Emotional Intelligence – Why It Matters More Than IQ

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Author: Daniel Goleman

Genre: Self-Help, Management

The million dollar question! What makes people successful? More precisely, what makes some people more successful than others? This is the question Dr. Goleman (a Phd from Harvard) tried to answer, and ended up popularising the concept of EQ or Emotional Intelligence.

His first discovery was that neither IQ nor academic knowledge had a serious correlation with success. Studies after studies – in groups as diverse as Harvard graduates all the way to kids of immigrant labours – showed that people with high IQ or high academic scores were neither materially (money, status) nor socially (relationships, happiness) any better off as compared to those with average IQ/academics. Of course, on an average, people with very low IQ tended to perform poorly, but beyond a reasonable IQ that most of us seem to have, it did not seem to make a significant impact in our lives or career.

So then what are these “other factors” that contribute to success? Quoting a plethora of research in the fields of psychology and neuroscience, the author suggests it is all about Emotional Intelligence: our ability to understand and channelize our emotional energy. Research showed that kids who, in school, showed high ability to handle frustrations, control emotions and get along well with others seemed to be doing the best in their adult life. It’s almost like we have two minds: one rational and one emotional! And we all know that emotions or the feeling mind always end up trumping the thinking mind. We need to learn to control it.

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Specifically, Dr. Goleman identifies 5 traits that all of us should try and inculcate in ourselves and in our families:

1. Knowing our emotions or Self-awareness: Ability to understand our feelings as they happen.When is anger about to take over us, when are we getting biased, when are we feeling insecure. Once we know our true emotional state, we can do something about it. Often feelings can not be controlled but with self awareness we can control our actions.

2. Managing our emotions or Self-discipline: Our ability to soothe ourselves and shake-off feelings like anxiety or frustration or negativity. This allows us to bounce back from life’s setbacks and also become magnanimous and objective despite our personal biases. Often strong emotions will come in everyone’s life, successful people are just able to come out of it faster. Temperament is not destiny, we have the power to choose.

3. Self motivation or Passion to Excel: Our desire to leave a legacy, to put in our best not because of external rewards but because that is the only way we know. We all have seen top performers who almost seem wired to excel. This passion is a skill in itself.

4. Empathy: Our ability to put ourselves in the shoes of others, and truly understand their emotions and feelings. Picking up subtle social signs to know what is going on in the mind of others, so we can adapt our behaviour accordingly.

5. Managing social relationships: Ability to strike win-win partnerships based on mutual respect. Finding common goals with others. Networking socially.

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In my own corporate world experience, I can completely vouch for these 5 traits. Those who have these, tend to do very well, and those who do not have these tend to very soon hit a glass ceiling. And the best part is that enough experiments have proven these can be taught in a classroom and improved with effort.

While the concept of EQ is brilliant and extremely value adding, the book itself can be long and a little boring. For beginners, I would recommend first reading Dr. Goleman’s HBR paper on the same theme, What Makes A Leader (just do google and you would find it, 6-7 pages only).

Why read the book? If you sometimes wonder why your career is not moving forward, and what fundamentally is the difference between you and some of your more successful peers, chances are it will be a host of EQ qualities that need to be further honed. Even in our families, good parenting requires us to role model high EQ behaviour (do we empathize with our kids, do we control our anger in front of them, do we emerge as their coach and mentor).

The good news is that Emotional Intelligence can be developed. We can improve our self-awareness, self-discipline, motivation, empathy and networking if we really decide to work on it. And in doing so, make our own lives and this world a better place to live in.