3 brilliant tips for emotional intelligence from the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

If you’ve powered through Season 3 of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt now streaming on Netflix, you’ve already discovered that Kimmy tries several careers before she learns that she has an extremely high level of emotional intelligence.

Despite living trapped in an underground bunker for 5 years and New York City for only two more, Kimmy may have an incredibly hard time with the day to day intricacies most of us take for granted—and acts in ways many find outlandish—but for the most part she seems to have an innate ability to grasp larger picture issues relevant to the people around her.

Emotional intelligence at work

When discussing 4 signs of emotional intelligence, Kimberly A. Barchard Associate Professor in Quantitative Psychology, University of Nevada and Jose M. Mestre Professor of Emotion and Motivation, University of Cadiz, wrote “emotional intelligence can mean the difference between behaving in a socially acceptable way and being considered to be way out of line.”

They elaborated that “emotional intelligence is essentially the way you perceive, understand, express, and manage emotions.” It also includes your social behavior: “it might be these are things you do without even really thinking – which can be the case for a lot of people. Or it might be that these are skills you know you need to work on.”

Here are some other ways that in addition to the expected zaniness, in-jokes and sight gags (I spotted Korn Czechs breakfast cereal twice) this season of Kimmy Schmidt showed us how to be more emotionally intelligent at work.

Be here now 

At one point, landlady Lillian’s love interest, grocery chain magnate Artie Goodman says to her, “you’ve spent 40 years stuck in the past, now you’re worried about the future. All I have is now.”

The character of Goodman went from rags to riches and currently has a serious heart condition. In that moment, he inspires anyone who’s been so focused on past performance or an upcoming performance review that they’re missing opportunities to connect with co-workers or curry favor with the boss.

Career lesson learned from Kimmy: Don’t be so focused on looking back or worrying about what’s next, that you lose sight of the immediate opportunities in front of you. Right now counts for a lot.

Don’t be fooled by what looks good on paper

Kimmy takes a career aptitude test that suggests she should be a school crossing guard. After some amazing plot twists, Kimmy actually ends up acing her crossing guard test after exhibiting a level of emotional intelligence and deep compassion that proves she understands not just the immediacies of the job, but the intricacies as well. In that moment we end up believing that Kimmy’s found her professional calling, though we can’t help but wonder if she’s selling herself short.

In college, I took an extensive career aptitude test and the results told me I would make a great benevolent despot of a small island nation (true story) — and while I’m sure I would, it wasn’t quite the most insightful piece of advice I’ve ever received.

Like Kimmy, I had to get past the part that sounded good on paper and find my own path. Incidentally, my second suggestion was becoming a writer.

Career lesson learned from Kimmy: Just because your career path seems set in stone doesn’t mean it is. All the aptitude tests in the world mean nothing if your job is soul crushing or mind numbing. Use aptitude tests as guides if needed, but also realize that you should trust your gut and the advice and input of career coaches, mentors, family and friends.

Acknowledge your emotions — and imagine what others must be feeling

One of the more poignant storylines this season involves Titus and Mikey’s breakup. While it’s played for laughs, there’s also deep emotional growth on the part of both characters who often express their emotions on the most basic level.

Yale has a Center for Emotional Intelligence whose mission is to create a positive environment in classrooms for students and teachers to express emotions in a healthy way to pave the way for better adults. They describe their program and the reasons for it this way “Emotions drive learning, decision-making, creativity, relationships, and health.

The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence uses the power of emotions to create a more effective and compassionate society. The Center conducts research and teaches people of all ages how to develop their emotional intelligence.”

One of the more rousing endorsements for the program is by a 5th grader quoted on their handout saying the program is “a way for children to express their feelings without fear of being laughed at… you notice that other people have the same feelings as you.”

Titus isn’t great at relationships and Mikey is still learning the ropes of life as a gay man. At one point Titus publicly and hilariously declares his intention to win back Mikey’s love.

Mikey’s response? “I don’t know what to say.”

Titus, known for his over the top persona in all things, answers in an incredibly mature way when he replies, “so don’t say anything.”

Career lesson learned from Kimmy: In work and in life, we can be so focused on what we think we need or want, that we sometimes forget to take the other person’s thoughts or needs into account.

The next time you’re trying to negotiate for a raise, or are about to tell off a co-worker, realize that they might not have the means or solutions to give you what you want at that exact moment. Sometimes you have to be okay just saying your piece and not knowing what comes next.

And in case you’re wondering, at the end of the season Kimmy is offered a fancy and fantastic job by her classmate Zach, who makes it clear her emotional intelligence is welcome in his new startup, so that he never has to talk to his own employees. A great reminder that actions frequently speak louder than the exact right words.