Goleman: Emotional Intelligence Brings Light

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Daniel Goleman.  2006.  Emotional Intelligence:  Why It Can Matter More than IQ.  New York:  Bantam Books.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

At one point in internship as a chaplain, I met a young woman in her thirties who suffered a stroke.  Her speech was slurred and her left arm was limp. An aunt paced the room unimpressed as the woman gave passionate testimony on how God had called her into ministry. Soon, her mother arrived and I gave up a chair on the patient’s right side to take one on her left. From my new vantage point, I noticed needle marks up and down her left arm. As we moved to prayer, each prayer request was followed by a 15-minute sermon from the mother.  At this point, clues as to her drug addiction and stroke became clear, albeit never verbally articulated.

The importance of non-verbal communication, active listening, and empathy in chaplaincy is clear; yet, these skills are also needed to succeed in everyday life and business.  It seems counter-intuitive that such “soft” skills would be so critical in the era of social media and electronic communication, but perhaps their value is enhanced by increasing scarcity in the population.  Interest in these soft skills mushroomed after the publication of Daniel Goleman’s book:  Emotional Intelligence. Citing work by psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer, Goleman defines emotional intelligence (EI) as abilities focused in 5 domains:

  1. Knowing one’s emotions;
  2. Managing emotions;
  3. Motivating oneself;
  4. Recognizing emotions in others; and
  5. Handling relationships (43).

Having offered a definition, however, Goleman speculated that EI may never be empirically measured the way that intelligence quotients (IQ) have popularly been (44).  This may be true, in part, because patterns of successful EI utilization vary by gender and personality type (45).

Goleman (born 1946) received his doctoral degree from Harvard University and reported on brain and behavioral sciences for the New York Times for Twelve years (359). His book is written in 16 chapters which are divided into 5 parts, including:

  1. The emotional brain;
  2. The Nature of Emotional Intelligence;
  3. Emotional Intelligence Applied;
  4. Windows of Opportunities; and
  5. Emotional Literacy (vii-viii).

These chapters are preceded by an introduction and preface (Aristotle’s Challenge) and followed by a lengthy set of 6 appendices and other resources. The word, encyclopedic, seems apt.

While I certainly came to Goleman’s book hoping to improve my ability to improve my empathy as a pastor, other uses of EI became immediately obvious.  Three that stood out were:

  1. Assisting with relational awareness (129-147).  One pastor I know despaired that premarital counseling was a waste of time.  Teaching EI is an area where time might be productivity spent.
  2. Managing emotional trauma in preventing disease and raising success rates in medical procedures (164-185).  As an intern assigned to chaplain in an emergency department, I observed at least half the patients admitted came in for preventable problems, such as bad lifestyle choices and other bad decisions.  The potential for spiritual healing to accompany physical healing is certainly higher than I would have imagined.
  3. Teaching emotional and relational ABCs may prevent violence among children and young adults and help mitigate other social ills, such as teenage pregnancy and drug addiction (266-272).  Bible stories and Jesus’ parables frequently target today’s social challenges which points to a need for more and smarter biblical teaching and preaching.  In general, stories teach better than other forms of instruction.

Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence is a fascinating book to read.  It discusses numerous psychological studies touching on all aspects of life. While EI is not an area of research easily summarized, Goleman articulates the importance of continued research and of applying the findings to treating serious social ills.  This is a book worth reading, studying, and applying.

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1 Comment

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