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Psychologist and author of Emotional Intelligence and Focus, Dr. Daniel Goleman has transformed the way the world educates children, relates to family and friends, and conducts business. A frequent speaker[…]

The concept of emotional intelligence (EQ) can be traced back to ancient philosophies, but it was Goleman’s bestseller ‘Emotional Intelligence’ that popularized the term in 1995. According to Goleman, while IQ and smarts can get you good grades and jumpstart your career, it’s EQ (what the psychologist often refers to as EI) that sets apart the top performers and leaders in their careers.

Unlike IQ, which remains relatively static throughout life, emotional intelligence can be developed and refined at any age. Goleman emphasizes that enhancing our EQ can make our communities more compassionate, improve how we parent, and help us take better care of the environment.

This knowledge – especially the fact that EQ can be enhanced over time – gives us a powerful tool for personal growth. Understanding and improving our emotional intelligence can directly lead us to better relationships, and can shape our lives with more fulfillment and, eventually, success.

DANIEL GOLEMAN: You know, in the future, I think emotional intelligence will be one of several abilities that we need. Another, of course, is cognitive ability, IQ, and maybe AI will take over more and more of that. However, emotional intelligence is a human ability and will always remain so. IQ predicts how well you’ll do in your school years and how much salary you can make over the course of a career because it says what job you can get into, like being a business executive or a doctor or a lawyer. But once you’re in those professions, everybody else is about as smart as you are. That’s where emotional intelligence kicks in. People who emerge as outstanding performers or the best leaders have high emotional intelligence, and their IQ is not that relevant at that point.

I’m Daniel Goleman. I’ve written many books, mostly on emotional intelligence. That’s really my favorite topic.

The book Emotional Intelligence, many years ago, was an international bestseller. I’ve written now five books on the topic. My most recent is Optimal: How to Sustain Personal and Organizational Excellence Every Day. Emotional intelligence is a set of personal skills that we learn in life. It’s a combination of self-awareness, managing your emotions well, empathy, tuning into other people, and putting that all together to have harmonious or effective relationships.

Emotional intelligence has been talked about for centuries. Philosophers were talking about know thyself. That’s self-awareness. But when I wrote the Emotional Intelligence book in ‘ninety-five, it was the first time that, for a popular audience, emotional intelligence had become well known. I was a science journalist at The New York Times back then, and I’d been covering a decade of research on the brain and emotion. And in doing so, I came across a very obscure article called Emotional Intelligence, and I loved the title. It was by Peter Salovey, who was just stepping down as the president of Yale University, and his then graduate student, John Mayer. And I thought, Wow, what a great phrase. It seems like an oxymoron. You don’t put emotions together with intelligence. But actually, it’s being intelligent about emotions.

When I wrote Emotional Intelligence, I was actually thinking of bringing it to schools. It seemed to me that kids should learn from the get-go how to manage themselves, how to tune into themselves, how to tune into other people, how to get along, how to behave well, and so on. I was a big advocate of what’s now called social-emotional learning. And from early on, my view of emotional intelligence hasn’t really changed much, but I integrated it with findings from research on outstanding performers. And I saw that different abilities of high performers, like being able to manage your emotions, fit well in the model. And now I talk about four domains of emotional intelligence and then twelve particular competencies of people who are high in emotional intelligence.

Self-awareness means you know what you’re feeling, you know how it shapes your perceptions and your thoughts and your impulse to act. We find in our research that people low in self-awareness are unable to develop strengths very well in other parts of emotional intelligence. People who are high in self-awareness, however, are able to develop excellence across the board.

Self-management means when you’re upset, when you’re angry, when you’re anxious, can you manage your emotions? Can you keep them from disrupting your focus on what you have to do right now? We’re having more instances of road rage, of shootings, of people blowing up at other people. There’s a growing need for people in general to get better at this ability.

The third part is social awareness, which, in one sense, means practicing empathy. You not only know how the person thinks and how they feel, you care about them. This is what you want in your parents. This is what you want in your spouse. This is what you want in your lover. This is what you want in your friends. And this is what you want in your teachers, doctors, leaders of any kind, people who have influence.

The fourth part of emotional intelligence is relationship management. Can you handle conflicts well? Can you keep yourself calm and listen to the other person? Are you being an effective communicator? Full rapport means that you feel close, you feel you can work with this person, you can trust them.

