Your high IQ doesn’t mean anything if you don’t use it in the right way. If you cannot make sense of your own emotions, you can even be a genius and still fail in life. There are people with very high IQs who seem to repeat the same mistakes over and over again- usually, this involves their personal, intimate lives. Vincent Van Gogh is one famous example of how a genius can be plagued by bad emotional intelligence. Although a great painter, throughout his life he suffered from severe mental illness, which practically made him unable to understand and tame his own feelings.
That’s why Daniel Goleman thinks that EI (emotional intelligence) “can matter more than IQ”. People with average IQ and good EI can still rise very high, while people with high IQ and low EI are almost always destined for failure.
Before you start crying over your bad luck, you should know one thing- EI can be improved. This is one of the most important goals of Goleman’s book- first to thoroughly describe the concept of EI, and secondly, to help you with improving your emotional intelligence.
What is EI?
The author divides this complex concept into 5 distinct domains:
1. Knowing one’s emotions– EI starts with self-reflection. If you want to really get to know your own emotional states, you should first calm your mind- isolate yourself from the noise of everyday hubbub. After you do this, the same should be done with your mind. Everything unnecessary ( thoughts like: “I forgot to go to the store yesterday!”) should be them removed from your mind. And then you will be able to feel the whole scope of your emotional life and make some sense of it.
2. Emotional management– one of the best way to control some emotions (like anger) is the 10 seconds rule. For this exercise, you simply need to recognize the first signs of fury (i.e. muscle tension), after which you sit down and calmly and slowly count to 10. Although this may seem like a trivial exercise, it’s actually quite effective. A lot of psychotherapists utilize it every day in their practice.
3. Motivate yourself– in the book “Flow: Psychology of Optimal Experience”, there is a lot of talk about goal-setting. Your motivation depends quite a lot on the type of goals you choose. They should be attainable, clear, and realistic. Finally, you should occasionally reward yourself for doing the good work (and inversely, punish yourself when you did something really stupid).
4. Empathy– empathy is probably the most important domain of emotional intelligence. All the other domains include empathy, to some extent. For instance, you cannot really get to know your own emotions if you don’t empathize with yourself. Yes, you heard us correctly, you can empathize with yourself, and it is extremely effective for people with low self-respect. In the mindedness psychotherapy, this is one of the most important concepts.
5. Pay attention to your relationships– this is your final and most important tests. Everything you learned so far has to be implemented in the domain of your personal life. Once again, the most important is empathy. Too often we entrench ourselves in highly defensive positions and don’t allow our partners to find their way back into our lives. And this is mostly because we lack empathy. We refuse to understand others. What we have to understand is that people around us will sometimes say some bad things, but that doesn’t mean they really think that way. Even if they do think bad of us, what difference does it make? Much more often, we hold grudges against our loved ones, and this is where empathy can help. You can say to yourself: “Wait a minute. I have been ignoring my girlfriend for several days now, she must feel terrible by now. I better give her a call.”
Pay attention to your temperament
There can be a lot of hurdles on the path towards healthy emotional intelligence. Your genes, for example. They determine your temperamental type, and you can practically do nothing about it. In short, temperament is the usual way you react to the surrounding world. Some people react in a shy way, some are extremely active, others are sensitive, etc.
Old Greeks also noticed this, and they have made 4 distinct temperamental types that we use, in one form or another, even today. And these are:
1. Choleric– these people are extremely active and emotional. It is also hard for them to cool down, and they might get frustrated a lot. In short, these people are not easy to deal with, but in the end, we all like them as they are so active energetic all the time.
2. Sanguine– in some ways, these individuals are similar to cholerics- they are also active and have lots of energy. On the other way, it is much easier for sanguines to calm down. They have intense emotions like cholerics, but they also calm down very quickly.
3. Melancholic– this type of people is gloomy and sulky. They aren’t that active-quite the contrary, they are rather passive, but they experience very strong emotions. They are somewhat predisposed towards experiencing sad, negative emotions, hence their name- melancholic.
4. Phlegmatic– these people are, as we would call them today, “chill”. Nothing can get them tense and uptight. They keep their cool even during the most stressful times. They are also quite passive and inactive, and they don’t experience strong emotions.
Why did we go into such lengths to explain these basic types of temperament? Because some temperaments, especially choleric and melancholic, have a lot more trouble with their emotions interpersonal relationships. More specifically, these people are very sensitive, and they get very emotional.
If you are choleric, you probably get angry at people for some petty reasons. You regret it after, but it’s not easy for you to apologize. But you simply have to take this first step. One of the exercises we’ve mentioned before- 10 seconds rule- will be very good for you. It will help you to control your anger and frustration and avoid hurting others (and yourself).
On the other hand, melancholics don’t act in such a harsh manner. Quite the contrary, they keep all the frustration and sometimes turn it towards themselves. This is extremely destructive, which is why melancholics need to learn how to express their emotions. Melancholics often seem aloof and distant, although they are overwhelmed by emotions. As a result, their friends and partners might regard them as emotionally cold. To avoid this, melancholics must appropriately express their emotions.
We will end this summary with a quote:
“People with well-developed emotional skills are also more likely to be content and effective in their lives, mastering the habits of mind that foster their own productivity; people who cannot marshal some control over their emotional life fight inner battles that sabotage their ability for focused work and clear thought.”.