Questions and Answers

Q: How do I best to deal with people who power play or lie? Respond with my own truth? If they are in a more powerful position than I am  (example: at work) this might not go over very well. 

 

A: Truthfulness is an essential aspect of emotional literacy. One cannot develop an emotionally literate relationship without the cooperative agreement not to power play or lie.

One sidedly truthfulness when others reserve the right to lie could be a risky if high-minded tactic especially as you say when others have power over you. In an level playing field it is possible to be truthful and thereby influence others into truthfulness as well. In The Other Side of Power (Grove Press 1981) I offer a method of dealing in a cooperative way with people who power play us.


Q: To become emotionally literate takes two people acting in relationship. If one person wants to communicate in an emotionally literate way and the other person does not want to, what are the options?

A: Not many beyond pursuing an agreement to cooperate emotionally, that is: not to power play, not to lie and not to Rescue. One can always try to act in an emotionally literate manner unilaterally but in most cases that will not persuade others out of their illiterate ways.


Q: What does Emotional Literacy have to do with Emotional Intelligence?

Answer:

Emotional Literacy is a form of Emotional Intelligence. There are a number of ways in which a person can be emotionally intelligent or sophisticated. Emotional Literacy is a Heart-Centered practice of emotional intelligence which results in an improvement in interpersonal relations and cooperation as well as personal well being and success. So it could be said that emotional intelligence (and emotional awareness) is part of a larger capacity called emotional literacy.      Return to Home Page?

Q: What does emotional intelligence have to do with IQ and EQ?

Short Answer:

The IQ test has been researched for many decades and it has proven to be a reliable test.

EQ is a rather meaningless term from the scientific point of view. There are no adequately researched EQ tests and anyone who claims to be able to give you a number that represents your EQ is perpetuating a hoax.

However due to Daniel Goleman's book, which has become a best seller all around the world, EQ has become a widely accepted, hopeful and meaningful term. In my opinion the wide acceptance of the term represents one of those rare leaps in public consciousness which precede important society-wide changes.

Goleman never uses the term EQ in his book. The term first appeared in Time magazine's October 2, 1995 cover in huge letters: "WHAT IS YOUR EQ?" The term "EQ" caught on like wildfire.

Goleman uses the terms "emotional literacy" and "emotional intelligence" interchangeably in his book, but recently seems to speak in terms of emotional intelligence exclusively.

Long Answer:

The IQ test purports to measure a person's native intelligence. Some disagree and argue that it is more likely to measure privilege or opportunity. Be that as it may, the IQ test has been researched for many decades and it has proven to be reliable, that is to say that it will give reliably constant readings on any one person over time. Arguably it is also a valid test, that is to say that a high IQ has been found to be correlated with success in college and graduate school and more loosely associated with good jobs, health and a long life.

EQ is a rather meaningless term from the scientific point of view. Notwithstanding that fact, so called EQ tests are increasingly being given by employers to screen potential employees. No one can legitimately claim to have a test that yields an EQ figure as does the IQ test. Daniel Goleman endorses the BarOn Emotional Quotient Inventory which yields a profile of fifteen EQ factors. My impression of this test is that some of the factors are related to emotional intelligence (e.g.: Emotional self awareness, Empathy, Social responsibility)  but others are just "positive" traits  (e.g.: Assertiveness, Self regard, Independence, Optimism) not at all necessarily related to emotional intelligence. Some of the most assertive, optimistic and independent people I know are "emotional flatliners".  I fear that the concepts of emotional intelligence and emotional literacy are being absorbed into questionably ascertainable concepts like maturity and mental health so that the valuable ideas of emotional intelligence are losing their cutting edge quality..

However at the folk level, due to Daniel Goleman's book, which has become a best seller all around the world, EQ has become a widely accepted, hopeful and meaningful term. In my opinion the wide acceptance of the term represents a highly successful meme, a "paradigm shift," one of those rare leaps in public consciousness which precede important society-wide changes.

