Being emotionally intelligent is just as important as being smart when it comes to learning

So far, the most rewarding traits a student had were IQ and conscientiousness. They made the difference between the students with the highest results and the rest. A new study reveals that there is another trait that enhances performance even more so than conscientiousness, and equal to being smart: emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligent students, parents, or leaders can better manage crises, overcome obstacles, generate strategies, and adapt to changes that come along. They are better observers of details and can make the best of using them, they are flexible and more original, their sensitivity is more developed and they use it as a strength. They can foresee where a situation is heading and adjust the outcome, and they know how to transform what seems to be a disaster into a revelatory and successful event.

What is emotional intelligence?

It is a four steps inherent mental process. Inherent because we all do it, some better than others. Emotional intelligence isn’t a separate piece of our intelligence, it is more a layer of it. And the way it works, the four steps process is pretty similar to the way our basic intelligence processes information: perception, understanding, use, and management.

Only emotional intelligence processes emotions instead of material and conceptual information. Our own emotions and the emotions of others. Its instrument is called empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel what they feel.

Basic intelligence can often mislead us since people have the unique capacity of shaming the truth about facts, thoughts, and feelings. But this is a part of being a social human being. The society couldn’t exist if people wouldn’t accept the bargain of dissimulating.

This is what emotional intelligence does, it gives balance. Perceiving what I am feeling and what the other one is feeling, understanding where those feelings are coming from, using them according to the situation we’re in instead of ignoring them, and managing those feelings so they won’t harm the goal that put me together with that other person, helps me find common ground. The common ground where two different people can exist and build something together.

Why did it take so long to understand the importance of being emotionally intelligent?

The human being had to overcome their instinct. This couldn’t have been an easy process, nor a fast one. And, the process isn’t over yet. A large percent still ignores society and acts upon its goodwill.

Society punishes people that do whatever they feel like doing and rewards those who are better pretenders. The biblical decalogue was meant to teach people to listen to something else, something higher than their own goodwill. This way, reason conquered the instinct, and since then, people are trying to find balance.

This is how emotions ended being wrongfully considered to be inhibitors in the process of learning. And, since they are so powerful and so hard to become reasonable, the most common way to address emotions was to dismiss them and teach students to do the same.

But emotions don’t just go away. They are an indissoluble part of us, a product of the neurological chemical complex called personality. The more they are judged, the deeper and more complex they become. They get mixed with guilt, loss of self-esteem, shyness or aggressiveness (depending on the personality), and several other spin-offs.

Can emotional intelligence be taught?

Yes, it can. There are special training and therapies to help us enhance this skill. Acting classes are among the most pleasant ways to groom your emotional intelligence. And learning begins with oneself. Daniel Goleman, the promoter of emotional intelligence said that “if you are tuned out of your own emotions, you will be poor at reading them in other people.”

Human beings need emotional guidance just like they need cognitive guidance. They must be taught to recognize emotions, to analyze the path to their source, to use them since they will interfere with the present situation anyway, and manage them so they won’t ruin that situation.

This is what an emotionally intelligent student does, as opposed to their counterparts that collapse under the weight of emotions. Their own, or of others. This what a leader does, instead of using fear to guide his subordinates. This is what a parent does instead of abusing authority and punishment.

It is a parent’s job to teach children to understand and manage emotions. It is a teacher’s job to continue to do so. It is every adult’s job to conscientious work on this skill. It is never too late to start developing it.