Many cultures, particularly Western ones, place a lot of emphasis on intelligence as a barometer of success. We’ve even developed tests to measure our intelligence, resulting in a score known as our intelligence quotient, or IQ. But data suggests that IQ accounts for only about 20% of success in life, with the remaining 80% being made up by other factors, emotional intelligence included. And much more research has been done on IQ than on emotions and emotional intelligence, despite the fact that emotions are hard-wired in the human brain and make us the species we are.
IQ is fixed: what we’re born with is what remains throughout our lives. But emotional intelligence can be taught and learned—we have the ability to improve upon our emotional intelligence throughout our lives. In this one-page summary, we cover a broad overview of what emotions are, what emotional intelligence is, and how we can use it in a couple different areas of life. The full summary goes into much more detail about each of these categories.
Emotions are strong impulses that urge us to take immediate action. They’re based on fundamental needs (usually survival) and neurologically designed to propel us into action without overthinking: “Run from the tiger before considering options gets us killed!”
There’s nothing wrong with feeling emotions—the problems arise when the emotions are out of tune with the situation and when we don’t express our emotions productively or safely.
The human brain was built from the bottom up:
We essentially have two minds: a thinking one and a feeling one. Our feeling mind is associative, categorical, absolutist, and individual—and it reacts to information before our thinking mind even gets all the information and has an opportunity to weigh out the best action.
Our feeling mind is more fully-formed at birth, while our neocortex can learn, change, and adjust throughout our lives. This means our emotional reactions to things are formed before we have high-level thoughts to make sense of them. We can’t change our emotional reactions to things, but we can learn how to respond to our emotions differently.
Emotional hijackings occur when our limbic system receives the information first and responds with an emergency alert. This sends our body into panic mode and makes it more difficult for our neocortex to control the actions we take based on our emotional impulses.
Emotional intelligence encompasses the following skills:
Self-awareness is the ability to recognize a feeling as it’s happening to you. Being able to monitor our feelings as they’re occurring helps us understand ourselves and our psychology. The more certain we are about our feelings, the easier it is to make personal decisions.
People who know their emotions are aware of their moods as they happen but can be mindful about how they deal with them. They’re more sure of their boundaries since they know how they’ll feel. They tend towards a positive outlook on life since they know they can manage whatever moods are thrown at them. They don’t dwell on bad moods and can get out of ruts faster. They can be mindful of their emotions and manage them successfully.
The goal is to be self-aware in relation to our emotions, but most people deal with their emotions in one of two unhealthy ways:
Once we’re aware of our emotional responses as we’re having them, we can start to regulate how they influence our actions.
There are three emotions that most people find hard to regulate: anger, anxiety, and sadness.
We also need to be able to...
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Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman is a tricky book to summarize: it clocks in at 384 pages and is packed full of interesting ideas and information, practical advice, and anecdotes.
Goleman’s career as a psychologist and New York Times reporter on the human brain and behavioral sciences gives him a lot of research to pull from, and the book is chock full of data from academic research studies. We’ve chosen to cut most of those examples due to 2 reasons:
Readers who revel in research should consider reading the original book to make use of Goleman’s extensive examples.
We’ve also done some reorganization for this summary: though the rough structure of our summary follows the rough structure of the book, the individual chapters in the original book sometimes meandered or jumped around in ways that could cause a reader to get lost. Much of the useful content in Emotional Intelligence is either scientific information or practical advice, and...
Emotions are strong impulses that urge us to take immediate action. The root of the word emotion is motere, the Latin verb meaning “to move.” Watch children or animals: they act almost immediately upon getting a feeling, before they know what they’re doing.
It’s a widely-held belief that emotions aren’t rational. But passionate emotional responses are designed to overwhelm reason. The more intense the emotion, the more it takes over.
Emotions have developed over centuries of evolutionary history. They’re based on fundamental needs, and designed to prevent our brain from thinking about tasks that are too important to leave to intellect alone. Our most powerful emotions want us to:
These situations repeated over and over again throughout the history of humankind, and if the reactions kept us alive, then they got embedded more deeply into our systems and became automatic responses. Most of them involve...
Have you ever looked back on an emotional response you had and thought, “I don’t know what came over me!” This is what Goleman would refer to as a limbic or emotional hijacking, where the emotional center of your brain takes over without notice. We usually associate it with negative emotions, but it can be positive, too—if you’ve ever laughed uncontrollably and felt like you couldn’t stop, that’s a hijacking.
Research shows that we unconsciously understand what something is and make a value judgement as to whether it’s a good or bad thing in the first few milliseconds of perceiving it.
This has to do with how the brain is set up, and the balance between the epicenters of our two minds: the amygdala (the center of emotions) and the neocortex (the center of reason).
There are two amygdalas on either side of the brainstem, at the base of the limbic system. The amygdala is the command center of our emotions,...
Emotional reactions can feel very different to us, based on how long they last, how intense they are, and how they affect our bodies.
