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Some mistaken beliefs

Once in school I encountered certain widespread misunderstandings about emotional intelligence. Let me clear up some of these common fallacies. First, emotional intelligence does not mean merely being nice. At certain instances, especially strategic moments it may demand not being nice, but rather, case in point, bluntly confronting someone with an uncomfortable but significant truth they’ve been avoiding.

Second, emotional intelligence does not mean giving free lead to feelings that is, letting it all hang out. Rather, it means managing feelings so that they are expressed appropriately and effectively, enabling people to work together smoothly toward their common goals.

Also, women are not smarter than men when it comes to emotional intelligence, nor men are superior to women. Each of us has a personal profile of strengths and weaknesses in these capacities. Some of us may be highly emphatic but lack some abilities to handle our own distresses; others may be of the subtlest shift in our own moods, yet be clumsy socially.

It is true that men and women as groups tend to have a shared, gender-specific profile of strong and weak points. Women, on average, are more aware of their emotions, show more empathy, and are more skilled inter personally. Men, on the other hand, are more self-confident and optimistic, adapt more easily, and handle stress better. In general however, there are far more similarities than differences. Some men are emphatic as the most inter personally sensitive women, while some women are every bit as able to withstand stress as the most emotional resilient man.

Finally, emotional intelligence seems to be largely learned, and it continues to develop as we go through life and learn from experiences unlike IQ, which changes little after our teenage years. Our competence in EI can keep growing. In fact people get better and better in these capabilities as they grow more adept at handling their own emotions and impulses, at motivating themselves, and honing their empathy and social ability. An old–fashioned word for this growth in emotional intelligence is maturity.

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