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Intellectual versus Emotional and Social Intelligence

Clients often complain that their partners tout how smart they are and insist that their high intellect makes them right more often than wrong. While some folks might be cowed by intellectual heights, the truth is that people who use it to dominate others are actually low on emotional intelligence, however dazzling their brainpower might be.

Daniel Goleman, author of one of my favorite books, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, defines emotional intelligence or EQ, “a trait not measured by IQ tests, as a set of skills, including control of one’s impulses, self-motivation, empathy and social competence in interpersonal relationships.” You know people who have it when you’re with them. They’re comfortable with just about anyone in any situation, are as interested in you as they are in sharing about themselves, have curiosity about humanity in general, and know how to make the kinds of connections that last and make everyone feel good. They may not be the center of attention, but have many friends, and are comfortable in their own skin. They’re well balanced, seem to know themselves in and out, aren’t defensive, and don’t take things that are said about them personally.

Ironically, most of my clients who live with people who are high intellect/low emotional intelligence have fairly solid EQ. Sadly, they’ve been convinced by their brainy partners that they’re usually wrong, don’t know what they’re talking about, and should be glad to be with someone who is so much smarter than they are. Often clients’ partners are extremely successful, even brilliant, in their professions. Generally they are men, but not always. They clearly weren’t taught emotional intelligence early on and had to rely on their smartness to bring them success in life. However, they’ve relied so long on their intellect, that they never picked up many emotional or social skills.

Tell me, are the most brilliant people really the happiest ones you know? Of course not. Many intellectuals have terrible habits and little common sense. Often, in fact, they pair up with partners who have high emotional intelligence and unconsciously resent that they need to rely on these partners to navigate life. Because they recognize on some level that they lack what their partners possess and know they’re dependent on them for emotional expertise, they are frightened and have a need to put down such partners to feel less reliant on them. Don’t fall for their put downs and succumb to their lording their brilliance over your mere common sense and social adeptness. Hold your head up high because, according to Goleman, you have a greater chance at happiness than they do. After all, high EQ means standing up for yourself.

On Parents, Power, and Vulnerability
What Do You Think You Deserve?

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