Goleman never uses the term EQ in his book. How did the term come into existence? When Goleman's book was about to be published, Time magazine (October 2, 1995) came out with a cover page in huge letters: "WHAT IS YOUR EQ?" And then in smaller type. "It's not your IQ. Its not even a number, but emotional intelligence may be the best predictor of success in life, redefining what it means to be smart." The term "EQ" (which Dr Reuven Bar-On claims to have coined) seems to have been taken the magazine,  a brilliant notion used to promote Goleman's book which caught on like wildfire. That cover story set the tone and pace of the book. From then on emotional intelligence was equated with the term "EQ," and the notion that emotional intelligence is an important human skill is on everyone's mind.

Goleman uses the terms "emotional literacy" and "emotional intelligence" interchangeably in his book, though recently he seems to speak in terms of emotional intelligence exclusively. He borrowed the term "emotional intelligence" from Peter Salovey and John Mayer and has never acknowledged my early coining of the term emotional literacy.

Q: What is so special about emotional literacy?

Short Answer:

Psychology aspires to be a science and the introspective method of studying emotions has been regarded as an unscientific approach.

Even in psychotherapy, emotions while vaguely but widely seen as essential to the process, were pushed aside in favor of more empirical, practical approaches in which emotions were seen as obstacles to the clear thinking needed to solve personal problems.

Goleman's book based on recent renewed interest in research about emotions asserts what everyone knows. Still his main assertion, namely that "emotional intelligence may be the best predictor of success in life," is strictly speaking not supported by the scientific evidence he provides in his book, which is at best circumstantial. Check it out.

No matter. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that knowledge about the emotions is essential to an effective life, never mind what the research proves. Goleman's great accomplishment is that he legitimized the idea across the world.

The current interest in emotions which permeates every aspect of the media these days is a reaction to the excessive reliance on the scientific and technical approaches that have characterized the twentieth century. We are now swinging away from blind faith on rationality and considering the importance of a balanced approach in which emotional factors are considered at a par with rationality and science.

Long Answer:

The study and understanding of the emotions has an interesting history. In the early days of psychology the emotions were very much a core concern. They were being studied primarily through introspection. But psychology aspired to be a science and introspection was deemed an unscientific approach eventually abandoned because of its subjectivity.

In spite of the scientific neglect that followed, the emotions continued to be important, naturally, and became the stuff of psychotherapy. They were never analyzed in detail and the assumption seemed to be that troublesome emotions would normalize as therapy progressed. But even in psychotherapy emotions were pushed aside in favor of more empirical, practical approaches in which emotions were seen as obstacles to the clear thinking needed to solve personal problems.

Goleman's book is an assertion of what everyone knew but had not been able to put into the kinds of words that will reach a mass audience. It is interesting to note that his main assertion namely that "emotional intelligence may be the best predictor of success in life," is strictly speaking not supported by the scientific evidence he provides in his book, which is at best circumstantial. Check it out.

No matter. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that knowledge about the emotions is essential to an effective life never mind what the research proves. Goleman's great accomplishment is that he legitimized the idea by writing a book which has become a best seller in the US, China Korea, India, Latin America and all of Europe.

The fact is that our emotions are an integral aspect of our being and that they affect us at all times. I believe that the current interest in emotions which permeates every aspect of the media these days is a reaction to the excessive rationality and reliance on the scientific, pragmatic, logical and technical approaches that have characterized the twentieth century. We are now swinging away from blind faith on rationality and considering the importance of a balanced approach in which emotional factors are considered at a par with rationality and science.

Q: How is emotional literacy learned?

In my opinion people differ at birth regarding their emotional makeup. There is some scientific evidence to back up this statement in terms of differences that have been observed in newborns regarding how easily they are aroused and startled which can be explained by differing genetic, emotional makeup. It stands to reason that there would be some inherited variability in emotional makeup, and it would not be surprising if males and females differed in that respect. Some babies have stronger emotions or do not control them as effectively as others.

Eventually some people are more attuned to their own and other people's feelings than others, I call these people empaths. On the other hand other people who I call sympaths tend to be centered in their rational, logical faculties. Both can develop into dysfunctional extremes; empaths can be so attuned to emotions (their own and other's) that they are unable to control their behavior and wind up making self damaging decisions. Sympaths, on the other hand, can fail to respond to emotional issues to the point that they lose contact with other people and ultimately fail in their interpersonal endeavors.

