Can emotional intelligence be developed?

The ability to “read” other people, vividly imagining their unique psychological experience, is the compass by which we navigate our social world. —Hunter Gehlbach (March 2017 Kappan)

More often than not, resilient people possess the kind of people skills that we now associate with emotional intelligence, skills that are too often in short supply in many organizations, particularly at the highest levels.

Over the decades I’ve observed that people who are successful in a particular job sometimes run into difficulty when they are “promoted” into positions that require more sophisticated interpersonal skills, such as leading teams, supervising other adults, or resolving conflict in satisfying ways.

While they have the technical skills to do their jobs, they often lack the “soft skills” to be successful in their work.

These skills include the ability to listen deeply, have empathy, identify and manage their emotions and respond appropriately to the emotions of others, display authentic positive emotions, and so on.

The problem is compounded because their low emotional intelligence means that these otherwise competent people are likely to lack the introspection required to identify the problem and the skills to do something about it.

And the situation is further compounded because many people mistakenly believe that emotional intelligence is something you are born with, not something that can be intentionally developed over time. (A useful resource on this subject is Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead With Emotional Intelligence.)

What do you think:

Do resilience and emotional intelligence go hand in hand? Can someone be resilient without those skills?

Is diminished emotional intelligence a barrier to effectiveness for otherwise competent people? 

Does a lack of introspection and a belief that emotional intelligence can’t be developed mean that those people are unlikely to change?

4 Responses to “Can emotional intelligence be developed?”


  1. 1 Patricia De Bello May 3, 2017 at 8:55 am

    As a retired school social worker I profoundly believe that educational systems, with the initiatives of staff and “designated” leaders, not only have the opportunities, but the mandate to expose, promote, cultivate and nurture the awareness and development of social and emotional intelligence. From the classrooms, playgrounds, cafeterias and through PTA’s there are informal and formal opportunities for the exposure of children and adults to develop and learn these skills…and in some cases, to even learn and realize that these skills are life long “coping” mechanisms to the fluidity and challenges of human relationships and decision making. Numerous programs can be implemented on a school wide basis…i.e. Random Acts of Kindness, peer mediation, etc. that will enhance the academic climate in school settings…and beyond! We are all “works in progress” until we take our last breath….

  2. 2 Victoria Bankowski June 3, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    Your written work always acts as food for thought, and are great educational tools I love to share.

  3. 4 theaveragemillennials July 5, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Well written! And while I dont fully understand how emotions work. I do know that after reading a few books on emotional intelligence I noticed that I was better able to control my own. I think awareness helps!


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