Let me first address the major problem with the book. Very similar to Thinking, Fast and Slow (or vice versa), Emotional Intelligence begins with a compelling case for its central concept. I was enthralled by Goleman's persuasive plea to take emotional intelligence seriously and how it can dramatically change (perhaps even transform) our intra-personal and interpersonal interactions. But then the book keeps going and going, and eventually becomes—just like Thinking, Fast and Slow—a greatest hits of psychology research and psychological disorders. Granted, Goleman does his best to tie it back into emotional intelligence and how it can ameliorate the human condition, but I didn't feel a large portion of the second half of the book added much to his original argument. Having said that, I still believe Emotional Intelligence is absolutely worth reading—all of it. What may not have been particularly interesting to me may be very consequential for another reader in search of a better way.
So what did I love about the book? I am convinced emotional intelligence is a desperately needed competency in the world of business and family (and everywhere else). We are emotional creatures, and we are so often driven to act (mostly react) in unhealthy and less productive ways and we struggle to know why. The concept of emotional intelligence answers some of those important questions. By first knowing we are not only being affected by our emotions in a consequential way but we can also take control of seemingly runaway impulses could do a great deal of good for all of humanity, to say nothing about the average professional. As Goleman wrote: "There is perhaps no psychological skill more fundamental than resisting impulse." What a powerful concept! It should not be overlooked.
Goleman—like all academics—stands on the shoulders of those who came before, such as Howard Gardner. We see today those—Carol Dweck, Angela Duckworth—who are standing on Goleman and others' shoulders. Growth mindset—an impressively powerful idea—is hardly new. Although not called "growth mindset" in Emotional Intelligence, the principles and foundational evidence is all there. Admittedly, I have a powerful bias toward those concepts which seem to empower and confirm the agency of individuals. Emotional intelligence, growth mindset, grit—they all do so, and I find them infinitely more helpful to the average person and professional than opposing fatalistic worldviews. The good news of Goleman's Emotional Intelligence is not just that we can understand our emotions, but that we can learn to tame, bridle, and leverage them for our own success and satisfaction: "A life without passion would be a dull wasteland of neutrality, cut off and isolated from the richness of life itself" (Goleman).
Although I believe the length of the book hurts the overall argument, I still feel Emotional Intelligence is requisite reading for anyone seeking to elevate themselves into a new and heightened level of maturity and sensibility. Although IQ is still an important factor in an individual's life—a fact admitted and attested to by Goleman—it should be very, very apparent that being extremely smart is hardly a panacea for life's difficulties. To quote Goleman again: "The brightest among us can founder on the shoals of unbridled passions and unruly impulses." To use common vernacular, to be truly intelligent, we need not only our heads but also our hearts.
Other Topics of Interest:
Reflections: Thinking, Fast and Slow
Reflections: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perserverance
Reflections: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin