It takes more than, academic
smarts to be a success

What¡¯s Your Emotional IQ?

    It was a steamy afternoon in New York City, the kind of day that makes people sullen with discomfort. I was heading to my hotel, and as I stepped onto a bus, I was greeted by the driver, a middle-aged man with an enthusiastic smile. ¡°Hi! How are you doing?¡± he said. He greeted each rider in the same way.

   As the bus crawled uptown through gridlocked traffic, the driver gave a lively commentary: there was a terrific sale at that store ¡­ a wonderful exhibit at this museum ¡­ had we heard about the movie that just opened down the block? By the time people got off, they had shaken off their sullen shells. When the driver called out, ¡°So long, have a great day!¡± each of us gave a smiling response.

   That memory has stayed with me for close to 20 years. I consider the bus driver a man who was truly successful at what he did.

   Contrast him with Jason, a straight-A student at a Florida high school who was fixated on getting into Harvard Medical School. When a physics teacher gave Jason an 80 on a quiz, the boy believed his dream was in jeopardy. He took a butcher knife to school, and in a struggle the teacher was stabbed in the collarbone.

   How could someone of obvious intelligence do something so irrational? The answer is that high I.Q. does not necessarily predict who will succeed in life. Psychologists agree that I. Q. contributes only about 20 percent of the factors that determine success. A full 80 percent comes from other factors, including what I call emotional intelligence.

   Following are some of the major qualities that make up emotional intelligence, and how they can be developed:

   1. Self-awareness. The ability to recognize a feeling as it happens is the keystone of emotional intelligence. People with greater certainty about their emotions are better pilots of their lives:

     Developing self-awareness requires tuning in to what neurologist Antonio Damasio, in his book Descartes¡¯ Error, calls "somatic markers"-literally, gut feelings. Gut feelings can occur without a person being consciously aware of them. For example, when people who fear snakes are shown a picture of a snake, sensors on their skin will detect sweat, a sign of anxiety, even though the people say they do not feel fear. The sweat shows up even when a picture is presented so rapidly that the subject has no conscious awareness of seeing it.

     Through deliberate effort we can become more aware of our gut feelings. Take someone who is annoyed by a rude encounter for hours after it occurred. He may be oblivious to his irritability and surprised when someone calls attention to it. But if he evaluates his feelings, he can change them.

     Emotional self-awareness is the building block of the next fundamental of emotional intelligence: being able to shake off a bad mood.

   2. Mood Management. Bad as well as good moods spice life and build character. The key is balance.

     We often have little control over when we are swept by emotion. But we can have some say in how long that emotion will last. Psychologist Dianne Tice of Case Western Reserve University asked more than 400 men and women about their strategies for escaping foul moods. Her research, along with that of other psychologists, provides valuable information on how to change a bad mood.

     Of all the moods that people want to escape, rage seems o be the hardest to deal with. When someone in another car cuts you off on the highway, your reflexive thought may be, That jerk! He could have hit me! I can¡¯t let him get away with that! The more you stew, the angrier you get. Such is the stuff of hypertension and reckless driving.

     What should you do to relieve rage? One myth is that ventilating will make you feel better. In fact, researchers have found that's one of the worst strategies. Outbursts of rage pump up the brain's arousal system, leaving you more angry, not less.

     A more effective technique is ¡°reframing,¡± which means consciously reinterpreting a situation in a more positive light. In the case of the driver who cuts you off, you might tell yourself: Maybe he had some emergency. This is one of the most potent ways, Tice found, to put anger to rest.

     Going off alone to cool down is also an effective way to defuse anger, especially if you can't think clearly. Tice found that a large proportion of men cool down by going for a drive--a finding that inspired her to drive more defensively. A safer alternative is exercise, such as taking a long walk. Whatever you do, don't waste the time pursuing your train of angry thoughts. Your aim should be to distract yourself.

     The techniques of reframing and distraction can alleviate depression and anxiety as well as anger. Add to them such relaxation techniques as deep breathing and meditation and you have an arsenal of weapons against bad moods. ¡°Praying,¡± Dianne Tice also says, ¡°works for all moods.¡±

     3. Self-motivation. Positive motivation£­the marshaling of feelings of enthusiasm, zeal and confidence£­is paramount for achievement. Studies of Olympic athletes, world-class musicians and chess grandmasters show that their common trait is the ability to motivate themselves to pursue relentless training routines.

     To motivate yourself for any achievement requires clear goals and an optimistic, can-do attitude. Psychologist Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania advised the MetLife insurance company to hire a special group of job applicants who tested high on optimism, although they had failed the normal aptitude test. Compared with salesmen who passed the aptitude test but scored high in pessimism, this group made 21 percent more sales in their first year and 57 percent more in their second.

     A pessimist is likely to interpret rejection as meaning I'm a failure; I'll never make a sale. Optimists tell themselves, I'm using the wrong approach, or That customer was in a bad mood. By blaming failure on the situation, not themselves, optimists are motivated to make that next call.

     Your predisposition to a positive or negative outlook may be inborn, but with effort and practice, pessimists can learn to think more hopefully. Psychologists have documented that if you can catch negative, self-defeating thoughts as they occur, you can reframe the situation in less catastrophic terms.

     4. Impulse Control. The essence of emotional self-regulation is the ability to delay impulse in the service of a goal. The importance of this trait to success was shown in an experiment begun in the 1960s by psychologist Walter Mischel at a preschool on the Stanford University campus.

     Children were told that they could have a single treat, such as a marshmallow, right now. However, if they would wait while the experimenter ran an errand, they could have two marshmallow. Some preschoolers grabbed the marshmallow immediately, but others were able to wait what, for them, must have seemed an endless 20 minutes. To sustain themselves in their struggle, they covered their eyes so they wouldn¡¯t see the temptation, rested their heads on their arms, talked to themselves, sang, even tried to sleep. These plucky kids got the two-marshmallow reward.

     The interesting part of this experiment came in the follow-up. The children who as four-year-olds had been able to wait for the two marshmallows were, as adolescents, still able to delay gratification in pursuing their goals. They were more socially competent and self-assertive, and better able to cope with life¡¯s frustrations. In contrast, the kids who grabbed the one marshmallow were, as adolescents, more likely to be stubborn, indecisive and stressed.

     The ability to resist impulse can be developed through practice. When you¡¯re faced with an immediate temptation, remind yourself of your long-term goals-whether they be losing weight or getting a medical degree. You¡¯ll find it easier, then, to keep from settling for the single marshmallow.

     5. People skills. The capacity to know how another feels is important on the job, in romance and friendship, and in the family. We transmit and catch moods from each other on a subtle, almost imperceptible level. The way someone says thank you, for instance, can leave us feeling dismissed, patronized or genuinely appreciated. The more adroit we are at discerning the feelings behind other people¡¯s signals, the better we control the signals we send.

     The importance of good interpersonal skills was demonstrated by psychologists Robert Kelley of Carnegie-Mellon University and Janet Caplan in a study at Bell Labs in Naperville, Ill. The labs are staffed by engineers and scientists who are all at the apex of academic I.Q. tests. But some still emerged as stars, while others languished.

     What accounted for the difference? The standout performers had a network with a wide range of people. When a non-star encountered a technical problem, Kelley observed, ¡°he called various technical gurus and then waited, wasting time while his calls went unreturned. Star performers rarely faced such situations because they built reliable networks before they needed them. So when the stars called someone, they almost always got a faster answer.¡±

     No matter what their I.Q., once again it was emotional intelligence that separated the stars from the average performers.

(¡¶Reader's Digest¡· JANUARY 1996)