I’ve long admired Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, the convenience food conglomerate (Think: Pepsi Cola, Lay’s, Doritos, Cheetos, Gatorade…).
Nooyi is one of the few Indian women who is at the helm of an empire. But what I most admire is that she has a reputation for being compassionate and empathetic.
On The David Rubenstein Show, Nooyi related the following story.
Not long after she took the top job at PepsiCo, Nooyi went to visit her mother in India. Hanging out in her mother’s living room, an endless line of visitors (most of the people she didn’t know) began showing up.
Now you would assume that they came to see Nooyi because she was a big-time CEO of one of the world’s most successful conglomerates.
The visitors were there to tell her mom what a good job she had done in raising her daughter.
“Other than saying hello, the visitors hardly spoke a word to Nooyi at all.”
She explained to Rubenstein that it was then that she realized that it was her parents who were responsible for much of success and that they indeed deserve the praise.
“It occurred to me that I had never thanked the parents of my executives for the gift of their child to PepsiCo,” she says.
When she got back to the U.S., Nooyi sat down and wrote a letter to the parents of each of the members of her executive team.
“I wrote a paragraph about what their child was doing at PepsiCo,” she said. “I said: ‘Thank you for the gift of your child to our company.’”
Parents wrote back to her, telling Nooyi that they were honored. Executives related to Nooyi that those letters were the best thing that had happened to their parents.
Nooyi has said in the past that the best way to have employees emotionally invested in their work is to have a business model that stands for something that speaks to their values and the essence of who they are.
“You need to look at the employee and say, ‘I value you as a person. I know that you have a life beyond PepsiCo, and I’m going to respect you for your entire life, not just treat you as employee number 4,567,’” she said.
This story shows that Nooyi is a woman who is not only intellectually intelligent, but also exceptionally emotionally intelligent.
As women, I think we should all aspire to have emotional intelligence the same way we pursue our dreams and ambitions.
Many of us already exhibit emotional intelligence in our everyday lives.
If a woman displays these five behaviors, she has a high level of emotional intelligence.
1) She is hell-bent on having healthy boundaries
In September 2017, actor and singer Selena Gomez said this to The Business of Fashion (via Oprah Daily):
“It feels great to be connected to people, but having boundaries is so important,” she said. “You have to have those few people that respect you, want what’s best for you, and you want the best for them.”
In her Emotional Intelligence Series, therapist Rachel Mullin from Rachel Mullin Counseling, says that personal, professional, and romantic boundaries let others know what you are or are not willing to tolerate, or what you will and will not, and what you expect from others depending on the roles of your relationship.
She says that having boundaries contribute to our overall emotional intelligence “because when you are confident about the limits and boundaries you have with others, you will be less likely to get into situations where you feel out of control or powerless, and you will be more likely to command respect from others who can see that you have limits.
So how do we know when to set boundaries, especially as women?
Here are the main ones Mullin recommends:
- Don’t trust the wrong people
- Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into doing something you don’t want to do
- Don’t take on responsibilities that aren’t yours
- Don’t be overly tolerant of inappropriate behavior
- Don’t be easily manipulated
You are absolutely allowed to have expectations, emphasizes Mullin. As women this can be thought of as taboo, but it is every woman’s right.
“It is perfectly fair for you to have expectations of your workplace environment, or your family interactions,” she says.
“You are not always going to be able to change the behavior of others, but you can speak up for yourself and set limits on certain issues when you need to.”
Mullin says this can be anything from being firm about when you need to leave work, or choosing to leave a family gathering that has gotten too tense and uncomfortable for you.
2) She abhors the idea of begging for attention
Emotionally intelligent women don’t beg for attention and they leave people who make them feel unloved, says the team at Higher Perspectives.
“She doesn’t sacrifice her dignity and self-respect by sending a million text messages and leaving endless voicemails. If she’s ghosted, she reflects the silence that’s given to her right back at them.”
It’s not that she’s made of stone and doesn’t grieve the relationship. “But she does so with purpose…She mourns in a way that feels [right] to her…then she carries on with life.”
After all, if someone ghosted her or ended things distastefully, they’re not emotionally intelligent and mature enough to be in a healthy relationship to begin with, says the staff at Higher Perspectives.
“She recognized that and may even be happy when a situation like that arises so she can move on quicker to someone worth her time and energy.”
3) She might fail from time to time, but she doesn’t have a fear of doing so
In an interview with T Magazine, Rihanna said: “You know it’s crazy. I have a tattoo that’s written backward so I can read it in the mirror: ‘Never a failure. Always a lesson.’”
Emotionally intelligent women know that life is fraught with failures. It’s what you do with those failures that really counts.
“Failure is an option for people with high emotional intelligence—and not necessarily a bad one,” says Beth Ann Mayer from Mind Path Health.
“They take the experience and learn from their mistakes,” says John Huber, PsyD. “They do not take one failure as representation of who they are or any situation will end.”
Women with a high level of emotional intelligence are self-aware and emotionally regulated enough to handle criticism like a pro, adds Dr. Tara Lindahl, PsyD.
“They can admit weaknesses and see criticism as instructions on how and where to improve,” she says.
4) She engages in empathy every time
If I had to choose an emotionally intelligent and empathetic woman from history, I think former First Lady, Betty Ford would be high up there on the list.
Her legacy arguably outshines that of her husband, President Gerald Ford as she courageously took on taboo topics such as breast cancer, abortion, and addiction; she started the iconic Betty Ford Center—a non-profit, residential treatment center for people with substance dependence in Rancho Mirage, California.
“In doing so, started national conversations that impacted, and saved, countless American lives.
“Women tend to be better at emotional empathy than men, in general,” says Dan Goleman, PhD.
This refers to the three forms of empathy: cognitive (which is being able to know how the other person sees things happening in their world); emotional empathy (feeling what the other person feels); and empathic concern (sympathy; being ready to help someone in need).
Goleman says that empathy fosters rapport and chemistry.
“People who excel in emotional empathy make good counselors, teachers, and group leaders because of this ability to sense in the moment how others are reacting.”
5) She can read the room
I think being able to read the room is an accomplished skill to have.
I remember during the early part of the pandemic when some celebs were complaining about how being in lockdown felt like prison.
Twitter had a firestorm about it.
People felt it was tone-deaf and inconsiderate considering that there are people in actual prisons who were living without soap and the proper protections from the coronavirus.
Also: 99% of people didn’t have the luxury of having to isolate from a beach house mansion.
Emotionally intelligent people know how to read a room and use it to shape their words and actions, says Dr. Lindahl.
“They pick up on non-verbal cues in others, like body language, and combine this awareness with regulation to bring calm to situations that would otherwise get heated, like a disagreement over finances with a romantic partner.”
She continues: “They are aware of their emotions and others’ and navigate difficult conversations with facts, not feelings.”
Emotionally intelligent women are also active listeners and they think before they speak.