Psychologist, science journalist and author Daniel Goleman popularised the term ‘Emotional Intelligence’ or ‘EQ’, arguing that emotional and social skills are just as important as intellectual skills. Other researchers had been talking about the importance of emotional skills right through the 20th Century, but Goleman’s notoriety and skills as a journalist made his 1996 book ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ’ a best seller.
The impact of his book has been far reaching in both education and corporate life. Development of emotional skills is now an explicit part of the school curriculum, and many businesses now consider emotional skills when they recruit and train staff.
In schools and businesses, less emphasis is now placed on intellectual skills, not because intellectual skills are not important for success, but because good emotional and social skills make a person better able to manage their own and others’ emotions better – necessary skills in our high stress, connected workplaces.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Take a minute to think about yourself, or a child, or an adult you know well. Consider how competent the person is on the following skills and you will get a good feel for the aspects of the person’s character that contribute to his/her Emotional Intelligence.
- Ability to recognize one’s emotions and their effects on others.
- Ability to keep negative emotions such as anger, fear, sarcasm, violence in check.
- Ability to be flexible and handle change.
- Ability to motivate oneself to achieve.
- Ability to stay positive despite difficulties.
- Ability to understand the feelings and perspectives of others, and to take an active interest in their concerns.
- Ability to understand the needs and be prepared to help others in an appropriate manner.
- Ability to lead a group.
- Ability to persuade others.
- Ability to manage and resolve conflicts.
- Ability to work as part of a team and work with others towards a shared goal.
The Key Skill to Learn – Developing Self-Awareness and Mindfulness
The concept of Emotional Intelligence is not a new one, it is just a much under-rated aspect of life in our culture until recently.
Also, Emotional Intelligence is not something you are born with – the good news is that you can develop your Emotional Intelligence at any or all stages of your life.
To be good at all the emotional skills in the list above, you need to be very self-aware – in other words, you need to have cultivated the skill of watching your own thoughts and feelings without becoming emotionally involved in them.
This self-awareness is also called ‘mindfulness’, a practice integral to Buddhism. Over 2,500 years ago, the Buddha advocated that one should establish mindfulness in one’s day-to-day life, maintaining as much as possible a calm awareness of one’s body, feelings, and mind.
You don’t have to become a Buddhist to develop mindfulness, but the regular practice of some kind of meditation certainly helps a lot. I have written about meditation previously here: Meditation: Learn to Respond Rather Than React and here: Meditation Improves Learning.
Developing Emotional Intelligence in Children
The most important point to take from what I am saying is that emotional competencies are not innate talents, but rather learned capabilities that must be worked on, and can be developed at any stage of life. Read through the list above again right now . . . I’m sure you will agree that the sooner you and your child learn these Emotional Intelligence skills, the more able you will be able to use your intellectual skills in a much more constructive way.
The most critical factor in determining a student’s ability to learn something new is his/her emotional state at the time. As a very experienced educator I can assure you that I spend much more of my effort working on the emotional aspects of learning than I spend on the intellectual aspects. The intellectual side is the easy bit of education.
If you are a parent, I’m sure you have noticed the same thing – children will not listen to you when they are not in control of their emotions. When emotions are running high, focus on calming the emotions BEFORE dealing with the problems at hand. Just reacting emotionally yourself is the worst possible thing you can do. Firstly, getting emotional yourself doesn’t work. And secondly, you are not helping your child to develop Emotional Intelligence skills because you are not being a good role model for your child.
I always follow the advice of the airlines – they tell me every time I fly:
If there is a loss of pressure in the cabin, oxygen masks will automatically drop from the panel above you. MAKE SURE YOU FIT YOUR OWN MASK FIRST, then help your children fit theirs.
In short my message is:
Make sure you are acting in an emotionally intelligent way yourself BEFORE you try to get your child to be emotionally intelligent.
What to do as soon as you notice someone’s emotions starting to slide in a negative direction:
While you count to 10, focus on calming your own emotional state, then decide the best course of action to calm your child’s emotional state. Only when you have achieved both of those things should you go back to the task you are working on.
What Companies Are Looking for in People Straight Out of School
According to Daniel Goleman, it appears that children’s IQs have been steadily increasing in recent decades, but their EQs have been steadily falling. On average, children are becoming more aggressive, lonely, distressed, impulsive and disobedient. He says our children are the unintended victims of the market economy where parents are generally busier and more stressed themselves and so are unable to give their children the time they need to impart emotional skills.
The American Department of Labor did a study that asked companies what they are looking for in people who are coming straight out of school:
The first six things on their list were all EQ skills such as collaboration skills, self confidence, ability to take initiative, and so on. Way down at number seven were the intellectual skills of maths and reading.
I would encourage you to set aside a time to watch this 27 minute interview with Daniel Goleman where he talks about improving emotional intelligence in adults and children.
High Performance Learning
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