Goleman describes 4 different phases of emotional response: impulses, moods, temperaments, and on the extreme end, chronic disorders. We can distinguish between these phases primarily based on how long they last.
Emotional impulses are strong and immediate, but only last a few seconds. These are the knee-jerk reactions that happen before our conscious mind understands what’s going on. (Shortform note: Think of “crimes of passion”—most of them were probably committed in these few, brief seconds where the emotional mind is in complete control.)
Moods are muted forms of emotions and last for much longer than the immediate emotional impulse. You’ve probably never been in a full, terrifying rage for a whole day—but you might have been grumpy all day, where normal things make you angry that much faster. That’s a mood.
Then, there’s temperaments. Goleman suggests that temperaments are a product of nature, a predisposition from birth based on brain activity patterns, and that **people generally fall into one of four...
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PTSD occurs when the brain has lowered its setpoint for alarm due to traumatic experiences, making emergencies out of anything remotely resembling either a single, impactful traumatic event or prolonged periods of suffering cruelties.
PTSD also generally stems from traumatic events in which the victim felt helpless. The helplessness is part of what makes the initial traumatic event so overwhelming to the limbic system—it increases the strength of the emotion because the brain feels like there’s no action to take.
Here’s how PTSD affects the brain:
It’s useful to know what your default temperament is so that you can appreciate it or work against it when necessary. Use this exercise to explore your default mood and how it affects your life.
Reviewing the four basic temperaments (timid, bold, upbeat, melancholy), which one would you say you fall into?
Now that we know what emotions are, we’ll discuss emotional intelligence, break it down into 5 key skills, and then review those skills in greater detail. For clarity, each of the chapters will be numbered as 5-1, 5-2, and so on, to denote their relation to the major subject of emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence encompasses the 5 following skills:
Someone with high emotional intelligence can regulate her moods, control her impulses, motivate herself, empathize with others, and hope, within reason, that things will turn out all right. Emotional intelligence is really a meta-ability, an ability that determines how well we can put all our other abilities to use, including IQ.
Knowing your emotions is really a form of self-awareness. Self-awareness is the ability to recognize a feeling as it’s happening to you. Being able to monitor our feelings as they’re occurring helps us understand ourselves and our...
Once we are aware of our emotional responses as we’re having them, we can start to regulate them, working past emotions when they’re not appropriate to the situation, soothing ourselves when we’re experiencing negative emotions, and bouncing back quickly from setbacks. People who cannot manage their emotions expend a lot of energy fighting their emotional reactions.
There are 3 main emotions that are difficult to manage: anger, anxiety, and sadness.
Here are general rules for managing any negative emotion:
We get angry when we feel attacked. It could be someone actively threatening our physical...
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Being able to identify and manage our emotions makes it easier to motivate ourselves to finish tasks and achieve goals. We also need to be able to delay gratification and overcome our impulses to be more productive and effective.
Goleman says this is the most fundamental psychological skill. Because emotions are impulses, being in control of your emotions is resisting the urge to fulfill impulses that are harmful or counterproductive.
The ability to delay gratification in pursuit of a goal is necessary to achieve almost anything. Very little of what we do on a moment-to-moment basis is gratifying—most of us have obligations we have to meet, big-picture goals we’re working towards, or personal improvements we’re looking to make. All of these require us to delay immediate gratification in favor of doing something that will be beneficial down the line.
There was a famous experiment done in the 1960s with children. They were left in a room with...
Empathy is the fundamental people skill, allowing us to interpret what others want or need. This skill is especially important in what Goleman refers to as the “caring professions,” such as sales, management, or teaching.
In the early stages of our development, we cannot tell ourselves apart from anyone else around us—we interpret everything outside ourselves as part of ourselves. This is why babies mirror our facial expressions. Up until about one year of age, infants perceive any distress around them as if it were their own distress.
At around 2.5 years, toddlers can recognize that someone else’s pain is not their own—now, toddlers can begin to develop the skill of comforting someone else. This is generally the point where babies begin to diverge from one another: some babies become very sensitive toddlers, while others become less sensitive.
Something that seems to have a big impact on which direction toddlers go in is how they get disciplined by their parents.
The culmination of all the previous skills combined, when we recognize our own emotions, manage them, motivate ourselves to do better, and can empathize with others, our personal relationships are bound to improve. Managing someone else’s emotions is the key to successful relationships.
As children, we imitate others’ emotions, and this tendency never really leaves us—we do it throughout our lives. Emotions are contagious. Whoever’s mood is stronger or whoever expresses their mood more forcefully will win out. This is called entrainment.
How in tune our emotions are with someone else’s can also speak to how close we are to that person—the stronger the emotional connection we feel with someone, the more tightly we will mirror their physical movements and emotional moods when we’re with them.
Social ineptitude is an inability to interact successfully with one’s peers. It usually begins in...
