Will Smith hits Chris Rock on Oscar Stage
EQ,  Executive Presence,  Leadership,  Self-leadership

What Can We Learn From Will Smith’s Oscar Debacle

[I originally wrote this after the Oscars last year (March 2022).]

Since the Oscars, my newsfeed has been flooded with the news and commentary about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock on stage when he made a rather insensitive joke about Will’s wife, Jada.

Smith later apologized to Rock. “I was out of line, and I was wrong. I am embarrassed, and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness… I am a work in progress.”

While this is celebrity news, we can relate to such incidents. Maybe not every one of us gets out of control like Will, but we all had moments when we got triggered, reacted strongly, and later regretted it. That is where our emotional awareness (EQ) and regulation come in.

EQ is a capacity that helps us understand ourselves and others, resulting in effective interpersonal relationships. Unlike one single number, there are different components of an EQ Profile. I found this model developed by EQ in Action quite effective.

  • Self-Reflection – How well do I understand my own experience 
  • Self-Regulation – How well do I regulate my distressing emotions
  • Empathy – How well do I know another person’s experience from their perspective.

You might have spotted already that Chris Rock failed the Empathy test and Will Smith failed the self-regulation test in this incident. So for the rest of us, the spectators, it’s a good time to use our empathy muscles to give them grace and take it as a wake-up call for us.

Our EQ is shaped partly by our DNA (nature), early childhood experiences, and environment (nurture) – we don’t have control over any of these. But the good news is that we can improve our EQ as adults. According to EQ in Action research, we can develop EQ Fitness similarly to physical fitness or other complex skills. Becoming our better versions takes focus and disciplined practice.

As Will Smith aptly said in his apology, we are a “work in progress,” including myself. The goal is to make it a conscious practice. We slip once in a while, reflect and amend, and then we apply the learning to become better. One of my recent executive coaching clients, a VP in a big tech firm, worked with me to improve his emotional outbursts in front of others in big meetings. In only six months, he made visible progress resulting in a promotion to an SVP role.

Let’s talk when you are ready to start or continue that process!

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The feature image is from BBC news page screenshot.

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