Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

A book review by Jennifer Merk

We are Descartes' children. The power of I-think-therefore-I-am has to a great extent contributed to a culture that prizes rational thought above all other mental activities, ghettoising emotional responses within the limited arena of the family and individual relationships. Rational thought is valued precisely for its apparent lack of emotional, or "irrational" attributes, considered unreliable, whimsical and essentially subjective, all attributes that are considered negative. Rational thought is perceived as masculine, emotional thought is perceived as feminine. The polarisation in our culture into masculine and feminine, with all the attendant value judgements has been at the centre of sociological, psychological and feminist debates for the last 30 years.

Daniel Goleman argues that far from being detrimental to rational thought, emotional intelligence is an integral part of our thought processes. He contends that emotional awareness includes self-awareness, impulse control, persistence, self-motivation, empathy and social deftness, and that these are qualities which mark people who excel, whose relationships flourish and who succeed at work. Emotional intelligence is not something that is fixed at birth but which can be nurtured. He cites neurological research on people whose emotional brain areas have been damaged. Daily functioning was severely impaired, although IQ and cognitive ability remained unchanged. Without access to their emotional knowledge, these people were unable to make decisions that superficially seemed to involve only rational thought - such things as making an appointment became the focus of endless agonising and difficulty.

There are echoes of all those great self-help books with shiny covers that promised to show you How to Make Yourself More Attractive and Change the World in 24 Hours! Goleman gets under the rational defences and tempts the businessman with "Want to be more effective and get a promotion?" And the bits about the five emotional domains - knowing your emotions, managing emotions, motivate yourself, recognising emotions in others and handling relationships could quite happily sit between the covers of Cosmopolitan.

But on the whole he provides a thoughtful and balanced critique of how we fail to nurture our emotional powers, and how detrimental this is, not only to the individual, but to society as a whole. More importantly he addresses the issue of rethinking the education we provide for children. Goleman argues that this is the only way out of the cultural impasse the West finds itself at. "I feel therefore I think" could be a useful soundbite for the future.

Author Spotlight

This month our spotlight is focused on Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, a groundbreaking program which redefines what it means to be smart. This tape illustrates how emotional intelligence is more important than I.Q. when it comes to leading a successful life, and describes how we can nurture and strengthen the qualities that lead to good emotional intelligence in ourselves and our children. The hardcover book version of Emotional Intelligence has spent one full year on the New York Times bestseller list! The audio version is read by the author.

Following is an excerpt from the audiobook Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman.

In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels. These two fundamentally different ways of knowing interact to construct our mental life. One, the rational mind, is the mode of comprehension we are typically conscious of: more prominent in awareness, thoughtful, able to ponder and reflect. But alongside that there is another system of knowing: impulsive and powerful, if sometimes illogical -- the emotional mind.

The emotional/rational dichotomy approximates the folk distinction between "heart" and "head"; knowing something is right "in your heart" is a different order of conviction -- somehow a deeper kind of certainty -- than thinking so with your rational mind.

These two minds -- the emotional and the rational -- operate in tight harmony for the most part, intertwining their very different ways of knowing to guide us through the world. In many or most moments these two minds are exquisitely coordinated; feelings are essential to thought, thought to feeling. But when passions surge, the balance tips: it is the emotional mind that captures the upper hand, swamping the rational mind.

The fact that the thinking brain grew from the emotional reveals much about the relationship of thought to feeling; there was an emotional brain long before there was a rational one.

This new addition to the brain allowed the addition of nuance to emotional life. Take love. Limbic structures, the part of the brain that rings and borders the brainstem, generate feelings of pleasure and sexual desire -- the emotions that feed sexual passion. But the addition of the neocortex and its connections to the limbic system allowed for the mother-child bond that is the basis of the family unit and the long-term commitment to child-rearing that makes human development possible.

Species that have no neocortex, such as reptiles, lack maternal affection. When their young hatch, the newborns must hide to avoid being cannibalized.

On a hot August afternoon in 1963, Richard Robles, a seasoned burglar, broke into an apartment that belonged to two young women, Janice Wylie, a researcher at Newsweek magazine, and Emily Hoffert, a grade-school teacher. Though Robles thought no one would be there, Wylie was home. Threatening her with a knife, Robles tied her up. As he was leaving, Hoffert came home. Robles began to tie her up, too.

As Robles tells the tale years later, Janice Wylie warned him she would remember his face and help police track him down. Robles panicked at that, completely losing control. In a frenzy, he grabbed a soda bottle and clubbed the women until they were unconscious, then, awash in rage and fear, he slashed and stabbed them over and over with a kitchen knife. Looking back on that moment some twenty-five years later, Robles lamented, "I just went bananas. My head just exploded."

Such emotional explosions are neural hijackings. At those moments, evidence suggests, a center in the limbic brain proclaims an emergency, recruiting the rest of the brain to its urgent agenda. The hijacking occurs in an instant, triggering this reaction crucial moments before the neocortex, the thinking brain, has had a chance to glimpse fully what is happening, let alone decide if it is a good idea.

