My kid the thief: emotional intelligence in disguise

Image courtesy of HENK L

My kid – the thief

It was suitably cloudy the day I discovered my kid might be a thief. At the mall, my then five year old slipped her warm little hand into mine. Feeling all charmed, I gripped her hand a little better, only to feel something strange around her wrist.

A bracelet.

Except she didn’t own any bracelets.

So where did she get this one from? Pretty colored stones, nice bit of silver. Lovely. Only we hadn’t bought it. The giveaway was the price tag, complete with the name of the shop.

Despite her protestations that she’d been given it – off we went back to the shop, me with an explanation ready to tumble out amidst apologies – credit card at the ready – her with a face like a lemon because I wouldn’t believe her.

Sure enough, the shop assistant had given it to her, and was delighted we’d come back to say thanks. Lucky for me she managed to gush before I could stammer out an apology.

My five year old had just walked up and talked her into it. Impressive. She’d managed to hit the right chord with the assistant, and convince her to give away a bracelet.


Self-control and Emotional Intelligence

Last post we talked about the utility of childhood self-control as a measure for later performance and success, in terms of how delayed gratification relates to academic performance, managing stress and so on. This was as part of the famous marshmallow test by Walter Mischel of Stanford University.

While it’s not necessarily a nice simple relationship between holding out for one more of  Mischel’s marshmallows now, and high performance later, especially given the simplicity of the marshmallow experiment, we did note that there is a strong link between self-control and the concept of Emotional Intelligence, which is a helpful and pretty good predictor of later success.

Daniel Goleman

Emotional intelligence, while a concept that had been shaping up for decades, only really got real momentum when Daniel Goleman published Emotional Intelligence in 1995 (no affiliate link). People were quick to resonate with the idea that it wasn’t intellect alone that made people successful, but “person factors” in addition to, or sometimes instead of, intellect.

Like the sales rep who, although uneducated, could outsell everybody because they just seemed to “know” how to get people to buy stuff. Or, by contrast, the chief exec who was fantastic at strategy and finance but hopeless with people, and wondered why his best people couldn’t last long in their roles.

Real success, it seemed, was not predicted only by how intelligent you were, but by how emotionally intelligent you were. Which means, exactly, what?

Thoughts and feelings

Decisions we make are all emotionally flavored. It’s true, even if you don’t realize it. Emotional Intelligence helps bring the concepts of thoughts and feelings together. They exist together biologically, they clearly affect each other (for good and for bad) and they can both happen at a subconscious level.

Emotional Intelligence aims at a better understanding of the emotional components of what we do, and how this contributes to our overall behaviour and choices. Intellect, alone, is different.

EQ vs IQ

You’re very possibly familiar with IQ as a concept. We use it to quantify intelligence – it stands for Intelligence Quotient. EQ therefore, is Emotional Quotient, a measure of Emotional Intelligence.

We get the IQ score by testing people on a range of mental tasks, scoring the test, seeing what your intellectual age is, and computing this with your actual age. It looks like this:

Intellectual Age / Chronological Age x 100

So if you come out with the intellectual age of a 15 year old, but you’re only 10, we divide 15 by 10 (=1.5) and multiply by 100. You have an IQ of 150. Perfectly average is 100, when your intellectual age is the same as your chronological age.

The good thing is that we can then rank everyone along a scale, from low to high, so it’s great for comparing people. The bad thing is that it doesn’t predict all the things we’d like it to. Like success, or high performance.

Enter EQ. Not a panacea and the answer to the world’s ills, but a credible, learnable adjunct to other mental abilities.

How Emotional Intelligence hangs together

Emotional Intelligence has suffered a little from a lack of robust measurement of what it is but, by and large these days, it’s extremely good.

When the term was coined in 1990 (Salovey and Mayer) they defined it as something like

“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”.

Which is exactly what my then 5 year old daughter had shown – but purely for her own ends of scoring herself a pretty little trinket! Which she did, even though I hadn’t believed her…

How it looks today

These days, it’s a very refined concept, with an enormous amount of solid research behind it, an industry to support it, and small and large corporates heavily investing in developing it in their teams. 

It’s altered a little since the early days, but here’s how it looks for Goleman today: 20 measures that fall into four major domains, shown in a framework like this.

Personal Competence
Social competence
Emotional self-awareness
Accurate self-assessment
Social Awareness
Service orientation
Organizational awareness
Achievement drive
Relationship Management
Developing others
Conflict management
Change catalyst
Building bonds
Teamwork & collaboration

The implication for you and me as parents, colleagues, siblings and so on, is what we do next. Naturally, it’s one thing to understand what the concept of Emotional Intelligence is all about, but it’s another thing entirely to make use of it at work, in relationships, with your children, at school, and so on.

So here’s the take home bit

Good EI won’t suddenly make you rich, but it will make work easier and relationships smoother.

For your kids, EI bridges two key elements of thought and emotion. Skills in EI make kids into better learners because learning becomes easier, stickability improves, decisions are better, development is smoother and, last of all, better performance more likely.

In coming posts we’ll tease out some of the ways we can develop EI – for us and our families.

Any questions, let me know.

Impressive words to drop into the morning coffee chat

Emotional intelligence

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About brendonbclark

Hi, I’m Brendon, but people usually call me B. I’ve a Masters degree in psychology, postgraduate qualification in mental health, and qualifications in counselling, professional supervision and adult education. I consult, speak and blog. Join me, you can subscribe for free.
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