Analysis of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

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Analysis of "Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman

Daniel Goleman's book Emotional Intelligence is phenomenal. Rich with insight and valuable information, it provides answers to some questions that have perplexed professionals and lay persons alike for some time: Why do some people achieve far beyond what we might expect of them based on their circumstances and innate abilities, and why do some children thrive in a modem environment that seems intent on preventing them from even surviving? The answer, Goleman says, lies in emotional intelligence.

He writes, "My concern is with. . emotional intelligence, abilities such as being able to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustrations, to control impulses and delay gratification; to regulate one's moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think; to empathize and to hope"(34). Emotional intelligence is further described as a "meta-ability," determining how well we can use whatever other skills we have, including raw intellect (36). The book goes on to explain that it is our ability to successfully manage our emotional lives, and therefore our relationships with others and our view of ourselves, that determines our success in life.

Interestingly enough, the book doesn't t focus to any extent on communication per SE, but brings us just to the door of that issue on many occasions, almost as if it is a foregone conclusion that the ability to communicate about one's emotional state, and read others effectively is critical to achieving emotional intelligence. In all of the book 's many pages about empathy, for example, very little air time is given to the fact that one needs to first establish a personal empathetic state by observing and interpreting another's distress, and then communicate that response to the distressed person. However, a specific nod is given to effective communication in the chapter, "The Roots of Empathy." In both the statement, "Just as the mode of the rational mind is words, the mode of the emotions is nonverbal" (97), and later focus on the concept that empathy is of little value if it cannot be successfully expressed, the importance of effective communication is stressed. In a similar fashion, in the first few pages of the book, the concept of impulse control is defined, in terms of emotional intelligence, as knowing what to say and do and when to say and do it, but again the issue of effective communication is not addressed in so many words.

Later in the book in the chapter "Mind and Medicine," the connection between physical and emotional well being is looked at, and the notion is introduced that communication plays an important part in achieving and maintaining wellness. However it can be argued that the communications that contribute to the greatest degree to wellness are likely to be effective and positive communication with oneself in addition to that with others. Medical science also offers us other important clues to the role and source of emotions; there is significant breaking scientific evidence that neurochemistry plays a far more important role in the emotions than we once realized. However, jumping to the conclusion that the right chemical cocktail needs to be developed to produce the perfect emotional state is premature. One study has shown, for example, that in a study of people diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, there was virtually no difference in the level of improvement between the group that received Prozac, and the group that received behavioral modification therapy; both groups improved significantly(225).

However, the book could well have been written as a companion to our course text Looking Out/Looking In, written by Ronald Adler and Neil Towne, because Goleman's book dovetails so neatly with the concepts presented in the text. Chapter Four in our text stops short of offering a comprehensive look at how emotions and communication affect each other. Goleman' s book offers a more complete understanding. In a similar fashion the authors of both books use anecdotes and examples extensively and effectively to make their points clear. There are countless ways in which the concepts from the two publications support each other. Goleman' s book is an absolute gold mine of insight, information and strategies involving effective emoting, while our text offers a more broad focus on communication. I'll offer here a few of the parallels between our text and the book

In Chapter Two, our text examines the relationship between communication and self concept. The book also looks at self concept as it develops in infancy. Emotional Intelligence focuses on the relationship between infants and their caretakers, primarily their mothers, and the extent to which the two may be "attuned" to each other. In a vividly described dance between mother and infant, the mother offers precisely tuned responses to the infant s tiniest behavior (100). In a healthy attuned relationship, the infant learns important lessons in the communicative exchange: that she can cause things to happen by her behavior, and that emotional displays of a certain type bring about a satisfying response. This interaction requires a host of highly developed communication skills on the mother s part, and introduces the infant to communication competencies that will be important throughout her life.

In a further focus on development of self image, the book outlines a case study of twins, in which one was felt by the mother to be "more like Dad" and therefore requiring treatment different from the treatment his twin brother received. Not given access to this "attunement dance," the Dad-like twin hadn't, at age five, developed appropriate social (read communicative) rhythms (99). Although the book doesn't t bring in the idea specifically of self fulfilling prophesy, it does suggest that the mother's different treatment of the two twins had been instrumental in their developing the personalities that she expected of them.

