A vehicle of human nature that ignores the power of emotions is sadly shortsighted… As we all know from experience, when it comes to shaping our decisions and their actions, feeling counts as much— and often more—than thought. We have gone too far in emphasizing the value and import of the purely rational… in human life. For better or worse, intelligence can come to nothing when the emotions hold sway (Goleman, 1995, p. 4.)
When Daniel Goleman’s 1995 groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence, emerged as one of the most important “self-help” books ever written, many people did not understand the concept of “emotional intelligence”, and mistook it for simply rehashing the importance of people skills. In fact, the book focused on the significance of understanding the intentions, feelings, and actions of people and the way that they impact others and ultimately contribute to one’s success. In addition, Goleman made the point that the higher up in an organization one goes, the more important his or her emotional intelligence is. Goleman describes one’s emotions as “a feeling and its distinctive thoughts, psychological and biological states, and range of propensities to act” (Goleman, 1995.) Generally, this means that when a person has emotional intelligence, he/she understands what drives his/her emotional life, how it impacts the ways in which he/she thinks, what effect it has on him/her in a physical sense as he/she experiences emotions, and how he/she tends to act when that person is able to actually experience that feeling.
Goleman’s book underscores the importance of the case for self-actualization; this occurs when people choose from a variety of certain tools and methods to guarantee that their emotions and actions ultimately cause positive results for a person and his or her friends, relatives, and associates. He believes that the sum total of all of the skills that are represented by a stable level of emotional intelligence produces character. The book presents a great deal of formal research that has been conducted in order to demonstrate validity about the significance of allowing our emotional intelligence to unfold. He introduces the concept that emotions are like habits, and similarly can sabotage the best intentions of a person; as a result, it becomes necessary and beneficial to “unlearn” certain emotions as well is to develop other ones, and this is the way that people can take control of their lives.
Goleman introduces the idea that the physiology of the brain is left over from ancient days when physical survival meant everything; in order to pursue that objective, the structure of the brain was designed to act before thinking, which was extremely crucial if one was being attacked by, for example, a vicious mammoth. In the 21st century, however, if people are living life with the same brains, detrimental and even violent events can result from minor triggers. According to Goleman, it is not the emotions that are the problem but rather the way that they are used in certain situations. Instead, it is important to “be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way” (Goleman, 1995), which is a significant challenge in our modern world. The brain must be civilized in order to mediate the emotions and allow them to be used productively and appropriately.
Goleman links emotion and ethics, believing that if a person is not able to control his impulsivity, he will damage himself since impulse control is “the basis of will and character”. In addition, compassion develops through the ability to empathize with what other people are experiencing and thinking about. Impulse control and compassion comprise the most essential attributes of a person’s morality. Other important traits of emotional intelligence include being able to motivate oneself as well as being persistent. This means not necessarily being emotional but utilizing self-control as well is the capacity to put into context negative feelings and experiences. Goleman also addresses the 20th century obsession with IQ, which emanated from a model of mechanistic achievement; although he believes in the power of positive thinking as a scientifically demonstrated method to achieving success. He also notes that IQ in combination with emotional intelligence increases the chances that a person will be a success in the 21st century creativity-driven economy.
Because Goleman’s book has been widely used in the workplace, there are many practical applications for human resource departments to adapt. One of these involves increasing the emotional intelligence competencies in an organization by selecting people who have already demonstrated these abilities and behaviors. In this way, organizations can select people with different emotional intelligence quotients for different types of jobs. In addition, Goleman suggests that because higher levels of emotional intelligence in the workplace have been predictors of success, it makes sense for companies to invest the resources necessary to train employees in emotional intelligence competencies. Finally, Goleman suggests that emotional intelligence can be integrated into a performance management or performance review process; however, he cautions that rather than use EI as a basis on which to offer pay increases and promotions, it should be used as a way to reinforce and encourage the process of self-directed development by employees.
Emotional Intelligence is extremely successful in accomplishing its goals of educating people about the importance, personally and professionally, of understanding their emotional lives and its impact on themselves and others. While not discounting the importance of cognitive intelligence, he believes that in combination with rational thought, emotional intelligence can help people achieve success in their lives. It is not surprising that this book has become a classic tool for workplace and human resource settings because it offers many vignettes along with research findings that clarify its concepts, suggestions, and practical implementation.