The hallmark of such a hijack is that once the moment passes, those so possessed have the sense of not knowing what came over them.

These hijacks happen to us with fair frequency. Think back to the last time you "lost it", blowing up at someone -- your spouse or child, or perhaps the driver of another car -- to a degree that later, with some reflection and hindsight, seemed uncalled for. In all probability, that too, was such a hijacking, a neural takeover which originats in the amygdala, a center in the limbic brain.

The amydala acts as a storehouse of emotional memory; and thus of significance itself; life without the amygdala is a life stripped of personal meanings. More than affection is tied to the amygdala; all passion depends on it. Animals that have their amygdala removed or severed lack fear or rage, and lose the urge to compete or cooperate; emotion is blunted or absent.

In the brain's architecture, the amygdala is poised something like an alarm company where operators stand ready to send out emergency calls to the fire department, police, and a neighbor whenever a home security system signals trouble. When it sounds the alarm of, say, fear, it sends urgent messages to every major part of the brain; it triggers the secretion of the body's fight-or-flight hormones, mobilizes the centers for movement, and activates the cardiovascular system, the muscles, and the gut.

This excerpt from the Audio Renaissance audio version of Emotional Intelligence is copyrighted 1995 by Daniel Goleman. All rights reserved.

How emotional intelligence more important than IQ or GPA

Published in the Rose-Hulman Thorn on 4-18-97.

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Have you ever met anyone who could ace any test at Rose-Hulman, but didn't have enough common sense to save his own life? Even though one could have a 4.0 GPA, a genious-level IQ, or perfect SAT scores, this still doesn't guarentee that this person is destined for success later in life.

There are many other factors that one must have in order to be successful such as being able to effectively communicate and deal with other people, controlling your impulses, recognizing your feelings, motivating yourself through setbacks, and linking your thoughts, feelings and reactions. These are all factors of "emotional intelligence" that have been proven to have more of a predicting factor for success over other intelligence or academic measures.

I've learned about these things from a book titled Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. The book discusses the emotional architecture of the brain, how it affects a vast number of aspects in your life, how emotional intelligence preserves relationships, how important your childhood and schooling is in developing your emotions, and the health risks and other hazards of being emotional illiterate.

I discovered a lot of different interesting things about people and the pivotal role that emotions play in our lives. The book contains a lot of insightful comments about handling relationships and making it through school.

One interesting finding is that emotional intelligence predicts academic success better than standardized tests or IQ. A report from the National Center for Clinical Infant Programs identified the following seven key emotional intelligence factors that are critical for a child's success upon entering school.

  1. Having confidence and optimism that success is in your destiny.
  2. Having the thirst for knowledge and the outlook that learning is something positive.
  3. Having the the desire and persistence to have some sort of impact.
  4. Being able to control your actions and resisting the impulses to misbehave.
  5. Relating with other people so that you understand them, and they understand you.
  6. Being able to verbally communicate your thoughts and feelings to others while having a sense of trust with them.
  7. Finally, being able to cooperate with others by being a team-player.

Students who did poorly were found to lack one or more of these factors. These seven factors could help solve an age-old problem for college admissions offices. They must determine the right mix of criteria for admitting incoming students by looking at high-school GPA, test scores, and other activities. The problem is that there is no fool-proof set of criteria that guarantees academic success. Some students predicted to succeed drop out while others with lower standardized test scores excel.

One study tested and found that the student's level optimism predicted their college success better than their SAT scores or high-school grades. One aspect which is missing from standardized tests is a measurement of the students' motivation to keep going when the going gets tough. Optimists are more likely to take their defeats with a positive outlook, and to try harder the next time instead of accepting themselves as "too stupid to do well."

There was another emotional intelligence experiment done on 4-year olds that amazingly predicted their SAT scores to be higher by an average differential of 210 points. They tested the impulse control of the 4-year olds by offering them either one marshmellow immediately or two marshmellows if they could wait for a period of time.

This experiment measures the child's ability to overcome their emotions and resist the temptation for instant gratification. At the same time, they exhibit their patience towards achieving their goal of attaining two marshmellows instead of just one.

The children who could control their impulses were tracked down after they graduated high school, and they found that they had better SAT scores, were better able to handle frustrations and stress, more willing to embrace and pursue challenges, and were still able to delay gratification to achieve their goals.

The ones who grabbed the marshmellow were found to be more stubborn, easily upset by frustrations, resentful about "not getting enough", prone to jealously and envy, and were still unable to put off gratification.

Controlling your impule and delaying gratification is a critical aspect in learning. The marshmellow test was more than 4 times a better a predictor of what their SAT scores would be than their IQ at age four.

Being emotionally literate is of vital importance in everyone's life. Being able to recognize and control your emotions, and to communicate and work with other people are just a few traits of emotionl intelligence that assist you in school, at work, and with personal relationships.