Culture & Society

Emotional Intelligence (EI): A Concept More Important Than IQ

Living in the world means interacting with different kinds of individuals and constant change in life, be it personal or professional. Being emotionally intelligent is the key to how a person reacts to what life puts on their way.

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Einstein never took an IQ test but it is said that his estimated IQ score was around 160. Newton’s hypothetical IQ score is in the range of 190 to 200. IQ of Stephen Hawking was 160. Nadia Camukova had an IQ of around 200. Terence Tao is said to have the highest IQ score in the world which is between 225 and 230. The IQ of Bill Gates is 157 ± 6. India’s respected Srinivasa Ramanujan had an estimated IQ of 185. Marie Curie- the first woman to win the Nobel Prize and the first person to win the Nobel Prize twice had an IQ of 180-200. How brilliant and outstanding records all are! Their contributions to the world of knowledge are tremendous and impossible to replace.

But how much do we know about their Emotional Intelligence? How were their emotion-controlling ability, understanding of day-to-day life things and others’ plus own various ranges of emotions, like happiness, excitement, anger, sadness, depression, stress, work-life balance, etc.? How were their personal emotional lives, family lives and social lives? How they responded to different emotional aspects of life and how they treated others? In a nutshell, how emotionally mature they were. We get it when we study their personal lives and personalities. However, while studying Emotional Intelligence (EI), we can not skip the topic with the excuse that it is someone’s personal life element.

“What really matters for success, character, happiness and lifelong achievements is a definite set of emotional skills – your EQ — not just purely cognitive abilities that are measured by conventional IQ tests.” — Daniel Goleman, an American author, psychologist, and science journalist said.
Emotional Intelligence (EI) or Emotional Quotient (EQ) refers to the ability to understand, use and manage our emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, improve effective communication, have compassion for others, overcome challenges and resolve conflicts. People can perceive, interpret, demonstrate, control, evaluate and use their emotions to communicate with and relate to others effectively and constructively.

Here is an impressive quote from famous American actor and producer David Caruso - “It is very important to understand that Emotional Intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head — it is the unique intersection of both.”
Almost all of us are aware of the concept of Intelligence Quotient (IQ) which refers to the mental age of a person, or simply, brilliance. It is a measure of a person's ability to reason in his/her field of study. In other words, an IQ test is supposed to measure the efficiency of someone using information and logic to answer questions or make predictions.
In the past, IQ was considered the prime determinant of how intelligent we were. Later, psychologists, such as Howard Gardner, felt that IQ was too narrow a measure of someone’s ability. Then came the father of the concept of EI- Daniel Goleman, who in his revolutionary work, ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ’, suggested Emotional Intelligence. He stated that EI can be just as important as IQ. IQ determines our level of reasoning and problem-solving abilities. EI or EQ determines one’s ability to recognise, differentiate, and manage one’s emotions and the emotions of others.

IQ tests alone don’t necessarily explain the full range of our thinking abilities. IQ tests don’t always predict success in study, professional and personal life. Some experts suggest that emotional intelligence is more important than IQ for achieving success in life. The ability to express and control own emotions is essential, but the ability to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others is equally important as well. It includes handling problems of real life with a proper balance of emotions as well. High IQ does not necessarily refer to high EI.
The researchers have extended the definition of ‘intelligence’ to include a wider set of skills. In the last few decades, EI has emerged as a way to describe a great set of thinking skills within the entire population of various emotions. Like measuring IQ, researchers have developed tests to measure EI as well. Together, from the IQ tests and EI tests, we may get a complete picture of human intelligence.
Components of Emotional Intelligence. There are four different levels of emotional intelligence. They are- 
⦁    Perceiving emotions: The first step in understanding emotions is to perceive them precisely. In many cases, this might involve understanding non-verbal signs such as gestures, body language and facial expressions.
⦁    Reasoning with emotions: The next step involves using emotions to uphold thinking and cognitive activity. Emotions help prioritise what we pay attention to and what we respond emotionally to.
⦁    Understanding emotions: The perceived emotions may carry various meanings. If someone is expressing anger, the observer must interpret the cause and meaning of the person's anger. For example, if a manager is acting angry, it may mean that they are not satisfied with the employees’ work, or they have been fighting with their partner.
⦁    Managing emotions: The ability to manage emotions effectively is a critical part of emotional intelligence and it is the highest level. Controlling own emotions and responding properly to those as well as responding to others’ emotions are all important aspects of emotional management.
Thinking before Reacting

Emotionally intelligent people know that emotions can be powerful, but also may be temporary. In such cases, especially for high-level emotions like anger, an emotionally intelligent person takes some time before responding. This allows people to calm down their emotions and think more logically about all the factors involved with the argument. 

Emotional intelligence is commonly defined by four attributes: self-management, self-awareness, social awareness through empathy, and relationship management. These are the key skills for building our EI and improving our ability to manage emotions, connect positively with others and bring out positive results in them also.

The ability of building connection with others is determined by how well we are able to understand our own emotions and use them effectively to connect with others at an emotional level. According to Mike Goldman- a leadership team coach and author of ‘Breakthrough Leadership Team’ and ‘Performance Breakthrough’, “The biggest obstacle in the way of our personal and professional success and fulfillment is between our ears. When times are challenging, our emotions go on autopilot and we create disempowering actions and habits. Simply shifting our focus will change our reality and our results.” 

Generally, emotions are considered the enemy of reasoning. But that’s not true in the case of emotionally intelligent people. They use emotions as information for the mind and can listen to their gut to guide those emotions positively to make good decisions. People with strong EI benefit from good mental health, healthy social relationships, and academic and workplace success. The EI level of a person is not stagnant. A person with a strong will can increase their EI by practicing awareness, looking inward, concentrating on how they react and respond to others, learning from mistakes, and proper training, sometimes. While some people argue that EI is more important than general intelligence for success, both general intelligence and EI are instrumental for success and have different, but balancing outcomes. Some believe that EI is like a personality trait, more than a type of intelligence. However, EI is associated with positive outcomes, beyond personality traits. EI can be helpful when we are giving or receiving feedback, tracking the changes, meeting tight deadlines, working through retard and failure, dealing with challenging relationships, etc.
Living in the world means interacting with different kinds of individuals and constant change in life, be it personal or professional. Being emotionally intelligent is the key to how a person reacts to what life puts on their way. It is, moreover, a basic element of kindness and understanding the deep reasons behind one's actions. When we are strong in EI, not only we excel at work but in our personal lives as well. It's a ‘soft skill’, but one of the most important skills a person can have.

(Dr Chandana Kashyap is an independent writer and journalist based in Guwahati. She occasionally writes for ‘Amar Asom’ and does independent reporting on issues of public interest. She has published an article on Manipur issues for the magazine.)