I was in MidValley, waiting for my order of Penang Mee Udangg to arrive, when I unzipped my handbag and took out this book. Minutes later, my 10 year old son joined me as I read the first chapter. What engaged him? Phineas Gage, an efficient and very capable railroad foremen who lost the entire front portion of his brain from a work accident involving a tamping iron and a blasting hole and survived, was rendered an ill tempered and erratic man who eventually lost his job. On page 7 was a drawing of his skull with the tamping iron still lodged in it. His skull and the original tamping iron are still on display in the Warren Anatomical Museum at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts.
Apparently, the part of the brain that he lost contained his emotional intelligence. He could still walk, talk and even do complicated math problems while maintaining his understanding of the logistics of railroad building. But his ability to take charge of his emotions and turn them into socially acceptable behavior was gone. And that led to the definition of emotional intelligence. I have to say, that was indeed a bang to begin with.
The front portion of our brains is where we think rationally and when I read this, I couldn’t help but be reminded of surah al-‘alaq where it was said, naaSiyatun kaazhibah. In the Quran, there are also a lot of mentions about the forelocks being held accountable where rational thinking is involved. According to the book, our sensations travel up our spinal cords and enter the brain from the bottom and they travel up towards the front portion of the brain through the limbic system, which is where we experience our emotions. The front portion of our brain is where we process those emotions rationally though the brain can’t stop the emotions felt in the limbic system.
This pathway and how well traveled it is makes a huge difference between someone who is able to control his emotions and act in a reasonable manner and someone who is always taken over by his emotions, resulting in socially unacceptable behaviors. As it was described in the book, some people have lagging two lane highways from the cerebellum (base of the spinal cord where the sensations enter the brain) to the front part while others have five lane superhighways with smooth traffic. The question is, which one are we? and if we are the former, can we change it to the latter? Fortunately, the answer is yes. Unlike IQ, emotional intelligence is changeable. It can be developed.
The book begins by defining emotional intelligence and it uses anecdotes to illustrate, which I personally feel does the two authors a lot of credit. In Chapter 3, it talks about Emotional Intelligence Appraisal, how it works and how we can complete it. The purpose of the test is for the reader to see where he is at in terms of emotional intelligence, and since emotional intelligence can be changed and developed, it’s not like an IQ test that practically labels you in a fixed spot. The test is available online, and when taking the test, you need to use the code written inside the book jacket.
Chapter 5 and 6 talk about how to go about increasing our emotional intelligence. The brain has a characteristic termed as ‘plasticity’ by neurologists. It has the ability to adjust to pressure and changes. An example of this is adjusting our reaction to an emotion such as anger. If our first reaction to irritation is to yell, and we begin to become aware of the sensations that come with that emotion before we react, and change our actions accordingly, we are carving more lanes into that physical pathway from the cerebelum to the front part of the brain, thereby increasing our emotional intelligence. But it doesn’t come without consistent and constant practice.
Chapter 6 talks about personal competence, defined as ‘knowing yourself and doing the most you can with what you have’. The authors related a story of Ray Charles who developed his own personal competence to explain this. Part of increasing emotional intelligence if developing personal competence. And part of developing personal competence, according to the book is to lean into discomforts which includes admitting our shortcomings. When reading the example given, I immediately thought of overcoming shyness (coming from personal experience). It was very uncomfortable placing myself in a situation where I barely knew anyone. I didn’t really know how to strike a conversation and I was highly conscious of appearing foolish. I remember forcing myself to strike up conversations, at the risk of making myself look foolish (probably only to myself, I now realize) and years later, I am perfectly comfortable striking up new friendships (well, almost perfectly comfortable).
Then there is social competence, where you learn how to listen so people will talk and how to talk to people will listen. From what I can put together, it seems that active listening is required in order to develop social competence. Even though this can be common sense, it may not be that obvious to some people who like to talk but not listen. Same goes for how to talk so people will listen. It requires attention to body languages and subtle signals that people emit. In other words, one has to be very observant in order to hike up one’s emotional intelligence.
The authors then go on to show how emotional intelligence can be applied in the work place, in team work, and at home with partners and children. The book ends with a technical report on Emotional Intelligence Appraisal.
The book talks about the four areas of EQ; self awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management, but I find them lacking in clarity in terms of subheadings. I somewhat got lost in all the anecdotes and couldn’t really make myself focus on these four areas as I was reading.
Nevertheless, I find this book an interesting read. Even if I didn’t have an IQ high enough to focus on the four areas mentioned, I was able to glean some pointers for increasing emotional intelligence, I think. It is not however a comprehensive self help book if that’s what you’re looking for. It is more informational in that it gives the basic background of emotional intelligence and its definition and then talks about how one can go about increasing it. I have not yet taken the online test, though I intend to, but reading this book piqued my curiosity on emotional intelligence. The authors of Emotional Intelligence Quick Book are Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, the co founders of TalentSmart Inc.