Emotional Intelligence - the dark side is in the detail, not the concept

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In response to the very interesting article by Adam Grant entitled 'The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence.'

It’s true when people get to know their emotional capacity and understand their own emotions they can use them more effectively for both good or bad. However…

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a tool used to build communication skills and build better relationships. The interesting question at the heart of Mr Grant’s article, as I see it, is:

Does a higher emotional quotient (measurement of EI) make you a better person?

This is a great question. Adam mentions that those adept at emotional management may cover up their feelings more. I think at this point we need to be clear about what emotional intelligence is and indeed what model we’re talking about in order to look at EI as a whole.

Social Emotional Intelligence

Being compassionate, non-judgemental, open, warm, kind and forgiving are themselves key components of the Advanced Relationship Test - model of social emotional intelligence. This gives a social dimension to the basic model of EI. EI is not simply about awareness and management.

The thing is, and this is the key I believe, that once people understand themselves really well through high emotional self-awareness, do they naturally strive harder to satisfy themselves and others too? The majority do, I believe, though I accept I have no hard evidence of this except my own personal experience and philosophy.

Why? Because through high self-awareness and awareness of others, a person’s own natural compassion and conscience tends to be felt more acutely. We as humans tend to feel the connectedness and interaction between all things as we become more aware. So we see and feel the negativity of our own actions more acutely. But this is not simply a philosophy of ‘connectedness’ or spirituality, it’s also a very practical thing especially as the world grows more interdependent. I believe this to be true with the exception of workplace psychopaths and sociopaths (possibly including Machiavellians) who would no doubt use higher degrees of certain EQ components to take full advantage. Not only do I believe it’s these people, a minority, that may be giving the rest of us a bad name but also by not seeing the whole EQ picture we misunderstand what EQ is.

Morality and Conscience

I therefore believe that people tend to be more moral the more they understand and feel their own effect on themselves and others. Their ‘conscience’ become more compelling to them, more obvious to satisfy. So psychologically they have little need to satisfy themselves in less direct, more immoral ways and the pleasure they get out of knowing their actions help others is a very human quality, I believe to be hardwired into us.

A great philosophical question is that when people become enlightened they feel the connection to everything and everyone. This ‘universal conscience’ would therefore preclude them abusing the awareness they have gained. They are said to be affected by instant Kama.

EI has at its core a range of positive social components

My definition of EI is important to clarify here. It includes both personal and social qualities, or components. I don’t think the Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence article takes these latter ones into account.

That’s why EQ testing is so important. It shows the range of all the components and how people and teams score and how they differ from the ‘norm’. These include components that make up social conscience. And there lies the answer.

For instance in the Advanced Relationship Test of Empathy model we have distinct measurable components such as Emotional Expression. I would imagine someone like Adolf Hitler would have scored well in this as would he in the EQ-i® model for Personal EQ areas in such areas of assertiveness, independence and optimism. However he would have scored very much lower in other measurable components in compassion-related areas such as warmth and openness, judgement and forgiveness.

I think it takes a good understanding of all the key areas of EQ to know that it’s the balance of these components that makes the person who they are and only that balance should be judged, not a few select components (as in the Dark side article). The good news is that once we can measure the metrics of EQ, we can develop them and focus training on the very ones (found to be in need through testing) we wish to build!

Emotions & Humanity

I personally see emotions as the link between a person’s true self and their understanding of themselves as well as a driver that they use to make their way in the world.

In Mr Grant’s analysis he groups all EQ components into the one EQ badge. It’s their very components that give answers to his question I believe. The devil is so often in the detail.

For instance if someone is highly optimistic we have seen through research that they make great sales people and this component of EQ is fundamental to good sales people.

Whether a person uses this ‘talent’ for good or self-serving purpose we do not know until we look at their relationship-social EQ components.

About Philip Gimmack

Emotional Intelligence expert -Philip Gimmack

Philip Gimmack runs EQworks, emotional intelligence training & executive coaching specialists based in London. Developer of the A.R.T. interpersonal skills (EQ) assessment, he builds leadership, relationship and resilience skills.Philip also runs motivational speaking seminars across the UK.


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