G.I.V.E. Get Involved, Volunteer in Education
How Important is Emotional Intelligence?
By Dianna Ellis, Parents' Source, May 20, 2001.
Psychologists have long tried to define the meaning of intelligence.
For most of us, intelligence is one's ability to solve cognitive-type problems,
such as vocabulary and arithmetic. But we all know that general intelligence,
or what psychologists understand is intelligence, is only a small part of
a person's capacity. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) addresses the emotional,
personal, social, and survival dimensions of intelligence, which are often
more important for daily functioning than the more cognitive or mental aspects
of intelligence. This less cognitive part of intelligence is concerned with
understanding oneself and others, relating to people, and adapting to and
coping with the immediate surroundings. These factors increase our ability
to be more successful in dealing with ourselves, others, and environmental
Cognitive or thought-based IQ offers little to explain the differences
between individuals with roughly the same promise, schooling, or opportunity.
A study was conducted on 95 Harvard students from a class during the 1940s,
a time when students with a wider spread of IQ's attended Ivy League schools.
The men's lives were followed into middle age. It was determined that the
men with the highest test scores in college were not necessarily more successful
than those with lower test scores. They did not have higher salaries, they
weren't more work-productive, and they didn't have higher status in their
jobs. They also didn't achieve greater satisfaction in life nor did they
have more happy relationships. Sadly, these results seemed to indicate that
academic success and high intellectual IQ did not predict emotional success
Out of this study and many others, the notion of "emotional intelligence"
was born. Emotional intelligence is in many ways a predictor of emotional
and personal successes in the future.
Emotional intelligence is certainly something that can be evaluated in
everyone. The ability to measure a child's or adolescent's emotional intelligence
is important. Emotional intelligence testing measures characteristics such
as empathy, social responsibility, impulse control, and the ability to relate
to others in an age-appropriate and responsible manner. It includes the
ability to tolerate stress, maintain an optimistic outlook, and solve day-to-day
human problems. Emotional intelligence measures the skills one has to succeed
in coping with environmental demands and pressures.
Long ago, psychologists came to understand that cognitive intelligence
is relatively fixed. Certainly early childhood, environmental, and early
life events shape intelligence, as do genetic factors. But by a certain
age in childhood, intellectual ability is rather established. Those who
are going to be intellectually bright will stay intellectually bright throughout
their lives, barring any unforeseen brain trauma. Those who are intellectually
damaged will stay intellectually damaged. This is not the case with emotional
intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the result of learning that can
occur throughout the life span. Individuals who have intensive learning
experiences often raise their emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence
is not a fixed point, but rather it is fluid, dynamic, and the result of
Where is emotional intelligence learned? It is learned at the sleeve
of those around us. As parents, we can teach our children the value of emotional
intelligence. We can demonstrate ways to handle stress. We can encourage
and nurture their creativity. We can teach them to be empathetic. Many of
these skills can be taught with deliberate effort and purposeful intervention.
In his article "The Feelings Vocabulary", Steven Tobias, Psy.D.
states, "Children can learn about feelings when watching television,
sitting on a bench in the mall, or when reading. Point out the feelings
that you see around you, and talk about them. Talk about how the characters
on TV or in the book are feeling and why. Look at people you see and try
to guess how they are feeling."
The assessment of emotional intelligence is a new area for psychologists
and educators. Psychologists have long focused almost exclusively on cognitive
skills. With the new focus on emotional intelligence, some instruments are
beginning to be developed to measure emotional intelligence. One of the
best tools for this is the BarOn EQ-i, a brief measure of emotional, personal,
social, and non-cognitive intelligence. It assesses the individual's ability
to deal with the immediate world around them by taking an inventory of emotional
and social skills. It identifies personal weaknesses and strengths in individuals
and in groups. For many, it can be the first step toward newfound personal
growth and development.
The test takes approximately thirty minutes to complete. It consists
of statements which are responded to on a five-point scale from "Not
true of me" to "True of me". Like many traditional IQ tests,
it is scored where 100 is considered average. Scores above average represent
strengths, while scores below 100 represent areas of weakness.
The characteristics measured by the BarOn EQ-i test can be
taught at home and in our schools. Some of them include:
- Self-Respect and Self-Confidence. Does your child have a positive
self-image, or is he uncomfortable with his physical appearance?
- Emotional Self-Awareness. Is your child in touch with her feelings,
or does she often have difficulty understanding and expressing her feelings?
- Assertiveness. Can your child express his feelings and defend
his rights, or does he sometimes feel self-conscious
- Independence. Is your child willing and capable of thinking,
working, and making decisions on her own?
- Self-Actualization. Is your child content with his achievements
in life? Does he allow sufficient time for leisure activities and to pursue
- Empathy. Does your child have a good awareness, understanding,
and appreciation of the feelings of others? Is he or she willing to help
others and avoid hurting their feelings?
By demonstrating to our children the value of emotional intelligence
in their daily lives, we increase their ability to be more successful in
dealing with the ever-changing circumstances of their lives as they grow
Dianna Ellis works at Gateway Counseling Services which provides the
BarOn EQ-i examination for children, adolescents, and adults. They offer
both EQ testing, as well as interventions to improve emotional intelligence.
For more information or assessment, contact Gateway Counseling Services
at (610) 323-8866.
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