Emotional Intelligence: How Intelligent Are You?

If we were asked how intelligent we are, we would probably think about our intellectual prowess or our ability to reason and tackle logic. But how helpful is a high I.Q. if we know what to do but can’t do it because of fear? How useful is a superior intellect if we can’t get along with people? A good example is chess master Bobby Fisher, who had an extremely high I.Q. (he scored 187 compared to the 160 of Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking). Yet, because of his inferior social skills, Fisher led a tragic life (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobby_Fischer).

In contrast to I.Q. (Intelligence Quotient), there is E.Q. (Emotional Quotient), which measures our ability to use, comprehend, and control our emotions in positive and productive ways. It also measures our understanding of the feelings and needs of others. Although Bobby Fisher was truly a giant among intellectuals, he was a dwarf among the emotionally well-adjusted.

Perhaps the best explanation of the difference between I.Q. and E.Q. is the saying, “A high I.Q. guarantees your success in school while a high E.Q. guarantees your success in life.” Another difference between E.Q. and I.Q. is that we can always increase our E.Q., but our I.Q., more or less, remains constant throughout our life.

“Anyone can become angry, that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way, this is not easy.” Yes, Aristotle was right; managing our emotions is not easy. Yet, this skill is critical for maximizing our business success. For as Dr. Daniel Goleman explains, managing our emotions and the emotions of others accounts for 80 percent of leadership success in organizations.

You now can see that the answer to my opening question (“How intelligent are you?”) depends on what type of intelligence we are referring to (I.Q. or E.Q.). You probably have already heard about Emotional Intelligence because of the large number of books that are appearing in bookstores everywhere. Yet, some are still unfamiliar with Emotional Intelligence as it takes quite a bit of time for new ideas to reach the masses. Here is a brief history of emotional intelligence:

1930’s — Edward Thorndike defines social intelligence as the ability to get along with others.

1940’s — David Wechsler indicates that emotional components of intelligence may be necessary for success in life.

1950’s — Abraham Maslow and other humanistic psychologists teach how to build emotional strength.

1975 — Howard Gardner’s book The Shattered Mind, introduced the concept of multiple intelligences.

1985 — Wayne Payne uses the term emotional intelligence in his doctoral dissertation.

1987 — Keith Beasley uses the term emotional quotient in an article published in Mensa Magazine.

1990 — Peter Salovey and John Mayer publish their groundbreaking article, Emotional Intelligence in the journal Imagination, Cognition, and Personality.

1995 — Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ popularizes the concept of emotional intelligence.

Although the term Emotional Intelligence wasn’t used until relatively recently, the practical applications of it were taught since ancient times. Examples of ancient teachers include Buddha, the Greek philosophers, and Christ.

More and more psychologists are considering the theory of multiple intelligences. Besides E.Q., the most popular new intelligence is probably A.Q. (Adversity Quotient or Adversity Intelligence), which measures our resilience, or our ability to overcome adversity. Also being discussed is Moral Intelligence. But now let’s return to today’s subject, which is Emotional Intelligence.

Why Is Emotional Intelligence so Important?

Today, people’s workload and expenses have increased while their income has decreased. At the same time, technology is introducing many changes. So it is not surprising that workers are under a great deal of stress. This makes people irritable and introduces friction among coworkers. So, in addition to coping with their heavy workload, workers must try to win the cooperation of their team mates, who are often rude. Not surprisingly, Daniel Goleman wrote “Emotional-intelligence-based capabilities are twice as important for star performance as IQ and technical skills combined.”

A large cosmetics company decided to choose new salespeople based on emotional intelligence. The result was that the new salespeople sold, on average, $91,000 more than those who were selected under the old system. There has also been a noticeably lower staff turnover among the new salespeople.

But the benefits of emotional intelligence go far beyond increasing profits, production, and harmony in the workplace. You see, it can make the difference between life and death, peace and war. In December 2010, North Korea warned its neighbor, South Korea, that if it went ahead with its planned military exercise near Yeonpyeong Island, it would experience the wrath and power of North Korea, which would retaliate against the South with unimaginable force.

The United Nations declared this threat to be one of the most serious incidents since the end of the Korean War, and Bill Richardson said tensions had escalated to become “the most serious crisis on the Korean peninsula since the 1953 armistice which ended the Korean War.” Yet, it was Bill Richardson who ended the tension, despite South Korea ignoring the dire warnings of the North. How did he do it? Well, while meeting with the military leadership during the crisis, Bill Richardson treated them with respect. In a word, he acted with emotional intelligence and saved the day.

Let’s look in greater detail at how Bill Richardson had to apply emotional intelligence in dealing with the North Korean regime. I’ll begin with a partial list of emotional intelligence skills and illustrate how he might have used them.

