Book Review – Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ

As I mentioned in an earlier review, my wonderful partners have pointed out that I have some less than wonderful processes that can be invoked. As part of my reading blitz, I picked up Emotional Intelligence, and read it slowly overtime on my phone. I say slowly in part because these days I do most of my reading directly on my laptop, and in part because it’s a hefty tome, clocking in at over 800 pages.

Was it worth working my way through all of those? I think yes.

The book starts off with a pleasant anecdote about a smiling bus driver who pumped his vehicle full of warm cheer, then quickly contrasts it with items from the news ranging from destruction of properties to the destruction of multiple lives. As a means to draw your attention to the importance of emotional intelligence, it’s rather effective. Daniel Goleman knows how to pick gut-punching examples, and it doesn’t stop in the prefatory material.

Part one, The Emotional Brain, opens with the same sort of whiplash – a tale of parental self sacrifice for their child, and a tale of parental error that led to the death of their child. It then delves into the bodily effect and utility of emotions, discussing how system one (though he doesn’t call it that) serves our ends, or rather, did in the ancestral environment. A recurring theme through the book is how modern society has made our reactions too fast and powerful, to our frequent sorrow.

Part two, The Nature of Emotional Intelligence, delves into ways to be really dumb while being quite intelligent. Pure logic, memory, and reasoning ability, do not cover all the bases of intelligence, despite the common conception. Emotional intelligence, which is recognizing, understanding, and being able to handle, the emotions of yourself or others, has a stronger effect on life outcomes. Daniel covers several different studies that demonstrate these effects, longitudinal studies with large sample groups. He then delves into what emotional intelligence really means, how we can recognize it in ourselves and others, and how empathy functions, in people for whom it is functional, and in those who it does not, due to various conditions.

In part three, Emotional Intelligence Applied, we dig into what EQ looks like in relationships, and what the lack thereof is like. Personal, professional, and medical are the areas delved into, and the last particularly interested me. I had a few discussions with Martina on the future of medicine, opining that there would come a day when most of the heavy lifting would be done by automated systems. She contended that she didn’t want a machine to tell her she had something wrong with her, she wanted a person. I retorted that there would in fact be people who specialized in this, and being selected for communication ability and empathy, would serve the purpose far better than people selected for the ability to grind books for twelve years. In fact, the research tends to support that, given adequate diagnostic and treatment generation technology, this would actually be an improvement to the outcomes of our medical systems.

The rest of the book (two more sections) leans heavily on the value and desirability of teaching emotional intelligence to the young, and it makes a strong case for it. We’re not serving ourselves by pushing our children to be straw vulcans, Spocks with no understanding of how to name, understand, and cope with the emotions that we and others generate in response to reality. I feel good about recommending Emotional Intelligence, long as it is, to any reader who wants a better understanding of their system one, and how to get along with it for fun, profit, and a longer, healthier, more successful life.