I had two smart sons, but they were smart in entirely different ways. From the time they were little boys I was aware of this, but I didn’t know there was a name for their differences, until Daniel Goleman wrote a book titled “Emotional Intelligence.” The concept described in the book and covered in a seminar I attended has helped me to better understand my sons as well as others who may or may not have emotional intelligence.
My older son, David, was tested in grade school and placed in a “gifted” program, based on his intelligence quotient. His younger brother, Steve, didn’t have an outstanding IQ; he had to work harder at his studies, but he seemed to excel at human relations and general life skills. I remember predicting that Steve would achieve as much or more than David would in the category of life success. They seemed to live up to my prediction.
Goleman redefines what it means to be smart, and describes how emotional intelligence can be more important than IQ. I agree. So what is emotional intelligence? Here is the simplified definition from the seminar I attended: The ability (and skill) to recognize, regulate and respond appropriately to emotional cues and situations in ways that maximize one’s own well-being and the well-being of others.
Emotional intelligence has at least six components:
1. Awareness of one’s own emotions … self-insight.
2. Ability to manage one’s own emotions … self-regulation.
3. Skill at using emotions as tools … self-motivation.
4. Ability to identify the emotions of others … interpersonal sensitivity.
5. Capacity to satisfy the emotional needs of others … social skills.
6. Empathy, on both a cognitive and an emotional level.
It is encouraging to learn that emotional intelligence is a skill. Therefore it can be learned, as we determine which of the components we may wish or need to develop or improve. Of course, I couldn’t change my son, who seemed to be lacking in those qualities. I could only encourage him to learn more about the concept and determine for himself if he wanted to work on change. At the seminar we were given a Mood Awareness Survey, which helped to determine our own ability to label and/or monitor emotions. The results of a high score in labeling and a low score in monitoring show a correlation with high emotional intelligence, high self-esteem, low depression and high social support. The distinction between the two areas is that labeling is occasional awareness with the ability to identify the feeling, while monitoring is focus on changing feelings. Another test helped to determine life orientation, or optimism vs. pessimism. I was not surprised to learn that optimism also correlates with emotional intelligence, as well as high self-esteem, health and longevity.