What does it mean to be considered intelligent? Once upon a time a person was thought to be intelligent if they scored well in intelligence quotient (IQ) tests. They examined one’s ability in a language and maths. If one obtained a high score, it was predicted that one had the potential to do well at college or university. There was also the common mistaken belief that a high IQ would lead to a successful career.
Today, the argument for regarding one’s IQ score as a predictor of future achievements has been researched and found wanting. Although a high IQ score helps, there are other kinds of intelligence that are also important.
Howard Gardner made the world — and especially educators — aware of other kinds of intelligence. For instance, most teachers have come across children who display high levels of musical intelligence through singing or playing musical instruments.
Daniel Goleman defined the emotional quotient (EQ) as: “The capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.”
There are advantages to being an emotionally intelligent person. Manfred De Vries in The Leadership Mystique says emotionally intelligent people:
- Create stronger interpersonal relationships;
- Are better at motivating themselves and others;
- Are more proactive, innovative and creative;
- Lead more effectively;
- Function better under pressure;
- Cope better with change; and
- Are more at peace with themselves.
IQ scores of individuals don’t change much after the teenage years. It’s different with EQ scores. Emotional intelligence develops throughout our lifetime. One reason that EQ improves is because of personal experiences with children, family, friends and the wider society.
Six familiar ways in which we can improve our EQ are:
- Understand your emotional self. It was Socrates who said: “Know thyself.” Be aware of what makes you behave in certain ways.
- Control your emotions. Teaching is stressful. Every teacher has experienced moments of intense anger when dealing with learners. Aristotle’s wise words remind us: “Anybody can become angry — that is easy — but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose and in the right way — that is not easy.”
- Listen. A good listener gets a good grasp of the emotions of others. The listener not only listens to what’s being spoken but also listens to clues such as tightness of the voice and the speed of speech. The listener notes what’s not being spoken about. For example, the abused child might never make any reference to her home. Your body language indicates that you’re listening. Make eye contact with the speaker.
- Look at the speaker. The person often gives clues about their emotional state. Is the speaker leaning back, sitting upright or slouching? What do the eyes convey about their emotional state: excited, fearful, happy or worried? Does the person sit calmly or wriggle restlessly?
- Empathise. Try to imagine yourself in the same situation. What would your emotions be? Try to understand how the speaker is feeling.
- Learn from your mistakes. We all make mistakes in dealing with emotions. Perhaps we’re too exhausted or stressed at the time to handle situations as rationally as Dr Phil or Oprah Winfrey do on their TV shows. When there’s an emotional misunderstanding, be gentle with yourself. Analyse what went wrong so as to better handle a similar situation in future.
Quality teachers continually work at improving their EQ. In so doing, they understand learners better and bring out the best in others and also in themselves.
Richard Hayward, a former principal, is attached to the Quality in Education unit of the South African Quality Institute. The SAQI offers leadership and management workshops. Poor schools are sponsored. For more details, contact either Vanessa du Toit (012 349 5006; [email protected]) or Richard Hayward (011 888 3262; [email protected])