Understanding Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

We all know about IQ, and many will have had personal experiences where this often venerated measure of an individual’s cognitive ability not only misrepresented a person’s true technical aptitude, but completely failing to predict their performance in a modern workplace and/or society. Since the 1990’s and the greater exposure of emotional intelligence thanks to Daniel Goleman and his contemporaries, this topic has become more mainstream and gained a high level of acceptance amongst managerial circles and business gurus. Indeed, EQ (or Emotional Quotient) has infiltrated many aspects of HR and in particular managerial training in modern societies.

We all inherently know that an individual intelligence émotionnelle who can recognise and control their emotions and recognise the emotions of others in real time, is a much better communicator in general. Most will also recognise that such individuals are generally more effective and productive in the work environment (and life in general) when compared to someone of the same intelligence who is not as emotionally attuned.

Except for lofty heights of research and development specialists, it has reached the point where many will accept the notion that EQ is even more important than IQ in any role where communication is important, and even for many roles where it is not. As emotional intelligence and the ability for individuals to communicate with one another is so heavily tied to a person’s overall mental health the benefits extend well beyond the business life to the personal one. Anyone with even a rudimentary appreciation of the overall social and economic long term costs of mental health issues (the unspoken illness) will recognise the massive implications that such an improvement in society would offer to everyone.

So why is this not taught in high school, primary school and even kindergartens? It is likely that many people at this point would come up with at least a few of the multiple arguments against this proposition (even if only to predict what others might say) and I will attempt to address each one in turn to further this argument.

Some of the typical arguments against could be:

1. The perception that emotion intelligence breeds passive people who are less likely to stand up for themselves. Being able to identify and control your emotions doesn’t mean you are a doormat, let’s make this important statement very clear, it simply allows the individual to better analyse the situation and react appropriately. If the appropriate reaction to a given situation is the use of force, then that is the combined decision of emotional identification and logical reason, but even extreme force will greatly benefit from it being mostly detached from any emotion that caused it. This simple concept may be very alien to many people who always tie the use of force/violence to the emotion of anger or equivalent. This purveys all the way down the negative emotional side to reinforce the belief that without negative emotions spurring on an individual, they will not act in their own defence or interests when wronged. This stems from the inability to separate emotions into a part that helps the individual recognise a wrong, and the part that fuels the response. Emotions don’t have to fuel a response and it is a generally accepted belief that the more they do, the more dangerous and unpredictable the outcome. It is often forgotten that self-confidence is a cornerstone of emotional intelligence, and a self-confident individual will defend themselves when wronged without the need for anger to drive a response