How We've Been Misled By Emotional Intelligence

Over the past few years, emotional intelligence (EI) has become one of the most popular psychology theories in the world. It seems that everyone and their grandmother is talking about it, reading books about it, and trying to improve theirs through training or self-assessments.

But while early proponents claimed that this new “tool” would help people be more effective at work and in life, there have been some significant setbacks for EI. More recently, many experts feel that these claims are overhyped and even potentially harmful.

Some believe that the concept of EQ as an independent skill is misguided, and that instead we should focus only on other traits like agreeability or empathy. Others say that although there may be small benefits from using emotion regulation strategies suchas practicing mindfulness, none of the available programs are worth investing time or money in.

Yet others argue that because cognitive abilities such as IQ can predict success in life, improving your EQ isn't necessarily important - you'll get enough of it naturally, without doing anything. Some claim that developing your EQ will actually make things worse, by encouraging feelings of narcissism and entitlement.

So what do we really know about emotional intelligence? And how does that relate to wellbeing and social relationships? In this article, we'll discuss the evidence and implications for living a happy life.

It's a modern concept

how we've been misled by 'emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a hot topic right now, with people offering all sorts of explanations for why it’s important to achieve success in life. But before we get too caught up in what emotional skills you should have or don’t have, there are some key things to note about this new term.

First, like any other skill, EI can be learned and improved upon. This means that even if you don’t feel very emotionally intelligent at times, you aren’t necessarily stuck with yourself as a human being. You can learn how to manage your own emotions and relate to others more effectively.

Second, just because someone claims they have high levels of EI doesn’t mean their achievements prove that theory correct. A person who is good at appearing emotional may not actually use their skills when faced with adversity or challenge. They could also be really hard work to deal with when they do occur.

Third, using the terms ‘emotional literacy’ or ‘self-awareness’ often imply that you are not yet able to control your feelings, which isn’t entirely true. Some experts believe that developing certain self-management strategies could help you to eventually reach this stage. However, this opinion is not universally accepted.

It's not universally accepted

how we've been misled by 'emotional intelligence

Many people have criticized emotional intelligence (EI) as a way to improve your career or life, pointing out that it can sometimes be used for unethical purposes.

Some even claim that it is inherently biased because only certain groups of people are taught about it, and thus learn how to assess and control their emotions.

Furthermore, they say that many of the tests used to measure EI are subjective, which makes it hard to compare one person’s score with another’s. What individuals believe to be an effective use of emotion varies widely depending on personal experiences.

It is important to note though that there is no evidence that suggest that those who practice skills like empathy, understanding others, and controlling anger do not help achieve goals and fulfill dreams.

There are many definitions

how we've been misled by 'emotional intelligence

Most people agree that emotional intelligence (or EQ as it is often called) is important, but they differ in what they refer to as its main component.

The most common definition of EQ is “the ability to recognize, understand, and manage your own emotions”. This definition suggests that being smart or intelligent comes down to knowing how to control your own feelings.

This definition was popularized in the 1990s when Daniel Goleman published his best-selling book Emotional Intelligence. Since then, this definition has been heavily marketed and propagated.

It seems like every company wants to market their product as an aid for emotional intelligence. But is this definition really accurate? Is there truly such a thing as emotion literacy or understanding of yourself and others’ emotions?

No, there is not. And even if there were, this would not make the term emotional intelligence meaningful. Because you can be very intelligent and still lack crucial skills related to empathy and socialization. -Camilla Lillenbrunn, Harvard Business School

There are several reasons why using the word "emotional" before "intelligence" makes no sense. First, authentic emotional intelligence requires more than just knowledge about your own feelings. It also takes into account how you perceive and react to the thoughts, experiences, and behaviors of other people — something that is referred to as empathic or perspective taking.

It's about how to read people

how we've been misled by 'emotional intelligence

Emotion is one of our most powerful tools for living. Why would you not use it if there are ways to improve your relationships and get what you want out of them?

Many experts now claim that emotional intelligence (or EQ as they call it) can be trained, and even said to be inborn. This theory suggests that we’re born with certain skills that help us understand and manage our emotions, and that these skills can be developed through education or training.

There have been many theories and strategies related to this concept over the past few decades, but none seem to dominate the field. Some say it’s innate, while others believe it’s learned.

Whatever degree of influence either factor has, though, one thing is clear: People who think they lack emotion-related skills often feel bad about themselves.

It's not about how to be emotional

Many people have been misled into thinking that being emotionally intelligent means being able to control your emotions, or even learning how to use emotion as a tool for success.

Both of these things are good, but they're only part of what emotional intelligence actually is. Emotional intelligence isn't just knowing how to regulate your own emotions, it's also understanding why other people get motivated, influenced, and stressed out around you, and how to avoid making them feel bad.

It's about having empathy — feeling what others feel, which doesn’t mean agreeing with them, but acknowledging that their feelings make sense from their position.

It's about motivation – finding strength in yourself and others, and developing strengths that motivate you to achieve your goals.

It's not the same as self-confidence

how we've been misled by 'emotional intelligence

People who talk about emotional intelligence often seem to be trying to convince you that your confidence is bad. They will tell you it’s a myth or something that keeps people from improving their own lives.

They may even suggest that being too confident is a reason why you failed before, and thus you should try to feel less certain of yourself.

That couldn't be more wrong!

Confidence is what makes us succeed in life. It helps us believe in ourselves and our abilities, it motivates us to keep going when we're struggling, and it can help us achieve goals.

Having low levels of confidence can sometimes make us give up and stop trying, but having no confidence at all prevents us from doing things because we don't think we have any chances of success.

It also makes it harder for us to accept failure, which can prevent us from starting projects that could potentially fail.

It's not the same as charisma

how we've been misled by 'emotional intelligence

Many people have misidentified emotional intelligence (EI) as being like charisma. While they are related, they are not the same thing. Charisma is a personality trait that most people have some degree of. It’s someone else’s perception of you that makes you charismatic or not.

Having social skills such as empathy and understanding other people can help you be more likable, but it’t make you charismatic. That takes something extra.

Something about you is so engaging that others want to talk to you and work with you. You're not necessarily doing anything special, you just seem to radiate energy and inspiration.

It could be your smile, your sense of humor, your passion for things, how well you listen, or even your strength. All of these things contribute to making you feel confident and comfortable in yourself, which then radiates out and attracts other people.

But even if you don't have much charisma, you still have emotions. You may not show them very often, but you definitely experience feelings.

You know what those are and you recognize them when you see them in someone else. Emotions connect us; they motivate us, inspire us, hurt us. They're what makes us who we are.

So why would you try to eliminate one of the key ingredients of our success?

You wouldn't. But that isn't because emotion doesn't matter.

It's not the same as happiness

how we've been misled by 'emotional intelligence

Over the past few decades, emotional intelligence has become one of the most popular psychology theories. Emotional quotient or EQ is described as how well you control your emotions and understand others’ emotions.

People with higher EQ are said to be more aware of what makes other people happy and/or sad, and use that information to help them feel happier themselves.

However, a couple of studies have questioned whether this theory actually works. In fact, they found that having high EQ really does nothing better than simply being very emotionally stable.

Another study even concluded that people with higher EQ may be deliberately showing fake smiles and empathy because they do not want to appear less intelligent or strong. Therefore, they put on an appearance that seems similar to everyone else’s so that their colleagues don’t notice any difference in their behavior.

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