Recently, I taught Emotional Intelligence (EQ) skills to students at an Oklahoma Technology Center. Many of the students who had EQ lessons reported improvements in their abilities to express themselves and get their needs met while becoming more aware of needs and concerns of others.
In Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Daniel Goleman claims that EQ is more important than IQ. Being emotionally intelligent means having an awareness of your own feelings and those of people around you. It also means controlling your emotions, which includes being responsible for your own happiness. It means having initiative and the ability to motivate yourself while being able to delay gratification.
Goleman’s claims are backed by a branch of psychology called “Positive Psychology” that researches and teaches it is the “virtues” or personal qualities individuals possess that help them flourish. The basic premise is that things like initiative, empathy, adaptability and persuasiveness have more viability in how successful and happy we can be than what school we attended or how high our IQ happens to be.
There seems to be lots of research to back the idea. When I’ve talked about EQ to others, I realize the concept isn't completely understood. It's about playing well with others, considering their needs while also meeting your own needs. Translation: Someone with a high EQ still might have to confront the office bully or make a lot of noise to be heard.
Students of EQ are encouraged to speak up, but they are also encouraged to give and take—to play like a member of a well-oiled team. Another common misconception is that to have a high EQ means you are always sharing your feelings with others. Again, not true. EQ is more about managing feelings—again, it’s about working together for the common good while being able to speak up when something is important to you or when you want to express your own view.
Helping teenagers and young adults enhance their EQ skills has been most rewarding. There’s a lesson here for all parents—EQ skills can be taught. A child or adult can improve personal capabilities—and become more adept in handling their own emotions and impulses, motivating themselves, being empathetic and developing sharper social skills. Even Daniel Goleman tells us: “Unlike IQ, which changes little after our teen years, emotional intelligence seems to be largely learned, and it continues to develop as we learn from our experiences—our competence in it can keep growing.”
As parents, it’s important we pay attention to how our children respond to their world. If we recognize a deficit in their skill base, it’s up to us to try to help them grow a new muscle—or maybe you could even say…mature. If you think you fall short in some of these areas…areas like interpreting, understanding and acting upon your emotions and the reactions of others, handling social situations, expressing your feelings and dealing with interactions or conflicts with others…the good news is you have the power to improve your skills too. If this is a subject you’d like to know more about, Goleman’s book is an excellent starting point.
Allyn Evans (TheAlertParent.com) is a published author, professional speaker and consultant residing in Stillwater.