Skydiving is fascinating.
It’s a sport that draws thrill seekers. It brings in those that want to be EXTREME. It attracts those that want to live on the edge and push the limits. Believe it or not, the venn diagram between those types of people and people with high emotional intelligence does not show a lot of overlap. Many, many skydivers have the emotional intelligence of a shoe.
I’m a lot of things. I’ve lived a number of lives already. I’m a software professional. I’m Iowa-nice. I lived years as a consultant. I’m an avid reader about all things emotional-labor and empathy. I’m also stubborn. I’m passionate and loud and vocal. I’m easily irritated. I’m pretty smart and I get annoyed if people don’t use their brains. In short, I’m both emotionally intelligent and sometimes I also have the emotional intelligence of a beetle.
Here’s the thing: I try. I reflect. I’m even learning to take pause when someone yells at me; instead of yelling in return like I want to, I take a breath and respond reasonably, trying to visualize their point of view and their current mental and emotional place. Basically, I’m getting better at empathizing.
Skydiving Teams are Fascinating
Everyone on the team is different. We all have different motivations. Some of us want the podium. Some of us want to grow as skydivers in a controlled environment. Some of us hate having money so we prefer to burn it as fast as possible with tunnel, jumps, gear and repacks. (Wait.. that’s not right…) We all come into teams with different skill levels, skydiving abilities, and endurance. The most important thing is that we communicate as a team to help us get through the challenges that arise together.
My 4way team has really good emotional intelligence. We work together to improve. We’re still learning how to communicate: how to say “I’m not comfortable with that exit in a competition”, how to say “I feel like that angle wasn’t right” while creeping, how to say “I need an extra load on the ground to eat/hydrate/breathe”. It can be tough to ask for what you want. It can be hard to remember to ask others, “How are you? Is this pace okay? Am I presenting my grips to you well? What are you visualizing about this block?”. But we’re learning. And you can see it in our flying; we’re flying more and more like a team every jump. Our blocks are closing and our randoms are speeding up and it’s not just more time in the air that’s doing it. It’s how we are talking to one another. Emotional intelligence is making this team successful and it’s making it really, really enjoyable to fly with these guys.
Skydiving Operations and Dropzones are Fascinating
They’re an island, an anomaly to society. Many don’t really operate under what I see as the “normal rules of business”. They don’t always have a clear chain of command. Many don’t do capacity planning. Many don’t bother to do market research. They don’t deal in goods and services. They deal in adrenaline and life experiences. It’s hard to squish that business model into the confines of a normal business. They also exist in a realm where they’re scrutinized by governing bodies for safety. They managing the behavior of staff as well as individuals. They try to please tandems, fun jumpers, teams, and more. There are so many customers with conflicting priorities making demands of them. And in the end, they’re still trying to make money. Emotional intelligence rarely factors into the machine that is a dropzone.
Most days, as a professional, dropzones and their operations baffle me. My mind is constantly whirring, assessing their efficiency, assessing their customer service, assessing the way they run their business. I see how they treat their people and I wonder about the emotional intelligence of those running the place. I have so many opinions and so many things to say. I’d do it differently. However, that’s not my world. My world is my 9-to-5. I try to remember to keep my lips closed about how things are run at dropzones. It doesn’t always work; my mouth likes to run amok, despite my attempts to be emotionally intelligent.
But I can tell you now, despite the world of dropzones being different, I give no passes to those that don’t strive to be emotionally intelligent. I may understand where you’re coming from, but I certainly don’t excuse it. I demand respect and I demand to be acknowledged as a high-functioning, productive professional. Even though the dropzone may be a different world, I still hold it to the same high standards I apply to the rest of my life. So, no. You don’t get to yell at me. You don’t get to stand there, in your own shoes, telling me how to feel and what to do. You don’t get to opt out of emotional intelligence, ignoring my viewpoint, not if you want me to stick around. Shove your feet into my shoes and realize where I’m coming from. Try a little bit of emotional intelligence. If not, know that people, and their shoes, may wander away to greener pastures, bluer skies.
Disclaimer: Not all skydivers have the emotional intelligence of a shoe. Don’t get prickly with me. This is my blog; go away.