People who are very emotionally intelligent are generally more successful, happier and ‘get this’ more attractive than people with a lower level of emotional intelligence. Ok, when I say more attractive I don’t mean they are better looking, but people are drawn to the emotionally intelligent. This is because emotionally intelligent people are positive, assertive, value others, make things fun and are difficult to offend. Good attributes I am sure you’ll agree, and attributes we all need succeed in life. That’s not to say you can’t be successful if you have a low level of emotional intellect, it’s just more unlikely.
I once carried out a small-scale study where I asked staff in a school to list children from the ones they found the least challenging to the ones they found the most challenging, I then used a basic (and quite crude) emotional intelligence assessment tool to ascertain each child’s level of emotional intelligence, the study showed a direct correlation between challenging behaviour and emotional intelligence, the most challenging children were the least emotional intelligent and the least challenging children were very emotional intelligent.
I once met a 6-year-old girl who had left the classroom because she had been told not to talk whilst she was working. I asked the child what had happened and she explained that she wasn’t listening to the teacher when the instructions were given so she didn’t know how to complete the task, the teacher caught the pupil asking her friend and asked her not to talk. I asked the young girl how it made her feel when the teacher asked her not to talk and the girl explained that it made her feel ‘perplexed’. I was obviously taken back this 6-year-old chose such a complex feeling further questioning lead me to believe that this young girl had a full understanding of the feeling and had a strategy (leaving the class) to deal with it, this was a very emotionally intelligent child who left me feel proud. (This was a school I had done a lot of work with).
So why do we spend so much time in our schools focusing on academic intelligence when many studies show that emotional intelligence is much more important? When I had a proper job the school were I worked adopted the Social, Emotional, Aspects of Learning (SEAL) Program. SEAL aimed to promote social and emotional literacy in children and aimed to equip them with the skills they need to lead a healthy, happy life. The Department for Education paper into the impact of SEAL suggested that the program was unsucessfull (available here).
If we want to build an emotionally intelligent school not only do we need emotionally intelligent staff, we need to give the emotionally intellegent staff the time to teach emotional intelligence, so somethings got give! Sir Ken Robinsons famous TED talk where he makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures, rather than undermines, creativity he talks about how we teach Math. Sir Ken Robinson explains how we get children to repeat mathamatical methods time and time again and then tell them to forget that method and teach them another one, then we tell them to forget that method and so on. By the time most children reach adulthood the have forgot most of they learned in math, and it is not only maths. If emotionally intelligent staff taught children how to be emotional intelligent, these life long skills would have a huge impact on people lives because emotionally intelligent people understand the balance between work and play and see change as a part of life, they are curious about others and have empathy, they know their strengths and weaknesses and are self motivated, they focus on positives and are difficult to offend.
Makes me wish I was emotionally intelligent!