Health and wellness

EQ vs IQ: why emotional intelligence is more important than intellect, and how to nurture it in your children

Emotional skills are a better predictor of success in life than intelligence. Psychologists says parents need to know how their children’s brains work to help them reach their full potential

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2018, 11:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2018, 7:10pm

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, emotional intelligence will be one of the top 10 employment skills in 2020. Harvard trained psychologist Daniel Goleman first raised awareness of EQ, in his book Emotional Intelligence. 

Since its release in 1995, studies have proven that emotional intelligence predicts future success in relationships, health and quality of life.

Enlightened Entrepreneurship author Chris Myers would argue the same. Finding himself surrounded by more intelligent colleagues he somehow moved ahead of them in the workplace. Years later, he noticed that although his son Jack was exceptionally bright, with an IQ of 145, he struggled to achieve success. Myers concluded that success in both life and business is a matter of “emotion, relationships and character rather than raw intelligence.”

Myers quotes US civil rights activist and author Maya Angelou’s belief that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people with never forget how you made them feel.” He states that people “buy emotions, not products”, teams “rally around missions, not directives” and entrepreneurs “take on challenges because of passion, not logic”.

Ultimately, it is the individuals with the high emotional quotient (EQ) – a person’s ability to express and control emotions, over intelligence quotient (IQ) – the ability to think and reason, that speaks “to the soul” of another person and most effectively influences their behaviour.

In a 2011 CareerBuilder survey of more than 2,600 hiring managers and human resource professionals, 71 per cent stated they valued emotional intelligence in an employee over IQ and 59 per cent claimed they would pass up a candidate with a high IQ but low emotional intelligence.

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Yet the youth who will lead us into the 21st century as tomorrow’s innovators, educators, politicians and business professionals “trail much of the world on measures of school achievement, but are among the world leaders in violence, unwanted pregnancy, STDs, abortion, binge drinking, marijuana use and unhappiness”, says adolescence scholar Larry Steinberg.

An American College Health Association survey of more than 123,000 students at 153 colleges in 2013 also revealed that more than half experience overwhelming anxiety and one-third feel intense depression during the school year.

As emotional intelligence is vital for overall success and is a flexible skill set that can be nurtured, it seems prudent for parents to teach emotional literacy to children from infancy. According to neuropsychiatrist, Daniel Siegel, and parenting expert, Tina Payne Bryson, you can nurture your child’s mental health and their emotional and intellectual development by learning how their brains work.

In their book The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Siegel and Bryson state that brain science is helping us understand the pathway to mental health. The authors share easy to understand ideas about how the brain works and how adults can respond to difficult situations in ways that build a foundation for resilience, social and emotional learning.

As emotional intelligence is vital for overall success and is a flexible skill set that can be nurtured, it seems prudent for parents to teach emotional literacy to children from infancy.

One strategy is the concept of the “upstairs” and “downstairs” brain, which uses the analogy of a two-storey house to illustrate aspects of children’s brains. The downstairs brain is responsible for emotions, such as anger and fear. The upstairs brain is responsible for mental processes such as decision making and self-awareness. When a child’s upstairs brain is functioning well, she can slow herself down, think before she acts, and she can regulate emotions and consider others’ feelings.

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While the downstairs brain is fully built in young children, the upstairs brain is still under construction well into a person’s twenties. Parents need to support the integration of the downstairs and upstairs regions of children’s brains.

Suggestions include:

• Don’t expect kids to be able to make good decisions, remain calm and consider others’ feelings all the time. If you do, you’re setting them up for failure. Their upstairs brain is still under construction and they cannot always access these qualities and behaviours.

• Experiences of fear, anger and trauma can block your child’s access to the functions of their upstairs brain. Learn to recognise when your child’s stairway is blocked by these strong reactions.

• Teach kids to “name it to tame it”. When your child is experiencing intense emotions, say things like,

“I wonder if you’re feeling scared,” and encourage them to name their feelings. This helps kids calm themselves so that they can access their upstairs brains in ways that support empathy and resilience.

As parents, when we don’t have a healthy way of handling emotions, we can have trouble teaching our kids how to handle theirs. When we act out with or around our children, instead of sweeping it under the rug, we can acknowledge what occurred and repair any emotional damage. By doing this we create an environment where our children can continually make sense of their emotions.

This skill set is perhaps the largest predictor not only of their success in life, but more importantly, their happiness.

As children grow, parents can also partner with schools to ensure emotional learning moves from emotional literacy to social responsibility. Kids should be respectful of others’ work and tackle projects that make community better for everyone – for example, collecting winter clothing donations for a local charity. Supporting social initiatives like this is important because it teaches children that they are part of something larger than themselves.

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Myers’ advice to his son and those he mentors is that it doesn’t matter how smart you are. What matters is how you’re able to “connect with, understand and inspire other people”. He believes emotional intelligence enables you to demonstrate humility, making people naturally inclined to help you succeed. It also fosters resilience and grit, which empower you to overcome fear of failure and take risks for future success.

Companies know that employees who show an enhanced ability to adapt to change, manage their emotions and work well with a diverse range of people are valuable in any workplace. Employers testing the EQ of applicants illustrates a major shift in thinking, and it’s all the more reason we need to be intentional about nurturing our own and our children’s emotional intelligence.