Emotions: A No-Brainer? The Importance of Emotional Intelligence
by Sabine Ehgoetz
Sabine Ehgoetz currently lives in Toronto where she works as a freelance journalist, foreign correspondent, translator and fashion model. In December 2007 she is celebrating her third anniversary as a Canadian resident.
A few years back, it seemed highly popular to evaluate people’s brain power by measuring their IQ through some complicated mathematical tests.
We were all informed by the media that Sharon Stone (IQ 154) is almost as smart as Bill Gates (160), that Hillary Clinton (140) has a tad more brains than her hubby Bill (137) and – who would have guessed – that George W. Bush isn’t really all that blessed with intelligence and ranks behind his predecessors with an IQ of 98.
Although one might suspect that in fact it was the current American government who came up with the theory of an Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ) to make its leader look better, the idea has actually been around since 1990 and was developed by two psychology professors from the Universities of Yale and New Hampshire. A common definition for EQ is the “ability, capacity, or skill to perceive, assess, and manage the emotions of one’s self, of others, and of groups” which doesn’t make it the exact counterpart of an IQ, especially since it is not measurable as easily.
Personally, I rather hold the belief that emotional intelligence while similar to practical intelligence is not the same, especially since I have lots of the one but clearly none of the other. After I was told throughout various male-female discussions that I completely lacked “common sense”, I actually decided to admit to it. After all, common sense is probably less useful and effective than my strong empathic skills which, when expressed in a negative way, could also be called manipulative strategies. Whether it is true that women in general are more gifted in those realms than men, I don’t know, but I suspect it may be the case. This should, by no means, indicate that I believe we are in any way less smart than men. Maybe it is fair to say that we are just a little less practically oriented and a little more aware of the feelings of people around us.
Ultimately though, emotional intelligence – just like spatial awareness, wisdom or practical sense – is not a gender specific quality. But it is an important skill to have when you are trying to deal with difficult coworkers, a demanding boss or a grumpy partner. Detecting someone else’s mood and therefore knowing what this person really wants, can be crucial for job interviews, dealing with aggressive people on the subway or making it past the bouncer of an exclusive club.
Does this mean your EQ measures how well you can pretend to be someone you are actually not? Not necessarily. It is much more about showing that aspect of you that is most likely to be favored by the people you are in contact with at a specific moment.
Practically, it can look like this: imagine you are applying for the job of your dreams. Whoever is going to interview you will certainly ask you a lot of questions regarding your qualifications and skills which, of course, you will need to answer correctly. But beyond that exists a whole different level of communication that you can not grasp with your wits alone.
Is the lady across the desk from you a little insecure herself and seeking reassurance for her decision?
Compliment her on something and sound like you know exactly what you are doing.
Does the HR guy seem like he’s having a bad day? A warm smile will brighten his day and may get you the job easier than a correct answer to every question you are being asked.
Some people appear to have a naturally high EQ, but what if you are at the other end of the rope and not even sure what the heck I’m talking about here? Can one develop emotional wisdom or will you have to depend on your intelligence alone to get you what you want in life? Since this is nothing you can simply read about in a book, study and take an exam on, this question is difficult to answer. I believe we can all improve our EQs by paying careful attention to the signals others send us: their tone of voice, choice of words, gestures, or even the way they dress, walk and laugh. Taking all this into consideration, I’m still not sure how Mr. Bush has managed to become President twice, but I’m quite certain that the importance of a person’s IQ will decline more and more and make place for factors such as emotional intelligence and empathic wisdom.