Emotional Intelligence

      3 Comments on Emotional Intelligence

I have heard many times conversations that contained a segment pretty close to this:

A: B is more intelligent than D, because of X and Y.

C: You also have to take into account emotional intelligence.

A and B might be the same person, as C and D could be. X and Y are usually examples of C demonstrating their intelligence in a situation, or D not doing it. This often comes in the shape of D showing their emotions, which may or may not have clouded their judgment during the specific event.

In many cases, there seems to be a negative correlation, at least in the mind of most witnesses, between being intelligent and showing emotions. Getting mad at someone because they won a game of chess would be a very good example, although a completely stereotypical one. There also seems to be a positive correlation between being intelligent and keeping your emotions under control.

On the other hand, C seems to correlate “having emotions” with “having emotional intelligence”. They imply, by their counter-argument, that the specific event X or Y may show that B has more “traditional intelligence”, like IQ, but that D showed more Emotional Intelligence with their reaction.

I’ve gone through many phases in my life, from thinking that emotional intelligence was a bullshit excuse for being dumb, to thinking that Emotional Intelligence might actually be more useful than “Traditional” intelligence. But for some reason, I never took the time to Google it.

Until now.

According to the Wikipedia page:

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the capability of individuals to recognize their own and other people’s emotions, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s)

According to the rest of the page, it is a source of many disagreements on its existence, its meaning and its importance, but the definition is always close to that. Managing or adjusting emotions to adapt to the environment or the goal is a sign of Emotional Intelligence, as well as having a good self-awareness of your own emotions and mental state.

So… B showed more emotional intelligence, by not showing any emotions in a situation where emotions would be neutral at best, and a liability at worst, in accomplishing a certain goal.

Basically, a person that has no emotions would not have any Emotional Intelligence, and a person who has emotions but always hides them would have a pretty average Emotional Intelligence. On the other hand, a person who has emotions and lets them get in the way of their objectives has terrible Emotional Intelligence, while the person who has emotions but ignores them when it is necessary or practical would have the highest Emotional Intelligence.

That one guy that just lost the world chess championship by making a stupid mistake, and acted basically like a robot the whole time and barely showed his disapointment probably has better Emotional Intelligence than you and me.

So why, did every single time I’ve heard it used in my life, it was in a context where it mean at best something unrelated, but usually the complete opposite?

  • Kingfisher12

    I think the term emotional intelligence is a recent term, and I think that it only became necessary when we started trying to quantify and measure ‘intelligence’.

    The broadest definition of intelligence I can think of would be the ability to receive information and process it into an accurate model of what is, what was, and what can be.

    On a mass scale, we can only measure intelligence if we can provide a standard set of information to provide to a sample. So the aspects of intelligence that we most commonly measure are ones where the information can be copied – on paper, film, etc, and where the information is fully ‘solved’ – meaning it has a known finite number of ways it can be processed.

    Thus the emotional aspects of intelligence are hard to test, both because emotional information is hard to copy reliably, and because human emotions are not ‘solved’. We can test emotional intelligence in small batches – by observing a person’s responses in both real-world and controlled settings – but not on a scale that you can run statistics on it.

    A person with a high emotional intelligence is someone who responds ‘appropriately’ in all emotional settings. Since what is ‘appropriate’ is based on the subjective experience of that person’s peers, emotional intelligence includes being able to process the emotional attitudes of one’s peers, as well as one’s own.

    The way I see it, there are 4 broad categories of ‘intelligence’ that we experience, and have words for. There is no clear divide between them.

    1. Conventional intelligence, or ‘book smarts’ involves comprehension, logic, memory, abstraction, imagination, and creativity. This is the easiest facet of intelligence to measure.

    2. Social intelligence; or ‘street smarts’ involves experience, idiom, mimicry, behavioral awareness, and organization. This is the hardest to quantify, because it is often very situation specific. But a person who is ‘good at life’ probably has high social intelligence, and would probably adapt quickly.

    3. Emotional intelligence involves empathy, self discipline, and self awareness. People with high emotional intelligence are generally ‘likable’ in a way that is difficult to describe.

    4. Physical intelligence (grace, poise, athleticism, talent) includes strength, reflexes, balance, coarse and fine motor control, and perceptual awareness. This is the second easiest to measure, but the least thought of as ‘intelligence’, often (I think) because it’s rare for an individual to excel in both physical intelligence and conventional intelligence, so they’re (wrongly) thought of as opposites.

    It’s possible for someone to be highly intelligent in one aspect, while lacking in the others. Or it’s possible for someone to excel in all facets.

    It should be noted that things that impair one kind of intelligence, generally impair all of them (inebriation, fatigue, etc),

    • Kaito Kid

      According to the wikipedia page, the idea of emotional intelligence showed up in 1964, and gained popularity in 1995. Compared to the human species, it is indeed pretty recent, but at least in my case, it been “popular” according to that timeline for pretty much my entire life, so it’s hard to relate to a world not using this idea in my case.

      • Kingfisher12

        I do mean recent on a scholastic timescale, not my own experience. But I think that the timeline stands. The 60’s was about when measuring intelligence became accepted as real science.

        Previous to that, the emotional aspect of intellect was taken for granted, as were the other facets of intelligence. Since the new science only measured the one facet, the definition of the word ‘intelligence’ to scientists got narrowed. The excluded concepts needed to pick up new terms to differentiate themselves.

        The problem, as I see it, is there’s a pervasive notion that if a person is ‘book smart’, it implies that they lack ‘street smarts’, emotional intelligence, or athletic ability, when reality puts no such constraint on us.