Since emotional intelligence is a collection of abilities, most people aren’t totally devoid of any emotional intelligence skills. Use this exercise to analyze your own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to emotional intelligence.
Considering the five basic skills of emotional intelligence--knowing your emotions, managing emotions, motivating yourself, empathizing, relationships--which would say you’re currently strongest in? List 3 ways you use this skill in your everyday life.
Freud said, “To love and to work are the twin capacities that mark full maturity.” Goleman would most likely add “to learn” and “to take care of yourself and others” to that list, and emotional intelligence is the key to loving, working, learning, and taking care of yourself and others to the best of your abilities.
We’ll go through each of these categories—love (romantic and familial), work, school, and health—exploring their difficulties and some ways emotional intelligence can help overcome those difficulties. Similar to the last chapters, these chapters will be numbered 6-1, 6-2, and so on to denote their relationship to the major subject of using emotional intelligence.
Since social pressures are no longer the main catalyst for marriage, much more importance is placed on the emotional bond between two people. The current trend in divorce rates suggests we need a little more emotional intelligence in our marriages.
**One primary factor in the dissolution of marriage is differing...
Our family is the first place we learn about emotions and how to handle them. Children learn not just through the things parents say, but the things they see parents do as well.
There are 3 common parenting styles that are harmful:
We’ll look at 3 common issues parents face with their children—anger, depression, and eating disorders—and the danger of letting these issues go unmitigated.
Angry kids usually become bullies who, incapable of handling...
Many jobs require people to work together, and good teams require harmony between the members and strong leadership.
It takes a lot of top-level teamwork to fly an airplane. When a crash occurs, 80% of the time it’s because of a mistake made by a pilot that could have been prevented if the team had worked together better. Because of this, pilots in training must learn certain social intelligence skills, like open communication, listening, cooperation, and speaking up.
Of course, in everyday jobs, someone making a mistake isn’t going to result in a plane falling out of the sky and potentially killing people—but teams that are poorly managed experience low productivity, an increase in mistakes, missed deadlines, and the loss of team members to other, better workplaces.
Emotional intelligence is particularly important to the leaders in business—CEOs, managers, and the like—and yet these people are usually the biggest believers in cutting emotions out of business.
In 1990, the US experienced the highest rates it had ever seen of juvenile arrests for violent crimes, teen arrests for rape, teen murder rates, suicide rates, and murder victims under the agen of 14. Children at the time were also reported as doing worse in school, socialization, and mood. Wealth made no difference, and neither did ethnicity or race—the problems were universal.
Internationally, families are plagued by financial worries and other stresses, meaning parents can’t spend as much time with their children to teach them emotional intelligence. The need to make money has also increased mobility—people move to where jobs are—so kids have less connection to their extended family, another source of learning.
Since family life doesn’t necessarily offer the same connections and instruction it once did, schools have become the one place communities can depend on to educate their children and correct their behaviors. It’s the one place most children go, and it presents a big opportunity to positively impact upcoming generations.
**Emotional literacy is a bigger challenge facing today’s students than any low scores in math or reading, and yet most schools do nothing about...
Emotions are deeply connected to sickness and health, how vulnerable a patient is to disease, or how fast a patient recovers—and yet medicine and medical care often lack any trace of emotional intelligence.
Emotional interventions should be routine practice in medical care.
There’s a subtle difference between disease and illness: disease is the thing a doctor can cure, but illness is the thing a patient suffers. Emotional wellness might not seem to have a correlation to how well a disease is cured—but it has a great impact on how little or how much or just how a patient suffers through their illness.
This is not to say that emotional well-being can, on its own, cure a disease--there are a...
The issues discussed here are not simple issues and can’t be written off as having a single source that causes them. They’re complex, stemming from biological characteristics, family status, parental nurturing, class, location, and many other factors. Emotional intelligence won’t solve all these problems by itself--but alongside other solutions, emotional intelligence is a necessary component and should be more widely taught.
Research psychologists also can’t make the change on their own: we need better emotional intelligence training in our school systems, our homes, and our hospitals....
Self-awareness is one of the first major steps towards controlling your emotional responses. Use this exercise to help analyze your own emotional responses and improve the way you act on them.
Think of a situation where something small seemed to set off an overwhelming emotional response in your brain. Briefly summarize the situation, what it was that set you off, and what emotions it sparks in you (refer back to the list for emotion words in Chapter X).
Once we begin improving our emotional intelligence skills in any arena of life, they translate over to other arenas--but we have to start somewhere. Use this exercise to explore which of the 5 life areas you’d most like to improve in, and how to start.
Which of the 5 arenas (romance, family, work, school, and medicine) would you like to improve your emotional intelligence in first? Why is that arena important to you?
As we know, putting thoughts and feelings into words is one way to process them, reflect on them, and take ownership of them. Use this exercise to help solidify your biggest takeaway from the book.
In a few sentences, what was your biggest takeaway from the summary? What idea lodged in your brain, or what’s the first idea that jumps into your brain when you think about this summary?