“Where Were You When the ‘Smarts’ Were Being Handed Out?
by Susan Dunn, MA, EQ and Life Coach
There’s a great article on the Internet now by Tamim Ansary, called “Many Kinds of Smart.” Bascially he’s talking about Howard Gardner’s theories of intelligence, which you’re probably familiar with (or will be after reading Ansary’s article.
They’re things like linguistic intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, and musical intelligence. And BTW, I’m so glad Gardner pulled “bodily kinesthetic intelligence" our of the fog for those kids, like me, who could never sit still in class!
In the article, Ansary talks about his friend “N” who has none of the identifiable intelligences including that he wasn’t very good in school. In fact he went straight from school to working in a store an elderly couple owned. Evidently they hit it off, N. acquired the store … the rest is history.
There are other examples of N’s “luck” in life and his perspicacity for making money, and the article ends with “I can’t define it, but I know the guy has some kind of smarts. I only with I knew what it was and how I could develop it.”
Of course there are other worthy goals in life besides money, but for the sake of argument, lets say the rest of N's life was cool, and that was just a part of the good things he managed to acquire on his journey.
Now I’d like to postulate here that the “intelligence” N has was what we call EQ, or emotional intelligence. It crosses categories with Gardner, as it’s a different theory, but it’s about being aware of your own emotions and those of others and being able to manage them. It includes such things as interpersonal skills, intuition, creativity, and resilience. Perhaps N knew a good thing intuitively when he saw it. Due to his interpersonal skills, he was able to ingratiate himself with the old couple, and also to do well in the store, with the customers, and in all the other adventures he had.
Whether you’re relating to the world with the “intelligence” of linguistics, math, nature, kinesthetics, or music, in addition to any training, education and expertise you may acquire along the way, a large part of our success is going to depend upon your emotional intelligence.
For example? For example what if N had an attitude and thought working at a store like that was beneath him? What if he had a bad temper and couldn’t control his anger and shouted at the customers? What if the owners of the store were from a different cultural background and he was unable to relate to them in a meaningful way? What if he hadn't known himself well, and had 'insisted' that he needed and could get an advanced degree, or that nothing would be possible if he didn't? What if his intuition wasn’t developed and he decided just before the couple died, that he wasn’t going to go anywhere there and had moved on?
We need to know how we relate to the world best (in terms of Gardner’s theory) and we also need to acquire the training, education and experience that brings talents and propensities to fruition.
If, for instance, you have superb math-spatial reasoning, but grow up, as a client of mine did, in a family of lawyers and English teachers, and philosophers, you may miss valuing the talents that you have. Also, it seems to be a part of human nature that young people like a challenge, like the linguistics professor I had. He wasn’t a very good graduate English teacher, I’ll tell you that, though he thought he was. One day in class he told us that math had been his best field, but it was too easy for him, so he went into English. Tant pis (that's French for "so much the worse") for us!!
Knowing your natural intelligences, or strengths is vital. If you’re going to soar, and work effortlessly at work that doesn’t drain you, you’re best sticking with what comes naturally to you. (cf. Buckingham and Clifton’s “Now, Discover Your Strengths,” a tool I use with every client). I also applaud Gardner for giving us all a boost in the self-esteem. And there are more categories than those. While I’ve always done well academically, I wander around, like many intellectuals, often lost in space. One of my best friends always hated school. He’s in sales and is adept with people. He also is a sailor and has what he calls “body knowledge.” He always knows where his body is in relation to other things, and he always knows where his ‘things’ are. We walk out of a store and, since I’ve been talking and relating, I have no idea where we parked the car. In fact sometimes I don’t know what kind of car we drove down in, if it’s the other person’s. My friend always does!
But the cross-current through the intelligences that attributes to a large percentage of folks’ success in life is their emotional intelligence. Also know as street smarts, soft skills, and people skills, but it also pertains to one’s self-management, and that means emotions. If you can’t get the messages from your emotions and use the knowledge, while letting the emotions flow through you and not get dammed up, NOR considering they dictate knee-jerk reactions, you’ll come out better no matter what your other intelligences.
The good news is that, while Gardner’s intelligences, our innate strengths and talents, and the revered “IQ” intelligence are considered largely hereditary and fixed at birth, you can develop your emotional intelligence over your lifetime. It can be learned.
So, whatever other intelligences you have – or have not – why not develop your EQ? It matters to your success in relationships and career, and to your health.
WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOUR EQ IS? TAKE THE EQ-MAP(R). Then call me for interpretation and coaching on deficiencies. It can change your life!