Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

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In the best-seller Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ, Daniel Goleman explores emotions and the cause of emotions from the perspective of physiology, psychology, and human and child development. While Emotional Intelligence helped me reconsider my default reactions and emotions in various situations, I can’t really say I enjoyed listening to this audiobook. As I listened, I often felt annoyed and/or bored by Goleman’s projections, explanations, and descriptions.

Listening to this book was probably a part of the problem. First of all, it seemed to be very poorly written. In addition to awkward sentence constructions, I was confused by the organization. I couldn’t follow the train of thought from one chapter to the next as I listened. When I was an English student, I was told that chapter and section headings should not be a replacement of internal transitions, and I’ve found that well-written nonfiction books do that (for example, Stiff by Mary Roach was very easy to follow via audiobook). I felt there were no internal transitions in Emotional Intelligence; each section, which would begin with a story, didn’t really seem to follow from the last section. This was hard to listen to, but may not have been a problem had I read the physical book.

Another part of the problem was subject matter. An entire section of the book was about the physiological effects of emotions on our bodies. It was very dull. Reading it physically would have been much easier to deal with because I could have skimmed to find the interesting parts.

Also, Emotional Intelligence had far too many examples. As I listened, I kept thinking, “I got the point already!” I felt it was an insult to my intelligence. Again, reading it would have allowed a “skim” factor that made it much less boring. This audiobook was 800 minutes long, and I feel I spent far too long listening to this book for what I got out it.  I kept “almost” giving up on it.

But it wasn’t just the listening that made this book somewhat annoying: it was also the content. Goleman spoke of “emotional intelligence” as an important new concept we should be teaching in school. From his descriptions, though, it sounds to me that “emotional intelligence” as he defines it, is really just “being mature.” It’s true that “how to be mature” is something that some people never really learn: those who get violent road rage, those who panic and worry all the time, those who are always acting happy but then break down. True, some of these things are inherent tendencies that people are born with. Most of the time, I think it is parents who neglect to teach their children how to deal with emotions, parents who are still immature themselves. (And that is each of us, at some point.)

The last section of this book was about courses that schools can adopt to help teach children better emotional coping skills (“emotional intelligence” courses, Goleman seems to suggest). There were generalized statistics as to how this helps the societies and students who are a part of such programs. While such classes sound like a good idea, to me it sounds like adding too much more responsibility to the already-busy schedule of teachers. Teachers should not be the ones held responsibility for our children’s immaturity! If our society wants mature adults, then we as adults must be mature ourselves. Those of us who are parents should have the added responsibility. Our children learn from us first and foremost; no amount of school teaching can un-do what parents instill. If society is breaking down because of violence, teen pregnancy, and the other things that Goleman warns of, then it is because parents no longer take family responsibilities as seriously as they must.  Societal problems go back to parents, not teachers.

Of course, the need for emotional learning is obvious. Goleman’s arguments, examples, and stories are compelling and interesting. Overall, I am conflicted as to what I believe must be done. I found Emotional Intelligence interesting, but I’d highly recommend skimming it rather than listening to it, as it gets very long, repetitive, and boring.

Visit Daniel Goleman’s website and blog.

Have you reviewed Emotional Intelligence? Leave a link to your post in the comments, and I’ll add it here.

Reviewed on August 26, 2008

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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