Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ – Daniel Goleman

Here are my comments on the book:

Why can emotional intelligence matter more than IQ? Daniel Goleman, Ph.D, argues that despite society’s emphasis on intelligence, emotional intelligence can greater determine the level of one’s success in life. As schools place a great emphasis on academics, Goleman recommends that schools should balance out students’ education by also including some form of education on ways to deal with emotions. Throughout the book Goleman substantiates his arguments through a plethora of examples of how emotionally unstable people (of all ages) lack the capability to adjust/integrate well in to society. Here are some of the points to the book:


1. As humans are social beings, learning how to work or communicate well with others is essential to one’s success. You can be the smartest person but if you lack the necessary skills/ability to emotionally deal with others, the odds of success are against you. No one of great significance has made a name for him/herself on his/her own; everyone has worked with someone else to make something big happen. In one study, for example, primary school boys who had above-average IQ scores but nevertheless were doing poorly in school were found via these neuropsychological tests to have impaired frontal cortex functioning. They also were impulsive and anxious, often disruptive and in trouble—suggesting faulty prefrontal control over their limbic urges. Despite their intellectual potential, these are the children at highest risk for problems like academic failure, alcoholism, and criminality—not because their intellect is deficient, but because their control over their emotional life is impaired. The emotional brain, quite separate from those cortical areas tapped by IQ tests, controls rage and compassion alike. These emotional circuits are sculpted by experience throughout childhood—and we leave those experiences utterly to chance at our peril.


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2. I used to subscribe to the notion that in order to become successful a prerequisite is to have a high IQ. I believed this until I once read that the average millionaire has just an average IQ. In addition, I once heard in a talk that Warren Buffett said that if you have an IQ of over 130, you can just sell the excess as it’s not going to make a significant difference in your life. You don’t need to have a high IQ to be successful as it only plays a small factor of your success; it would appear that emotional IQ matters more. “At best, IQ contributes about 20 percent to the factors that determine life success, which leaves 80 percent to other forces. As one observer notes, ‘The vast majority of one’s ultimate niche in society is determined by non-IQ factors, ranging from social class to luck.’ Even Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, whose book The Bell Curve imputes a primary importance to IQ, acknowledge this; as they point out, ‘Perhaps a freshman with an SAT math score of 500 had better not have his heart set on being a mathematician, but if instead he wants to run his own business, become a U.S. Senator or make a million dollars, he should not put aside his dreams…. The link between test scores and those achievements is dwarfed by the totality of other characteristics that he brings to life.’ He later states in the book when referring to the well known ‘Marshmallow Test’, The diagnostic power of how this moment of impulse was handled became clear some twelve to fourteen years later, when these same children were tracked down as adolescents. The emotional and social difference between the grab-the-marshmallow preschoolers and their gratification-delaying peers was dramatic. Those who had resisted temptation at four were now, as adolescents, more socially competent: personally effective, self-assertive, and better able to cope with the frustrations of life. They were less likely to go to pieces, freeze, or regress under stress, or become rattled and disorganized when pressured; they embraced challenges and pursued them instead of giving up even in the face of difficulties; they were self-reliant and confident, trustworthy and dependable; and they took initiative and plunged into projects.


3. I sometimes believe that schools aren’t doing enough to prepare students for practical, real life skills that are needed when they grow up; an example would be with learning how credit card interest works. I’m not saying that academics aren’t important, but what I am saying though is that there are other things just as important such as education on ways to deal with emotions. I feel that schools should place a greater importance on educating students how to deal with their emotions. This is, I believe, a big reason why there’s bullying, fights, and occasionally killings at schools as the students have pent up anger and frustration that they don’t know how to manage and so they just explode and take it out on others. And that is the problem: academic intelligence offers virtually no preparation for the turmoil—or opportunity—life’s vicissitudes bring. Yet even though a high IQ is no guarantee of prosperity, prestige, or happiness in life, our schools and our culture fixate on academic abilities, ignoring emotional intelligence, a set of traits—some might call it character—that also matters immensely for our personal destiny. Emotional life is a domain that, as surely as math or reading, can be handled with greater or lesser skill, and requires its unique set of competencies. And how adept a person is at those is crucial to understanding why one person thrives in life while another, of equal intellect, dead-ends: emotional aptitude is a meta-ability, determining how well we can use whatever other skills we have, including raw intellect.


4. Howard Gardner, American developmental psychologist and the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, believes that interpersonal skills makes up one of the multiple intelligences. Basically what this means is that everyone has very different strengths, weaknesses, talents, and intelligences; for example, some people thrive in math while others “just don’t get it”. This is the same thing with interpersonal skills. Some people are good with it while others aren’t. Again, this goes back to Goleman’s argument of needing to educate students on how to deal with their emotions just as you would teach reading, math, or art. Gardner’s influential 1983 book Frames of Mind was a manifesto refuting the IQ view; it proposed that there was not just one, monolithic kind of intelligence that was crucial for life success, but rather a wide spectrum of intelligences, with seven key varieties. His list includes the two standard academic kinds, verbal and mathematical-logical alacrity, but it goes on to include the spatial capacity seen in, say, an outstanding artist or architect; the kinesthetic genius displayed in the physical fluidity and grace of a Martha Graham or Magic Johnson; and the musical gifts of a Mozart or YoYo Ma. Rounding out the list are two faces of what Gardner calls “the personal intelligences”: interpersonal skills, like those of a great therapist such as Carl Rogers or a world-class leader such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and the ‘intrapsychic’ capacity that could emerge, on the one hand, in the brilliant insights of Sigmund Freud, or, with less fanfare, in the inner contentment that arises from attuning one’s life to be in keeping with one’s true feelings.


By Ryan Timothy Lee


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My rating:
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Check out the book here:

Amazon US
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  1. Anita

    This was an amazing review! I want to go and get this book right now and see what other gems are in it.


  2. […] plenty of other books written by other Ph. Ds. that all discuss the importance of positivity, good emotional intelligence, and a strong mindset. Here are some of the points to the […]


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