In our text, Chapter Three focuses on perception and its influence on communication, and brings forward empathy as an important feature in our repertoire of communicative capabilities. The book also focuses on empathy, and goes into some length to describe the extent to which an emotionally intelligent young person has learned to read others feelings from nonverbal cues and offer appropriate cues of his own. He therefore derives the collateral benefits of being better adjusted emotionally, more popular, more outgoing and more sensitive (97). In a further reference to perception, Goleman contends that an individual's ability to cultivate optimism, a positive framework for viewing successes and failures, is a critical factor in a successful life (88).

Our text, in the section titled "The Impact of Language," makes reference to the fact that naming something (associating a word with, for example, an individual or a process) gives that person power who can call up in the minds of her listeners an image of the thing by evoking the word. Goleman makes a similar point when he says, "As Henry Roth observed in his novel Call It Sleep, 'If you could put words to what you felt, it was your'"" (52). My experience has shown me that in fact there are few more powerful words spoken than a quiet "I" message containing an expression of the speaker's emotional state.

Nonverbal communication is talked about at some length in our text. In a stunning illustration of both nonverbal communication and empathy, Goleman relates that monkeys who learned that a shock could be shut off by pressing a certain button would rush to press the button when the merely observed the grimace of pain on another monkey s face because the other monkey was being shocked(103). Goleman also suggests in many different ways that because emotion is so often revealed by nonverbal behavior, an emotionally intelligent individual has mastered both reading others nonverbal cues and displaying their own appropriately.

Listening is suggested by the authors of our text to be a communication skill that is underrated by many. In the chapter "Intimate Enemies" in the Goleman book, nondefensive listening and speaking, as well as the ability to listen to one's own self talk and detoxify it are among the important suggestions offered for marital harmony. In an interesting related concept, it is revealed that when a marriage counselor listens in therapy as a couple talks to and about each other, there are some specific signs that the relationship is more than likely to be headed for a dissolution than reconciliation. Among those are included: harsh criticism of the partner, character assassination, contemptuous statements or behaviors, behaviors or verbal patterns indicating disgust, and evidence that either partner is taking either an innocent victim stance or a stance of righteous indignation (134). Although that concept perhaps fits better with our text's Chapter Eight, on relationships, it applies to the idea of effective listening as well.

Criticism, both giving it and responding to it, is a focus of Chapter Nine in our text. Goleman says of an important study that was done that, "Inept criticism was ahead of mistrust, personality struggles and disputes over power and pay as a reason for job conflict" (152). He goes on to explain that the concept of feedback, once a term for the reporting mechanism of a mechanical system, has come to also have a meaning in human relationships, but that like its counterpart in mechanical systems, feedback involving humans must have a means of being decoded and accepted in order to be useful.

In Chapter Ten of our text, we consider many factors in dealing more successfully with conflict. Goleman quotes a teacher of emotional intelligence in her inner city New Haven, Connecticut classroom as saying, "What escalates to conflict begins with not communicating, making assumptions, jumping to conclusions, and sending a 'hard message that is difficult for others to hear" (270). That statement, one of the more blatantly connected to the concept of communication competencies, is a close parallel with the ideas presented in our text.

In some respects, emotional incompetency may be a quirk of evolution. Our capacity to generate and respond to emotional states seems to have been neurally programmed into us, and not all of the responses work very well when we face today s issues. The "fight or flight" response and adrenaline surges exhibited in answer to a threat, for example, may have served us far better in antiquity than they do in modem times (Goleman 23). Furthermore, although neither the course text nor the Goleman book address the theory, it may be worth considering that our tendency to avoid someone that is behaving in a socially unacceptable fashion may stem from adaptive behavior; the caveman that hung around with a lunatic was far more vulnerable to environmental punishment than the one who acted in a fashion that was normal for his culture. It would make someone in the dawning of civilization very unlikely to receive other than ostracization for their weird behaviors - not a viable response in today's more advanced and crowded world.