Unlike IQ, which barely budges over the course of our life, emotional intelligence can change. It’s learned and learnable. And it’s learned and learnable at any point in life. Emotional intelligence is not one thing. It’s like going to a doctor for a physical. You get your lipids and your good cholesterol, bad cholesterol. You get fifteen data points. Emotional intelligence is a set of abilities, and each of us has strengths and limitations across that spectrum. So if you want to improve your emotional intelligence, see where you need to improve first.

One of the common colds of emotional intelligence is poor listening. You know, we think about what we want to say and we don’t really listen to the other person. We cut them off. We interrupt. Let’s say you wanted to change that. This is a basic of empathy, listening well. So if you want to learn to be better at empathy, you might say, "My habit is cutting people off and interrupting. I’m going to make the effort to do it differently. I’m going to listen to the person out, say what I think they mean, and then say what I think." That is a different behavioral sequence.

And it comes down to the basics of what we call neuroplasticity, how the brain changes with repeated experience, and that’s what underlies habit change. It’s a little like crossing your arms in a new way. Cross your arms in the old way, please. Now cross them with the other arm on top. That feels uncomfortable. That’s what it’s like to change a habit. So with listening, you have to, at first, make an intentional effort. It might feel uncomfortable. But as you persist, it gets more and more comfortable until finally, it’s an automatic habit that will stay with you for years.

You know, I’ve gone around the world talking to different audiences, and one of the things I love to ask is, tell me about a leader you’ve loved and a leader you hate, and tell me one quality that makes a leader so good or so bad. Basically, the leader you hate is low in emotional intelligence. They don’t manage their emotions very well. They blow up at people, don’t empathize, they don’t tune in, they don’t understand how clueless they are. The leader you love is high in it. Having a boss with high emotional intelligence means you feel not only inspired, not only motivated, you feel supported, you feel guided, you feel you have clarity about what’s expected from you. You give your best in your best state, in the optimal state, not in a desperate, stressed-out state.

Research at the Yale School of Management has found that emotions are contagious, and they’re most contagious from the leader outward. The leader is most often the center of strong emotions, either negative or positive. And this very research by Sigal Barsade has shown that if the leader is in a negative mood, very anxious, for example, people on that team will catch that mood and performance goes down. If the leader is in a very positive mood, I feel really good, I feel enthusiastic, then people catch that positive mood, and their performance as a team or as a group goes up.

So the leader's state is actually much more important on the ability of people to do good work than many people realize, particularly many leaders, actually. But if you have a leader that you hate, for example, and sadly, too many people do, then you really don’t give your best. In fact, you’re more likely to leave as soon as you can, particularly if you’re talented. So a leader with low emotional intelligence is actually draining the organization in the long term. They may get results for the quarter by driving people, by stressing them out, but they’re burning them out and they’re going to lose good people. So in the short term, they may look good. In the long term, it’s a disaster.

I once took a bus up Madison Avenue in New York City on a very hot, humid day. People had a kind of bubble around them, like, don’t touch me, don’t talk to me, and I had the bubble too. I got on the bus, and the bus driver shocked me. He looked at me and very warmly said, "Welcome to the bus. How’s your day going?" And then I realized sitting on the bus that he was carrying on a conversation with everyone on the bus.

"You’re looking for suits, are you? Well, there’s a great sale up here on the right at this department store."

"Did you see the exhibit in the museum on the left?"

On and on and on. Then people would get off that bus, and they’d been transformed from kind of grumpy to pretty upbeat. It was kind of magical. And years later, I saw an article in the New York Times about that bus driver. His name, it turned out, was Govan Brown. He had fans. People would wait for his bus. He got three thousand letters saying what a great bus driver he was, not one complaint. And he, it turned out, was the pastor of a church, and he saw the people on his bus as part of his flock. He was tending to his flock. He had a purpose that was far greater than that of the New York Transit Authority, which is something like getting as many people to where they want to go on time as we can. He had a splendid sense of what he was doing. It gave a greater meaning to what he did, and he did it superbly.

I’ve always felt that the more emotional intelligence in society, the better. I think we would have parents who are more effective in raising kids, who are kinder. We’d have more compassion for each other in our interactions with friends and loved ones as well as with strangers. I think we would care more about the environment, which is why I’ve been happy to be a kind of evangelist for emotional intelligence, if you will. I’m not the originator of the phrase. I think I made it more famous.

I just think it would make a better world.


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