Can Emotional Intelligence Be Learned?

Emotional intelligence, also sometimes referred to as EQ, is a concept that is often compared to IQ, intelligence quotient. IQ is a measure of a person’s intelligence, and has long been considered a measure of potential success. In recent decades, however, experts have begun to evolve the idea of an EQ. Many even agree that having high emotional intelligence is more important to success in life than a high IQ. Having emotional intelligence means being able to cope with and regulate emotions. Research has shown that this is crucial to children and their success in school. Being able to deal with stress and the swinging emotions that occur throughout childhood can make some children more able to achieve than others. Developing a good emotional intelligence may even prevent bullying and suicide. Schools are seeing the importance of EQ and are beginning to implement programs that help children develop their emotional intelligence.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Research into EQ began in the 1980s with psychology professors John Mayer and Peter Salovey of the University of New Hampshire and Yale University. They described emotional intelligence as an ability to read and monitor one’s own emotions as well as those of others. They also say that people with high EQs are able to use those emotions to guide their thinking and their actions. There are four factors that make up emotional intelligence:

  • The ability to recognize emotions. This involves reading body language and facial expressions, as well as what people are saying.
  • Being able to reason with emotions. In other words, people with good EQ are able to use emotions to guide what they do and how they think.
  • Learning to understand emotions. Emotions communicate much about what a person is thinking and feeling. Emotional intelligence means being able to understand where emotions are coming from and what it says about a person’s actions and state of mind.
  • Being able to manage emotions. With a high EQ, a person can control his own emotions and respond in an appropriate way to the emotions of others.

Just like IQ, there are tests to measure EQ. These are tests developed by psychologists and other experts. To get an accurate EQ score, you need to have a test conducted by a professional. Testing is not necessarily needed, however. As educators are showing, children can learn to have better emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence in Schools

Mayer and Salovey were the first to really study EQ and also the first to suggest that we can learn to be emotionally intelligent. Coping with, managing, and reading emotions are not just things that we are born with the ability to do. We can learn these skills, and when children learn them early on, it can have a host of benefits. One program being used in numerous schools is called social-emotional learning (SEL) and was developed by a researcher at Yale. The goal of SEL is to provide children with a broad education that will help them regulate their emotions. Based on research, experts believe that a good emotional training program like SEL could help children be more successful in school, but also beyond and into adulthood. Different schools are using various forms of SEL Some are packaged units and lesson plans that tell teachers exactly what to do and say, while others are more free-form. Experts in the fields of SEL and education hope to see the teaching of emotional intelligence become more unified and based on solid research. One example of an SEL program is called a Responsive Classroom. It involves using positive language, the establishment of a classroom community, modeling of appropriate behaviors and structured choices. Another type of SEL called logical consequences helps students regulate their emotions by focusing on behaviors. When a student misbehaves, she is taught to focus on her action and to evaluate the situation. The teacher then provides the student with options for correcting her misbehavior. The strategy promotes emotional growth by showing students how to assess the consequences of their actions and emotions. The idea of teaching emotional intelligence is one that is really taking off in education. By taking guidance from research and by implementing programs in classrooms, children have the opportunity to become more emotionally aware. They also have the chance to reap all the lifelong benefits of having better emotional intelligence.

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