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Emotion intelligence or emotional intelligence?

Daniel Coleman's 1995 bestseller Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ remains a foundation for theories about social cognition. His argument that affective competence fuels lifelong achievement still holds relevance. After all, thee-to-face communication helps make a society healthy. But in the 17 years since Coleman's seminal book, digital innovations such as social media, blogs, text messages, webcams, Facebook, Twitter, and Skype have come to the fore as modes of expression, and the newest generation prefers them to sharing in person. One result is a lack of accountability, an especial danger for children and young people. In the waning of responsibility via the freedom of the keyboard, how should the emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) apply to this impressionable demographic?

Coleman considers empathy as the headwaters for interpersonal success. The sensitivity, mindfulness and responsiveness inherent in empathy build rapport, and the goodwill gained through EQ assists in the development of a network of trusted peers. The facility to forge these constructive relationships, thus, may be more important than individual IQ, he posits. "The single most important element in group intelligence, it turns out, is not the average IQ in the academic sense, but rather in terms of emotional intelligence," Coleman writes. "The key to a high group IQ is social harmony." Since being part of a team is based on complex abilities of organizing, negotiating and making connections, the learning of EQ begins at home and school.

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He urges parents to raise children who know how to attend to others. "The impact on children or such parenting is extraordinarily sweeping," Coleman contends. Parental willingness to show and teach empathy helps ensure that children become socially adept by being able to understand verbal and nonverbal cues; the critical window for learning to mesh language with body language spans ages 2-10, he explains--the time Frame when children typically begin acclimation to digital technology. Children who do not possess the rudiments of EQ are often considered strange by peers who, made uncomfortable, may criticize, ignore or shun them. These ill-equipped children, starving for positive reinforcement or any attention at all, can spiral into aggression and become bullies, cyber or actual, since they "read" people incorrectly, Goleman suggests. Given that texting and tweeting, not to mention surfing the Web or posting a blog, are by definition at a remove from literal encounters, the importance of establishing EQ at an early age cannot be overstated.

Because educators guide students in social interaction up to eight hours a day (or more), schools also play a key role in fostering EQ. Goleman draws on troubling statistics about children from the early 1990s that necessitated such pedagogy and that have only amplified since then: school shootings, early motherhood, risky sex, mental disturbance. He also references lesson plans, afterschool programs and weekly classes that counteract bullying, promote inclusion, and address depression, for instance, and describes the advantageous influence of "friendship coaches" in and out of the classroom. These instructional strategies, all about EQ and accountability, surely become even more imperative today since children age 8-18 spend in excess of seven-and-a-half hours "using entertainment media across a typical day," like smart phones and computers, according to the news release about "Generation [M.sup.2]: Media in the Lives of 8-to 18-Year-Olds," a January 2010 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And "because they spend so much of that time 'media multitasking' (using more than one medium at a time)," the news release continues, "they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those seven-and-a-half hours."

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Indeed, since publication of Emotional Intelligence in 1995, personal technology and social media have redirected the flow of communication in many disturbing directions. For instance, one-third of high school teens send more than 100 texts a day and half send at least 50, with three-quarters of 12-to 17-year-olds owning cell phones, reports Stephanie Goldberg for CNN.com in an April 2010 article summarizing a study by Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. (Adolescents deem email too slow, too formal.) They like to communicate with invisible friends even if visible ones sit a few feet away. And text messages, plus instant messages and tweets, undercut the quality of communication ipso facto because of their very brevity. Also, relationships, real or virtual, are often begun, lived out and broken online. And "friends" are pictures in tiny squares on a digital wall. Teens age 13-16, the fastest-growing social media demographic, average 450 "friends" in social networks; that number more than doubles by the time they're 22, and then decreases exponentially over the decades, according to The Daily (U.K.) Mail in a May 2011 article on this cyber "friend" trend. Accountability and EQ can suffer in such an amassment. As they can when a biogger adopts a persona and when cyber communication is conveyed anonymously.

What do we lose by not dealing with each other in person? Accountability and EQ. Isolation may set in, and emoticons are poor substitutes for empathy. GoLeman, in Emotional Intelligence, did not foresee cyber bullying and stalking, Internet predators and addiction. Or did he?

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Mary Ann Manos

Mary Ann Manos (Bradley University) is the superintendent of the Hartsburg-Emden (III.) School District and a 30-year veteran of elementary through university classrooms. A former ethics columnist for this magazine, she earned degrees from Malone University (B.S., education), University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (M.Ed.), and University of Texas at Austin (Ph.D., curriculum and instruction) and did postdoctoral work in superintendency at Illinois State University. Email her at mmanos@hartem.org.
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Title Annotation:About Books
Author:Manos, Mary Ann
Publication:Phi Kappa Phi Forum
Geographic Code:1U7LA
Date:Mar 22, 2012
Words:933
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