2.d) Emotional intelligence

One of the expressions which have had a certain degree of popular success in recent years and in the field of cerebral capacities is that of emotional intelligence from Daniel Goleman’s book published in 1995. I am thus going to try to analyze the concept of emotional intelligence from various perspectives.

It is worth mentioning that if there were problems in the definition and acceptance of the concept of intelligence, the concept of emotional intelligence is even more confused, since adding the adjective emotional makes it, at least, partially contradictory to the first.

  • Previous Concepts

    There have always been attempts to take away importance or relevance from the characteristic of personal intelligence, especially by those who do not have as much of it as they might wish or those who are incapable of recognizing and accepting what they do have due to ideological prejudices.

    I do not know about English or other languages, but in Spanish a distinction is often made between being intelligent and being clever with the same inspiration that represents the expression emotional intelligence.

  • Terminology

    Some concepts can be useful and descriptive of reality or some ideas; but in the case of Daniel Goleman’s emotional intelligence, the chosen terminology seems more like an attempt to change the meaning of the word intelligence or to represent something that does not correspond with the given content. The adjective emotional is basically different to logic or reasoning.

  • Concept

    Daniel Goleman’s concept or definition of emotional intelligence uses words with diffuse or very diverse meanings like: intelligence, control, emotion, feelings, social success, personal wellbeing etc.

    I have the impression that practically everyone can think of and assume a concept appropriate to their socio-personal reality.

    The Scapegoat
    William Holman Hunt (Public domain image)
    The Scapegoat - William Holman Hunt

    If I had to express the concept of emotional intelligence in just one word it would be worddology.

    Of course, those who champion the concept would develop a concept more in line with social intelligence, I would agree with this if the terminology did not have such strong connotations, because when speaking of emotions the expression’s intention is important.

  • Scientific character

    There is not any! Trying to evaluate social success in an objective way or valuing the adequacy of interpersonal relationships or emotional wellbeing is like imposing an objective scale on personal happiness.

    Obviously, in extreme cases of depression or other types of personal problems one can try to make some kind of objective scale, but it will always be with very general terms such as normal, slight or serious and, of course, they would not be used in relation to emotional intelligence.

  • Biology of emotions

    The Global Cognitive Theory dedicates a chapter to emotions in the book on will. In particular, emotions are separated from feelings, leaving feelings apart on a more spiritual level to avoid complicating even more an already complex issue.

    Emotions are described as the body’s automatic reactions as much in a cognitive sense as purely physiological or non-cognitive. In this sense, emotions are like programs of immediate action which have been created throughout the whole life and form part of a person’s character. I imagine that each person creates these automatic response programs in the best way they can, using the cognitive instruments that they possess.

    In my opinion, emotions exist because it would not be possible to consciously examine complex situations that require a quick response or it would not be efficient for repetitive situations, and therefore they are automated in both cases. Expecting to control emotions would mean giving up our brain’s and body’s elegant design, which is impossible as the majority of these actions are inherent in our nature.

  • Sociological support

    Socially the concept of emotional intelligence is enough to promote the working spirit of citizens. Neither would it look very nice, from a political point of view, to point out possible genetic differences in intellectual abilities.

    For that reason, the media in general and magazines about the brain are happy to include articles that comment positively on the modern concept of emotional intelligence.

    Also, numerous freelance professionals happily and enthusiastically take on Daniel Goleman´s emotional intelligence and the possibility of self-improvement, while telling you that they have a special gift and that they are naturally experts regarding emotional intelligence.

  • Personal success

    The big advantage of emotional intelligence is that it allows each person to become intelligent, and even more so if on top of that they are also emotionally intelligent. Also, this perspective increases self-esteem if you believe that those who are intelligence in a strict sense do not appropriately manage emotional intelligence.

    It makes sense that the less intelligent someone is in a strict sense, the more likely they are to accept the new concept. Likewise, this effect is greater if the person does not have much self-esteem regarding their intelligence.

Certainly, there are some signs that when characterizing people with the word “intelligence” in this new context, it is independent of whether or not they are intelligent in the classical or strict sense. Moreover, in the majority of cases that I have heard this expression used, the intention was to diminish the importance of classical intelligence when, in fact, intelligence does not have much to do with happiness.

I am certain that there exist cases where the acceptance of the new expression is related to emotions like arrogance, envy, personal complexes or economic interests.

To summarize, I think that a real and useful concept behind emotional intelligence exists, in line with social intelligence, but the way in which it is expressed is very unfortunate and, actually, it changes the concept so that it becomes something quite negative.

I consider the concept of elegant intelligence to be much more pleasant and real. This would allow you to be proud of your own intelligence regardless of the quantitative aspect and comparisons because, in short, the logic of evolution of life leads to quite a pyramid of development stages in constructing intelligence as a group of elemental and complex abilities.

My thanks and respect goes to all the living beings that have made and continue making the current world possible.