of ourselves. We can not disconnect ourselves from others without also disconnecting from a part of ourselves. We all lose when we do. We just may not see it.

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Posted in: Assessment Tools|Emotional Intelligence|EQ and Current Events|Learning in Action