Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
Sit Down and Read
One Line Summary
So many feelings…what to do?
Why it’s Awesome
There was a time when IQ (intelligence quotient) was the standard measure of someone’s intelligence. That was until Howard Gardner proposed the idea of multiple intelligences and IQ started to get shoved to the back of the discussion. Whoops. Sorry kids whose self-esteem was destroyed because we didn’t understand how to properly measure someone’s capabilities.
But that’s all in the past now. Largely because of this book, Emotional Intelligence, our idea of intelligence has radically changed. No longer do we just give people tests on their ability to solve random spatial problems. Leave that to Computer Science majors. Now we realize that success comes from something much different. Welcome to the era of EQ.
A technical definition of EQ (emotional quotient) is “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically”.
In other words, handle your damn emotions.
When someone is being an asshole and you don’t crank them across the face, that’s probably EQ at work. So everyone has it to some extent.
You need EQ because emotions are like rebellious kids throwing a fit. They’re just gonna do what they’re gonna do. That’s their job. You can’t control them…directly. But you can control them indirectly.
By the way, I know some people are going to cry “but that’s suppressing your emotions! We should allow ourselves to feel whatever we want!!!1”. No.
I’m about to tell you the realest thing ever: I’m scared all the time. When I’m about to do public speaking, I’m scared. When I approach some girl at a bar and I’m dead sober, I’m scared. When I write something extremely personal on this blog and then proceed to share it with everyone I know and strangers around the world, I’m scared. Everything that’s worthwhile is scary.
But you have a choice. You can choose to indulge in this emotion and let it control you. Or you can say “my emotions are telling me one thing, but I know the right thing is something else. So I’m going to do that instead”.
Why do are emotions act like this? Because the modern world causes our primitive flight or fight response to go crazy all the time without good reason. No one is going to come bash me in the head with a rock because I wrote something on my wordpress blog that they didn’t like.
Notice that this is also a nuanced point I’m making. I never said that emotions are worthless and we should just be robots. Many times following your emotions IS the right course of action. They can be an extremely powerful guidance system, better than any statistical model could predict. And yet others are not useful at all in certain circumstances. Not “wrong”. Just not useful.
Stress is another emotion that isn’t useful. Whether or not you’re stressed has 0% effect on your ability to achieve an outcome. But the problem is that this is the only motivational system most people know. They have to beat themselves up and worry themselves to death in order to get anything accomplished. And while that might work to a certain extent, I would like to think that there’s better forms of motivation.
I’m not saying I’m free from this. I stress all the time. And sometimes it does help me focus and make me motivated. But most of the time it just fucks things up. Being stressed out is just not a mental place where I’m very productive. All I end up doing is just looping the dumbass thoughts I’m having in my head. I can’t really think or be creative. Instead of dealing with the actual problem, I’m dealing with handling this painful emotion.
Eckhart Tolle made an amazing point that I still think about to this day in The Power of Now. He pointed out that in life or death situations, our thinking mind shuts off. You don’t “decide” to slam on your car brakes if a person jumps out in front of you. You just do it before you can even register it in your mind.
In layman’s terms, you would call that your reflexes. And yet how incredibly powerful is this non-thinking part of our brain? Arguably more powerful than our thinking brain. And yet we think “stress” is helping us solve our problems.
Okay, I think I’ve beaten this point to death. There are certain emotions that you shouldn’t indulge in if you want to live a certain quality of life. Let’s move on.
Another powerful technique Goleman describes for controlling emotions is called reframing. You can think of it as changing your perspective. Instead of assuming your boss is an asshole who wants to ruin your life, maybe realize that he’s just another human being trying to do his best like everyone else. It may or might not be true. But your assumption that your boss is an asshole may or may not be true either. Which perspective leads to a higher quality of life?
There are other techniques Goleman gets into in this book that I won’t go into detail here. But just from what I’ve shared here, it’s easy to see there’s a ton of value in this book.
Why Does It Suck
Man, I like Goleman but the guy’s writing can be incredible dry at time. The first half of this book is essentially him going through all the modern science behind emotions and where they come from. Fascinating stuff…for a little while. I can’t say I even remember much of it. Something, something Amygdala causes fight or flight.
The Wrap Up
Emotional Intelligence is a fantastic book that will teach you exactly how emotions work and how to control them to increase the quality of your life. In the modern era where just about all manual labor can be delegated to technology, people who can do intense emotional labor are going to be the ones who are going to be successful. That’s because success essentially comes from bringing value to other people’s lives, and emotional labor will be far more valuable.
There is no better time to take control of your emotional life. Will this book make you perfect? Of course not. Will you never angry or depressed again? Highly unlikely. But you will learn and grow. And that’s all anyone can do.