Achieving your personal and career ambitions is usually about performing your best and collaborating constructively with other people. That’s certainly been the case in my career so far as a software developer.
I’ve found learning new technical skills to come easily when I try hard and dedicate the time. But improving as a compassionate team player, getting the best out my colleagues, and handling social and political situations - in effect changing my behaviour - is immensely more difficult.
From my studies of psychology I know that taming my emotions is the answer. Slowing down automatic responses - like tit-for-tat pettiness - and replacing them with logical, endearing responses is how I can become more successful in many, if not all, aspects of my life.
Some have a propensity for emotional intelligence; others, like me, have to work hard for it. And that’s exactly why I read this book.
It turned out to be a compelling read that I was able to gain actionable insights from and inspiration to learn more. However, Goleman’s million-copy smash hit alone is not enough to make significant improvements in your emotional intelligence. But it is certainly an excellent introduction to the topic that will raise your awareness of where you need to improve.
The Good Bits
I was thoroughly engrossed by the parts of this book that reflected on human evolution as an explanation for our emotions. Combined with academic research and neuroscience, Goleman details how emotions gave our distant ancestors a survival advantage, yet are often a hinderance in modern life.
Basically, emotional responses are almost automatic. Great when you need a rapid response to life-threatening dangers in the environment, but less so when you’re in a heated design discussion about the architecture of a new financial trading platform.
A lot of the theory is balanced out with practical advice, too. Goleman outlines how to become more emotionally intelligent by first becoming aware of your emotions and then try to gradually exert control over them.
Throughout the book Goleman bases most of the discussion on real-world examples. Cases like murderers, depressed people and under-achievers. He discusses how these people suffer due to a lack of emotional intelligence - even though they may be incredibly intelligent.
What Could Have Been Better?
Repetitive. Very repetitive. Towards the end of the book the lines between each chapter blurred. It felt like incessant examples of people with personality defects. By that point I had understood the rationale for improving emotional intelligence, and didn’t feel like I was learning much extra.
Additionally the topic of children was repetitive. A lot of the examples were focused on nurturing children to be emotionally intelligent. A noble cause, and explained with lots of useful insights for parents, but a bit boring for me after a while.
My main gripe about this book is that there was too little practical advice. I was hoping for something more actionable. Something that would help me to start being more aware of my emotions and better able to utilize them.
To be fair, when I look at the title “Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”, the answer is quite clear; this book is introduction to emotional intelligence and not a guide book.