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The term “emotional intelligence” was first used in 1990 by psychologists Peter Salovey of Harvard University and John Mayer of the University of New Hampshire. It was used to describe the emotional qualities that appear to be important to success. These can include: 

  • Empathy. 
  • Expressing and understanding feelings. 
  • Controlling one’s temper. 
  • Independence. 
  • Adaptability. 
  • Being well-liked. 
  • Interpersonal problem-solving. 
  • Persistence. 
  • Friendliness. 
  • Kindness. 
  • Respect.


The excitement over the concept of emotional intelligence begins with its implications for raising and educating children but extends to its importance in the workplace and in virtually all human relationships and endeavors. Studies show that the same EQ skills that result in your child being perceived as an enthusiastic learner by his teacher or being liked by his friends on the playground, will also help him twenty years from now on his job or in his marriage.

Is IQ better than EQ? 

After 100 years of research, there’s little agreement on the definition of intelligence or how to measure IQ. Traditional psychological research has treated emotion and cognition as separate, even competitive. The current trend in neuroscience says something new, and powerful: Thoughts and feelings are interdependent.

Emotions Drive People. That said, in the human brain, no signal is more powerful than emotion. Emotion is a primary filter; it’s a signal of survival.

The Evidence for Emotional Intelligence

This year, for the first time, a “big data” approach was used to assess the significance of emotional intelligence around the globe. Using a random-sampling process from a database of over 75,000 people, Six Seconds created a sample that’s balanced across age, gender, role, and region to publish The State of the Heart Report. Assessing both EQ and performance outcomes (e.g., effectiveness, relationships, decision-making). The result: Between 50-60% of the variation in these performance scores is predicted by EQ.

The Business Case for Emotional Intelligence and The School Case for Emotional Intelligence, scores of studies say otherwise. Perhaps more importantly, in real-world examples, in people’s daily lives, we can see emotional intelligence skills improve performance at work, in school, and in life. They predict career successschool successclassroom behaviorstress managementleadership influenceemployee engagement & performanceplant safetychange leadership, employee retention, and even life success for professional athletes.

Even more, emotional intelligence is an enabler of cognitive development. Looking at the fascinating body of neuro-learning research from Mary Helen Immordino Yang and other cognitive neuroscientists (see Medina’s Brain Rules for a good intro), a new perspective emerges: at a neurological level, thinking and emotion work together. We don’t “think” with one part of the brain and “feel” with another; the process of learning is built into the very same neural circuits as the process of social-emotional interaction.

Is EQ More Important than IQ?

None of this is to say that IQ is unimportant. In education and business, we ALREADY focus on IQ. For the last hundred years, cognitive development has been the primary goal of education. Growing IQ is helping us in many ways (creating innovations such as tiny computers that can be inserted into our hearts). At the same time, all this attention to IQ hasn’t solved other of the world’s most pressing problems (from poverty to environmental destruction to divorce to war). In fact, people today are more stressed, more lonely, and therefore less able to solve problems.

Here in Silicon Valley, you can throw a rock and hit a building full of uber-intelligent engineers. These people are painfully smart – they graduated or dropped out from the top universities, they are only hired if they have good-to-scary levels of IQ. So now what? As Daniel Goleman explained IQ gets you hired, but EQ gets you promoted.

Our mission in Brainbow is to create positive change. Change that ennobles and empowers self and others. It’s the essence of leadership, and it’s urgently needed. While we must have cognitive power, but people are not just rational: the missing link is emotional intelligence.

Nandhini Sivanna

Nandhini Sivanna

Nandhini Sivanna is an ISEI certified coach. She is the founder of Brainbow Kids. Brainbow Kids builds resilient children through EQ practices via art craft and storytelling.

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