When Daniel Goleman published his influential book about EQ – Emotional Quotient or emotional intelligence, it revolutionised popular science. He presented a combination of Howard Gardner’s two personal intelligences – intrapersonal and interpersonal. Basically, it is about knowing yourself and knowing how to interact with others.
Us Westerners have always been particularly clumsy with knowing our emotions and expressing them. Our upbringing, social acceptance and what is considered socially apt (the British saying “the stiff upper lip”) is a good example of how many Western Europeans have been brought up. We have been told for generations that expression of emotion is “out of place”, “sissy”, or even against ‘correct’ moral behaviour. “Boys don’t cry”, we still hear even today in many families.
However, recent research has shown that emotions can be fundamental to the quality of our learning. One needs to be in a good emotional state in order to be in a good state of learning. So, it goes without saying that we need to address the question of EQ. Teachers need to acknowledge their own emotions and those of the learners. It is essential that adults and children accept and express their emotions, both positive and negative and therefore be able to control them to an acceptable degree in social situations. Indeed, people need to realise that they needn’t be completely controlled by emotions and can override them on a temporary basis.
However, it is important in the long-term to deal with situations and issues at the source of negative emotions. Very often, especially in schools and the workplace, we try to go straight to the control of emotions of any type. This in turn leads to suppression with the result that negative emotions can emerge as disruptive and conflictive behaviour.
Emotional intelligence means trying to manage and sustain our emotions so that the resulting conflicts don’t occur or at least to a lesser degree. With children and teenagers, this needs to be developed not only in educational institutions but also in the family. Parents and educators should go hand in hand in this process. It will take some time but a good start would be to reform and change curriculums in teacher training colleges. However, this is only just beginning and much less in in-service training procedures. Many disagreeable situations could be avoided if this changed.
Happy English learning!!