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Emotional Intelligence : Is is more important than IQ

“ IQ gets you hired, but Emotional Intelligence (EQ) gets you promoted ” is the slogan mentioned in the TIME magazine cover story on The EQ Factor (TIME, 1995 )


For decades, a lot of emphasis has been put on certain aspects of intelligence such as logical reasoning, math skills, spatial skills, understanding analogies, verbal skills etc. Researchers were puzzled by the fact that while IQ could predict to a significant degree the academic performance and, to some degree, professional and personal success, there was something missing in the equation. Some of those with fabulous IQ scores were doing poorly in life; one could say that they were wasting their potential by thinking, behaving and communicating in a way that hindered their chances to succeed. One of the major missing parts in the success equation is emotional intelligence, a concept made popular by the groundbreaking book by Daniel Goleman, which is based on years of research by numerous scientists such as Peter Salovey, John Meyer, Howard Gardner, Robert Sternberg and Jack Block, just to name a few. For various reasons and thanks to a wide range of abilities, people with high emotional intelligence tend to be more successful in life than those with lower EIQ even if their classical IQ is average.



Emotional Intelligence refers to the ability to sense, understand, value and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of human energy, information, trust, creativity and influence (Goleman, 1995 ).


The term ‘Emotional Intelligence’ was first coined by Peter Salovey of Yale University and John Mayer of the University of New Hampshire in 1990. They described Emotional Intelligence as a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action ( Salovey and Mayer, 1990 ).


Though the concept was given in 1990, yet it become popular with a New York Times best seller ‘ Emotional Intelligence : Why it can matter more than IQ ’ in 1995 by Daniel Goleman, a PhD from Harvard University and former editor of ‘Psychology Today’.


Attributes of Emotional Intelligence


Salovey (1990) offered a framework for  Emotional Intelligence through the five personal intelligence characteristics. These characteristics are :


Self-awareness :


Self-awareness means recognizing a feeling as it happens. It is the core stone of Emotional Intelligence. The ability to monitor feelings from moment to moment is crucial to psychological insight and self-understanding. An inability to notice our true feelings leaves us at their mercy. People with greater certainty about their feelings are better pilots of their lives, having a surer sense of how they really feel about personal decisions from whom to marry to what job to take. This is not an easy skill as emotions often appear in disguise. Yet, for all its complexity, self-awareness is the most crucial skill ( Goleman, 1995 ).


Self-regulation :


Self-regulation means the ability to manage one’s emotions and impulses. An emotionally self-regulated person can be easily recognized with the following traits – a propensity for reflections and thoughtfulness ; comfort with ambiguity and change ; and integrity and ability to say no to impulsive urges.


Self-regulation has been found to be important for success.  A study of store managers in a retail chain found that the ability to handle stress predicted net profits, sales per square foot, sales per employee, and per dollar of inventory investment (Lusch & Serpkenci, 1990) .


Motivation :


Marshalling emotions in the service of a goal is essential for paying attention, for self-motivation and mastery, and for creativity.

Emotional self-control – delaying gratification and stifling impulsiveness – underlies accomplishments of every sort. And being able to get into “ flow ” state enables outstanding performance of all kinds. People who have this skill tend to be highly productive and effective in whatever they undertake ( Goleman, 1995 ).


 Empathy :


Empathy is the fundamental ‘ people skill ‘ that builds on emotional self-awareness. It means to recognize emotions in others. It is very important today because the world is getting too self-centred, people are getting increasingly attracted towards a materialistic way of life, and the common bonds of friendship and love in the society or family are tottering. Anyone who wants to lead a successful team must possess this valuable trait. According to Goleman (1995 ), People who are empathetic are more attuned to the subtle social signals that indicate what others need or want. This makes them better at callings such as the caring professions, teaching, sales and management.


           Empathy is a particularly important aspect of emotional intelligence, and researchers have known for years that it contributes to occupational success.  Rosenthal and his colleagues at Harvard discovered over two decades ago that people who were best at identifying others’ emotions were more successful in their work as well as in their social lives (Rosenthal, 1977) .  More recently, a survey of retail sales buyers found that apparel sales reps were valued primarily for their empathy.  The buyers reported that they wanted reps who could listen well and really understand what they wanted and what their concerns were (Pilling & Eroglu, 1994) .



Social skill ( or handling relationships ) :


           The art of relationship is, in large parts, skill in managing emotions in others. These are the abilities that undergrad popularity, leadership, and interpersonal effectiveness. People who excel in these skills do well at anything that relies on interacting smoothly with others ; they are social stars ( Goleman, 1995 ).


IQ and EQ : The Reality


           IQ by itself is not a very good predictor of job performance.  Hunter and Hunter (1984) estimated that at best IQ accounts for about 25 percent of the variance.  Sternberg (1996) has pointed out that studies vary and that 10 percent may be a more realistic estimate.  In some studies, IQ accounts for as little as 4 percent of the variance. 


          An example of this research on the limits of IQ as a predictor is the Sommerville study, a 40 year longitudinal investigation of 450 boys who grew up in Sommerville, Massachusetts.  Two-thirds of the boys were from welfare families, and one-third had IQ’s below 90.  However, IQ had little relation to how well they did at work or in the rest of their lives.  What made the biggest difference was childhood abilities such as being able to handle frustration, control emotions, and get along with other people (Snarey & Vaillant, 1985) .


Another good example is a study of 80 Ph.D.’s in science who underwent a battery of personality tests, IQ tests, and interviews in the 1950s when they were graduate students at Berkeley.  Forty years later, when they were in their early seventies, they were tracked down and estimates were made of their success based on resumes, evaluations by experts in their own fields, and sources like American Men and Women of Science.  It turned out that social and emotional abilities were four times more important than IQ in determining professional success and prestige (Feist & Barron, 1996). 


It would be absurd to suggest that cognitive ability is irrelevant for success in science. One needs a relatively high level of such ability merely to get admitted to a graduate science program at an institute like Indian Institute of Technology.  Once you are admitted, however, what matters in terms of how you do compared to your peers has less to do with IQ differences and more to do with social and emotional factors.  To put it another way, if you’re a scientist, you probably needed an IQ of 120 or so simply to get a doctorate and a job.  But then it is more important to be able to persist in the face of difficulty and to get along well with colleagues and subordinates than it is to have an extra 10 or 15 points of IQ.  The same is true in many other occupations.



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