Nobody saw that one coming.
It was Friday, just over a week since NBC famously fired Today show co-host Matt Lauer for allegations of sexual misconduct. Katie Couric, who worked alongside Lauer as co-host on Today for 15 years, posted a sweet throwback photo of her and her (now adult) daughter Carrie, asking her to "phone home."
"Nothing to say on Matt?? Huh- y'all would have been all over the story years ago. I watched y'all for YEARS. My childhood. Just goes to show you really can't trust people. He interviewed people on their moral character and had none himself. #disgusting #doublelife #hypocrite #sickening I want time back I spent watching!!!!! and you have nothing to say. Crickets. People hear you loud and clear though."
Now, let's take a pause.
Put yourself in Couric's shoes for a moment. How would you react to someone you've never met, calling you out for what they felt was a failure on your part? How would you handle the implication that your silence equals tacit approval of such horrifying behavior? What emotions would you be feeling?
And, most important, how would you respond?
Couric responded with a single, simple comment:
"it's incredibly upsetting and I will say something when I'm ready to. Thanks for your interest."
In two short sentences, Couric exhibited class, self-respect, and extraordinary emotional intelligence.
What you can learn from Couric's response
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify emotions (in both yourself and others), to recognize the powerful effects of those emotions, and to use that information to inform and guide behavior.
In short, it's the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you.
We live in a time where rushing to judgment is the default behavior, where online profiles and social media have given people the impetus to say things online that they'd never tell you in person.
If you fall victim to such behavior, it's easy to respond in kind.
You attack me, I attack back. You accuse me, I'll search through your social media profiles and find something far worse to accuse you of. You judge me, I'll make sure the world judges you, too.
Couric could have done any, or all, of those things. She could have let her emotions get the best of her, and said or done something she'd later regret.
But she didn't.
Only Couric knows for sure. But my guess is it's because she knew that not only is that type of response beneath her, it's emotionally destructive. Trying to defend yourself from every baseless attack will drain your emotional strength. A counterattack in this type of situation begins a war from which nothing is gained.
In striking contrast, Couric took the high road. She reminded us that every individual has the right to take the time he or she needs to come to terms with a difficult situation. To be sure they express themselves carefully and thoughtfully--when they're ready.
Further, Couric showed remarkable empathy. She realized that her role as a TV host puts her in a unique position, one that makes it easy for viewers to develop an emotional attachment to her. And that it's easy for those emotions to get out of control.
Couric demonstrated all of this by doing what would be difficult for most people in her shoes:
She thanked her accuser for her interest.
And how did her accuser respond?
In disbelief, with appreciation, she said simply:
"thank you! Wow!!"
Quickly and brilliantly, Couric showed us that a proper response can calm others down and make the best of a difficult situation.
Emotional intelligence for the win.
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A version of this article was originally published on Inc.com.