The Three E’s Might Outweigh the Three R’s

Pixabay-justice-1296381_960_720-Uneven Scales

A Degree Is Not Enough

A study conducted by the Carnegie Institute of Technology has prompted a recent flurry of articles in Forbes and other news sources, websites and blogs. According to the study, 85% of a person’s financial success is due to his or her “personality and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead,” and only 15% is due to “technical knowledge.” Although the study was apparently published in the 1970s, I’m happy to see it being discussed because these findings reinforce the need for business etiquette training to enable people to network effectively and build relationships. In other words, it supports the premise that the Three E’s – Etiquette, Ethics and Empathy in the Workplace – and Life – are just as important as, and might even outweigh, the Three R’s – Reading, writing and arithmetic. 

Wait a minute, you say. How can financial success be more dependent on knowing how to shake hands than how to prepare a financial analysis? How can the soft skills trump the hard skills on which I am spending a fortune to learn in college? 

Okay, let’s take the medical profession, for example. You want to go to the best doctors, but unless you have dramatic proof that the doctor you’ve chosen is the best – that is, she was smart enough to remove your diseased kidney instead of the healthy one, or he successfully set your aunt’s broken collar bone and she’s just dandy now – you’re likely to choose the doctor who has the best bedside manner and is most responsive to you.  Thus, you’ve selected your doctor based on her personality and ability to communicate rather than her technical knowledge. Regardless of a doctor’s sterling reputation, how long would you stay with someone who never listens to you and treats you like you’re a piece of furniture instead of her patient who is paying her for these insults. 

The articles also include further findings that people would rather do business with those whom they like and trust regardless of quality or price!

Think about it. How often have you preferred the teacher, professor, principal or college president because of his dynamic personality, respectful demeanor, loyalty, character or ability to engage his audience? In the community, are you drawn to the banker, pharmacist, or car mechanic who greets you warmly, listens to you intently and follows up meticulously on your transactions, or to those who are curt, brush you off and don’t seem to be listening to you? The answer is obvious: you’ll want to do business with those who treat you as a valued patient or customer, people who seem to care about you and your business and who you like. And, aren’t you more willing to cut someone a break if you like him and have a good impression of him, even if he didn’t deliver exactly what you wanted? 

Does this mean that high school and college no longer matter, and that everyone should head off to finishing school instead? Of course not; but what it does mean is that to protect and market those valuable skills that you are acquiring in high school and college at great expense to you and your parents (don’t forget to count the time you invest as well as the money), you need to ensure that your soft skills are up to par. Envision a pile of gift boxes that you have been told all contain the same item; you are more likely to reach for the gift box that has the most attractive and appealing packaging.

The articles further report on:

  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ), which allows you to be self and socially aware, able to control your emotions and behavior and be in tune with others’ feelings and needs; in other words, possession of etiquette skills to build your confidence.
  • Moral Intelligence (MQ), which refers to your values, ethics, character, honesty, integrity, ability to take responsibility and capacity to empathize and sympathize with others.
  • Body Intelligence (BQ), which is the ability to know your body and take proper care of it in order function at the top of your game.

EQ, MQ and BQ over IQ? And, to round out the alphabet soup as it applies to this topic, I’ll add the P’s to the Q’s that you need to put to good use those hard skills and valuable experience you are acquiring:

  • Prowess – Extraordinary ability to communicate effectively, network masterfully, build meaningful and productive relationships, convince others to see and concur with your point of view and master the fine points of business and social etiquette.
  • Power – High level of influence and authority to make important decisions to direct your career and accomplishments.
  • PersuasivenessThe skill that allows you to communicate effectively in writing or in person to obtain what you need to fulfill your goals. 

To be successful you must be true to yourself. If you are, you will find what you love to do and study to obtain both the hard and soft skills necessary to achieve your goals. Your integrity and sincerity will shine through in your smile, handshake, eye contact, comments, body language, and facial expressions and in all the ways you do business.  That should be your real goal: getting your E’s, R’s, P’s and Q’s all in synch!

Until next time,



2 thoughts on “The Three E’s Might Outweigh the Three R’s

  1. Jeanne Nelson says:

    Thank you so much for your kind comment, Sharon! I hope you've been able to sort out your workplace issue. People who publicly criticize others often are not confident in their own abilities. In any case it's certainly not a positive way to begin a new position! That aside, all the best to you in your endeavors. I hope you'll visit The Three E's Blog again!


  2. Sharon P. says:

    Jeanne – I have been lurking on the EA/PA LinkedIn group for a year now and must compliment you. I like your straight-forward style that is always empathetic to each person's challenges. When faced with a long list of commenters, I always scan for your input first.This particular blog on the three E's is so refreshing. As I write this, I am thinking of a workplace issue that is currently on-going. A new senior level person joined us this week – I have already heard her put down the work of two other people who have recently left the organization. She does so loudly and emphatically. These were not bad people but they may not have possessed her level of knowledge in this particular subject area. I find this so distasteful that my initial respect for her long list of accomplishments is now significantly diminished. Since she has not addressed her comments to me, I have not spoken up to defend the targets of her attacks. I hope to have the opportunity to do so before my temporary assignment ends in a few weeks.Keep up the good work. You are a voice of reason and respect in a culture that desperately needs these qualities.


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