Daniel Goleman says that “Academic intelligence has little to do with emotional life” and goes on to say “…people with with high IQs can be stunningly poor pilots of their private lives.” In Chapter 3 of his popular book on the subject, Emotional Intelligence[i], he gives some examples of high IQ people who are not achieving the heights they were destined for. Goeman beleves that emotional intelligence, or EQ, and IQ, are independent of each other. This is an artefact of his perception of high EQ.
Goleman does a good job of showing that success comes to those who have an awareness of social rules and apply them in the dominant mode of their society, but success and EQ are not the same thing. His observation that people with high IQ may have low emotional intelligence and therefore lower success is flawed, primarily because he defines success largely in social terms, a narrow band of achievement that high IQ or gifted people may or may not choose to pursue.
People with high IQs are actually hyper-aware their world. Their greater brain-power allows them to notice more variables in themselves and in their environment, make connections more quickly, and process more information about any given situation as someone within the normal range. Naturally, their ,very different perceptions mean they will react differently. They are able to discern more complexity in any situation, and social situations are the most complex systems humans encounter.
Imagine being asked to play 50 games of chess at the same time; some in real time, some re-enactments of past games, and some premonitions about possible future games. A gifted person can be consciously “playing chess” of this type during group interactions, and not surprisingly can become easily overwhelmed or start to avoid social settings to minimize the stress.
Although some of the skills Goleman talks about might come easily to gifted kids (socially valued skills like task commitment, delayed gratification, and goal pursuit), they just as easily may exhibit behaviours that he believes show poor emotional intelligence. In reality, low EQ is only one of the many possible causes, or sets of causes, for stubbornness, indecisiveness, or delinquency in a gifted person.
The gifted person may be very good at learning social rules, but having examined them closely, may decide that they are simply wrong. Parents, teachers, and bosses who have gifted people in their charge notice that their authority is repeatedly challenged and justification requested. These kinds of social rules are self-reinforcing and highly resistant to change[ii], even when they no longer stand up to logical examination.
The idea I think that the whole EQ industry needs to be very careful not to promote is that the most usual way to react emotionally is the best way, and if you do not react in the usual way, you should learn to do so. This will enable you to fit in and be a success in the eyes of the world. Not only the gifted, but also people with varying cultural backgrounds, are victims of this prejudice towards the norm.
[i]Goleman, D., (1995). When Smart is Dumb, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, (pp33-pp45), Bantam Books, New York, N.Y.
[ii]Postman, N., and Weingartner, C., Teaching as a Subversive Activity, Dell Publishing Co Inc, New York, N.Y.