Emotional Intelligence Partial Skill Set

  • Ability to be flexible.
  • Ability to be optimistic.
  • Ability to be empathetic.
  • Ability to resolve conflicts.
  • Ability to use humor to lessen stress.
  • Ability to recognize and manage one’s emotions.
  • Ability to connect with others using nonverbal communication.

Examples of the Practical Application of Emotional Intelligence Skills

1. Ability to be flexible. To avoid stalemates, during intense negotiations one must remain flexible. That is, one must be prepared for the unexpected. Those with low emotional intelligence are uncomfortable with change and panic in the face of the unexpected. Those with high E.Q. use the challenge of the unexpected to arrive at creative solutions. The level of war-mongering rhetoric used by North Korea was unexpected. But it was seen by Bill Richardson as an opportunity to bring North Korea face-to-face with reality, pointing out how their belligerence was working against them and how a peaceful resolution could work to their advantage.

2. Ability to be optimistic. When faced with relentless pressure and little chance for success, the average person gives up in despair. Yet, giving up is not an option for world class champions, master negotiators, or business magnates. Because of their optimism, emotionally intelligent leaders are always hopeful and, therefore, willing to face the challenges that await them.

3. Ability to be empathetic. Empathy, or the ability to place oneself in the shoes of another, is a major component of emotional intelligence. By placing himself in their position, Bill Richardson was able to understand the fears and needs of the North Koreans, and by letting them know he understood, he was able to bridge the huge gap that separated them from peaceful nations.

4. Ability to resolve conflicts. The emotionally intelligent can resolve conflicts because they always think in terms of win-win, unlike the “I win, you lose” philosophy of those with little emotional intelligence. How could Bill Richardson create a win-win agreement with a brutal regime? Certainly appeasement was not acceptable. Yet, being emotionally astute and familiar with their culture, he understood their need to be treated with dignity and save face. So, he offered them respect in exchange for allowing South Korea to engage in their military exercises unimpeded by North Korea.

5. Ability to use humor to lessen stress. The days that Bill Richardson and his staff spent in North Korea were extremely stressful. The world was unsure how North Korea would react after South Korea refused to give in to its demands. Richardson and his companions were not sure they would be able to leave North Korea. The stress wears heavily on our bodies, reducing clarity of mind, and alertness, both of which are critical in a crisis. Fortunately, Richardson has a sense of humor, and whenever the negotiations were over for the day, he used humor with his staff to lower stress, lift emotions, and rejuvenate their spirit.

6. Ability to recognize and manage one’s emotions. The North Koreans began their ‘negotiations’ by lambasting the United States for imperialism and encouraging the South Koreans to provoke the North. Moreover, they expressed no remorse and accepted no responsibility for the lives of innocent South Korean civilians and military personnel that died during North Korea’s bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island. Under those conditions, it would only be natural for Richardson to feel angry. However, being emotionally intelligent, he was aware of his feeling and understood the ramifications if he were to express it. He knew that hostility breeds hostility and anger was counterproductive. He also knew if he were to be successful, he would have to manage, or control, his emotions, which he did.

7. Ability to connect with others using nonverbal communication. During negotiations, it is critical that both sides understand one another. Negotiations often fail because one side, or both, doesn’t understand that 85% of communication is nonverbal. That is, the meanings of the words we use merely represent 15% of the message we convey. The other 85% is expressed by body language and the tone and volume of our voice. Emotionally intelligent people not only are aware of their emotions, but of the emotions of those they are dealing with. A firm grasp of the ability to read others by their body language is essential for successful negotiations. Bill Richardson was careful to make his body language match the meanings of the words he used, for he didn’t want there to be any miscalculations on North Korean’s part. He also carefully studied the body language of the negotiators. So, if he detected anger, confusion, or doubt, he wouldn’t continue until those unspoken issues were resolved.

Do you know the remarkable story of Monty Roberts, the “Horse Whisperer”? Wild horses were usually tamed by breaking their spirit, showing them who is boss, and making them submissive. But when still a teen, Monty Roberts studied horses in the wild for countless hours and learned their body language and behavior. Applying what he learned, he can mount a wild horse in 15 minutes without being violent. You can learn about Monty here and here.

The reason I bring up Monty is if you are looking for a noble New Year’s resolution, do with people what Monty does with horses. Become a ‘People Whisperer.’ That is, without being aggressive or intimidating, learn to ‘tame’ people, win their confidence, and make them your friends. How do you do that? With emotional intelligence! Want to learn more? If so, check the resources below.

But before checking the resources, remember this, “If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” (Daniel Goleman)

Resources for Improving Emotional Intelligence

  • For a summary of E.I. watch this slide show.
  • You can find a host of videos to watch on the subject here.
  • For excellent books on the subject, visit here.
  • You can test your emotional intelligence at these websites.