Until recently, Daniel Goleman tells us in Emotional Intelligence, the role feelings play in the everyday life of human beings has been largely unexplored in carefully designed research studies. Feelings were acknowledged, but there was little comprehension of the underlying role emotions played in how successfully we managed our lives.
For example, in the case of hurtful actions, the excuse might be given that emotions were running high, but the assumption was that our brains absorbed information from the environment and our emotions followed. We might be letting our emotions control our rational actions, but research didn't look much beyond these kinds of observations. In fact, Goleman tells us what may actually be happening in some cases is not that our emotions are running high, but rather our lack of emotion may be the problem.
From the latest research on the human brain, Goleman tells us that we really have two different ways of knowing, intellecutally and emotionally, and our mental life results from the interaction of both functions. This dichotomy, he tells us, "approximates the folk distinction between 'heart' and 'head'; knowing something is right 'in your heart' is a different order of conviction -- somehow a deeper kind of certainty -- than thinking so with your rational mind." (p. 8). Goleman explains how some emotional impressions and memories can elicit reactions from us without any conscious, cognitive participation, and this is particularly true in emotionally charged situations.
Rather than ignoring emotions, Goleman suggests we need to bring intelligence to emotions. Only with emotional intelligence can people:
Goleman reviews studies which show that the signs of emotional intelligence begin showing up in very young children. He describes observations of children who can very skillfully go up to a group of youngsters and enter into their circle. Socially unskilled children -- and these are those without a high level of emotional intelligence -- seem likely to barge into such a group of youngsters, unaware of the feelings of the others, and as a result, become ostracized rather than welcomed.
Those we consider successful in life are most often those who can develop and maintain intimate relationships, work well with others, and be good parents. Indeed, managing the emotions to overcome chronic anger and anxiety is critical to remaining physically healthy.
The good news, Goleman tells us, is that these skills can be taught to young children. The problem is that these skills must first be recognized by parents and teachers as valuable and worth adding to the educational curriculum. Goleman gives detailed recommendations for how parents and our schools can help children develop the ability to manage both their emotions and their rationality, nurturing emotional intelligence.
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