11/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

EQ Deficit Threatens Health Care Reform

Anyone who knows me would know that I am an emotional person with a lot of passion for justice, so I understand the emotional context from which Rep. Joe Wilson was rooted in his outburst last evening during the President's speech. Yet, my solid Catholic school upbringing and authoritative parents taught me a lot about respect and when to keep my mouth shut. I do not know anything about Representative Wilson but I heard Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe remark that Joe Wilson is typically a quiet guy. Perhaps this is true. What is certain is that he chose a bad time to speak up.

I have written a lot about the need for embracing diversity competencies -- holding multiple realities, marrying intention and impact, using privilege as a life skill, moving from certainty to curiosity -- in order to manage the complexities of our current global reality. The current health care debate and the Rep.Wilson's outburst underscores the need for these competencies if we are going to continue to maintain our status as a leading nation.

But let me tell you, I was seriously concerned last evening about our capacity to do so witnessing how differences were managed by some of our civic leaders. Now, more than ever, their emotional intelligence (EQ) needs to be enhanced. Whatever the details of the health care bill, our ability to shape the future will be determined by how we interact and treat those with whom we most vehemently disagree. President Obama and Senator John McCain are roles model in this regard -- treating fierce opponents with respect regardless of ideology. President Obama didn't react, accepted the apology and used it as yet another reminder of how we need to engage one another in this debate. Senator McCain quickly denounced the action and called for an immediate apology.

No matter how much we know or think we know about the details of the health care reform bill, the content will have no meaning if the process for change is so disruptive. Effective process requires emotional intelligence from those participating in the change effort. This is a deficit area we need to pay close attention to and not merely label it as the game of politics. No matter what the outcome for this reform, low EQ on the part of our civic leaders will threaten not only our future for health care but the foundation of our democracy.