For the empaths learning needs to occur in the management of emotions and their mediation and control by their rational logical faculties. For the sympaths on the other hand the learning has to occur in the area of emotional awareness, knowing their own feelings, their strength and reasons as well as the strength and reasons for other people's feelings.

Q: What is an emotionally illiterate person like?

There are two main forms of emotional illiteracy. One, most common among men is a lack of connection with the emotional sphere. This form of emotional illiteracy is what most people think of when the speak of low EQ; a person who is emotionally insensitive, numb and lacking in empathy. While this emotional state is theoretically a handicap, it actually, in certain occupations, serves some people well and most people would prefer to be afflicted in this manner than by the other form of emotional illiteracy.

The other form of emotional illiteracy, most common among women but also, obviously, occurring in men, is an overly developed connection with the emotional response. People who are constantly flooded and possessed by their emotions having no control and being affected in their thinking by them are in this second category which is associated by most with mental illness rather than low EQ.

Q: What is an emotionally literate person like?

A: Salovey and Mayer's original definition of EI was the ability to identify understand use and regulate emotions in life. Goleman added to his definition impulse control and empathy.

I would agree with all of these characteristics but differ in some of the emphases given them.

For instance Goleman makes a great deal out of impulse control and learning how to manage emotional highjackings. He likes to quote a study in which children who showed impulse control and succeed in staying away from marshmallows did much better in their SAT's years later. To be sure control over the emotions is a form of emotional literacy but in my opinion that type of control should be the outcome of knowing our emotions and their causes and being able to talk about them to others in an empathetic social contract rather than simply sitting on them until they pass. Just learning to control our impulses until they go away is not nearly as effective as regulating them through understanding as they occur. It is like controlling a powerful motorcycle with the brakes rather than with the throttle and is likely to lead to the emotional hijackings which Goleman speaks of.

My approach to emotional literacy is based on the notion that the first step is to create social situations in which honest emotional discourse is welcomed and encouraged and then begin to free the guiding, master emotion which is love by Opening the Heart that is teaching people how to articulate their feeling of affection by giving asking for and accepting strokes.

Q: How do you understand naturally empathic people? Do you think of yourself as an empath? I am also interested in learning more about how to motivate people to learn empathic skills. I believe empathy is an essential factor in transforming the human race into a synergistic (peaceful) living organism.

Empathy is turning out to be the most interesting aspect of the emotional literacy issue. I agree that an empathic population is the only basis for a workable social contract. The problem is that as people become more and more attached to machines--the inevitable result of the relentless advance of technology (See Jacques Ellul: The Technological Society,)--we risk losing touch with the emotional side of our nature and we unlearn, or fail to learn, the skills of intuition and empathy. George Soros's "open society" his alternative to "laisse faire" capitalism (See Atlantic Monthly, February 1997) which he believes is the enemy of mankind (comparable to nazism and communism before it) requires that people give up greed. To me that sounds like they will have to learn empathy first, since greed requires that we be so self absorbed that we will pursue our self interest regardless of any  harm we may cause to other living things. Only a powerful sense of empathy and can overcome greed.

For myself, alas, I am not an empath, my daughter is, and so have been a number of close acquaintances. I have had to learn every step of the way. This may be because of my early upbringing or because of genetic reasons. In any case, I have had to learn, and still have substantial lacunae regarding certain emotions like fear or shame. Because I have had to learn the hard way, I know how to learn and how to teach the skill.

How to motivate people toward empathy is a crucial question. In my program the first stage of the exercises, "Opening the Heart" will get the ball rolling. I believe we become empathic as we consciously experience and speak about our feelings and the most approachable and positive emotion is love. Hence we begin (and end) the training with the giving, asking for and accepting strokes.

The American Psychologist Association Monitor (November 1997) had an issue on empathy highlighting research by Carolyn Zahn-Waxler, Nancy Eisenberg, Janet Strayer and Richard Fabes each of who is investigating empathy separately. Their research supports a number of my conclusions; that empathy is an inherited trait and that it is best cultivated in the family but can be learned later. 

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