Though our text doesn't specifically address the issue of teaching children to be emotionally smart and good communicators, that issue, brought forth in great detail by Goleman, is one of personal importance to me and significant global importance as well. We are often shocked and dismayed by the emotional dysfunctional ability exhibited by today's children. Children are killing themselves and killing others in record and horrifying numbers, and at a minimum often seem unfocused, lacking in compassion, and achieving at a level far below what might be reasonably expected of them, Goleman outline five standards by which to measure emotional competency in children: possessing emotional self awareness, facility with managing emotions, efficiency in harnessing emotions productively, exhibiting empathy, and successfully handling relationships (283).

The consequences of failing to achieve a nominal or better level of emotional competency can be grave enough - Goleman points out that such children are far more likely than others to suffer from withdrawal and social problems, being anxious and depressed, having attention and thinking problems, and being delinquent or aggressive (233). But Goleman goes on to warn that this is merely the tip of the iceberg; many of today's dysfunctional children, boys especially, will become violent, antisocial misfits in the future as they reach the age of late adolescence and early adulthood, typically times of hormone-driven "acting out" behaviors(235). Girls are not immune from the effects of emotional illiteracy; Goleman cites a study that indicates that 40% of adolescent girls who are assessed as "bad" (getting in trouble with teachers and breaking rules) are or have been pregnant by the time they leave high school (237).

But such a result need not be the case, Goldman feels, because while there seems to be a possibly inherited biochemical basis for some of the roots of dysfunction in children (extreme shyness, for example) appropriate learning opportunities in earliest childhood, and/or later remediation can make an enormous difference in a child's emotional intelligence. Parents need to learn that there are specific parenting styles that are most likely to result in a child's emotional incompetence: ignoring the child's feelings all together, being too laissez-faire or having no standards, and being contemptuous of their children or showing no respect (191).

At school, programs that teach socially-at-risk children to communicate better and negotiate and resolve conflicts are critical if those skills have not been learned up to that point. We may, in fact, worry too much about our children's math skills when if they are not alive to utilize the skills ("worst case scenario" consequence of emotional dysfunction), such mastery is irrelevant (231). Elementary school children have been shown to have the ability to easily comprehend and internalize coaching that fosters emotional competency. The same curriculum that was once felt to be useful and approachable by college students is now seen by some to be critical for today's preadolescents (271).

Indeed, a child (or at least a boy) who has mastered the ability to simply delay gratification seems to be at a striking advantage as he or she goes through life. Goleman tells us of research that was conducted tracing four year old boys into adulthood after having determined their ability to delay gratification, to wait a few minutes for the interviewer to return from an errand and get two marshmallows, or have one at the time the interviewer offered them. There is, it turns out, a clear and persistent correlation between the boys success at delaying gratification at four and social competence, personal effectiveness, assertiveness, and ability to cope with stress as adolescents. As high school graduates, they were overwhelmingly more academically successful, and scored on average 210 points higher on their SAT tests (SI).

In conclusion, it may be said that emotional intelligence is in essence little more than proficiency with the social arts, which may be seen as the capacity to communicate emotion purposefully, effectively and appropriately. With rare exceptions, good communicators possess a fair degree of emotional intelligence. Our study of the process and the mechanics of communication must, in order for the entire picture to be presented, include a focus on the ability to maintain an informative internal dialog as well as one with our external world. But that internal dialog is far from enough to deliver the emotional intelligence we need; the communication loop must be connected to the external world at the same time. It is, I think, the ability to manage those two processes simultaneously and effectively that will give us our best opportunities for success and personal satisfaction. Goleman brilliantly illuminates the emotion side of that coin while our text helps us through the challenging process of exploring the contours of the communication side.

Works Cited

Adler, Ronald B and Towne, Neil. Looking Out/Looking In. 9th ed. Ft. Worth: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, 1999.

Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence. . New York: Bantam, 1997.

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