There is a strong position amongst therapists and educators promoting the importance of emotional intelligence. But is it an actual thing? There is one Psychologist who declares that it is a societal construct, coined by a journalist and not a social sciences academic. More on that as we go…
Emotional Intelligence can be defined as “(noun) the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” (Siri :)).
Parents are concerned about their child’s or children’s ability to develop intellectual skills they will need to succeed in school and life. But what level of intelligence is required for success? Surely it’s healthy to express emotions in a reasonable and socially acceptable manner. But should we really expect children to “master their emotions” (Dr. John Gottman)? Dr. Gottman writes that “once they master this important life skill, emotionally children will enjoy increased self-confidence, greater physical health, better performance in school, and healthier social relationships” (Gottman, 1997).
Well, that all sounds fantastic….but how do we measure emotional intelligence? Everyone is drastically different in how they view and process their existential reality. Most adults I’ve met don’t have that level of emotionall intelligence that is described in Dr. Gottman’s book.
Communicating with our children is not easy, and it’s downright frustrating when emotions run hot. Some experts claim that when there is a heated exchange, the parent shoudl allow the child some space to decompress. However, Dr. Gottman suggests that you sit down with the child and encourage them to explore what they are feeling, identify the feelings and what caused them, and to walk them through positive coping skills. That sounds fantastic, but it isn’t practical. When my child is angry or upset, the last thing she wants is ‘Therapist Dad’ probing her brain and teaching her life skills. It’s best to leave that for when they have calmed down. Because when hormones and adrenaline increase, cognition and memory decrease. So obviously we can have a more meaningful discussion once they’ve calmed down.
Now, enter Dr. Jordan Peterson, a very intelligent and atypical Clinical Psychologist and Professor from the University of Toronto in Canada. He boldy claims that EQ does not exist. The idea was made up by a nobody journalist named Daniel Goleman, who is not a psychologist. Dr. Peterson claims “there’s no such thing as EQ” and that “you can’t just invent a trait, you have to define it, measure it, and distinguish it from other traits and use it to predict important ways that people vary” (Peterson, 2016). In a study by a couple of Australian psychologists, they discovered that there is little evidence of validity to support the claims that EQ is important for any meaningful gains in the pursuit of life, love, liberty, and happiness. That article can be read HERE.
So….what’s my take on the issue? Well, as a father of three daughters, I want them to be emotionally intelligent…but I’m unclear exactly what that means or how to promote it. I speak with my children about feelings and expression of emotions in healthy ways. But as far as a life-changing ‘trait,’ I’m not convinced. But I’m not professional on the matter….at least not yet. But Dr. Peterson is….and you can read his full response to the EQ idea HERE.
As always, I welcome and encourage comments, thoughts, complaints, etc… If you have some thoughts on this topic, please leave them in the comments below. If you have questions, leave those below also and I will seek out the best answerd that I can.
Have a great Saturday!! And remember, don’t overthink life, just do the next right thing.
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