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Book review: Working with Emotional Intelligence

Working with Emotional Intelligence Working with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Interpersonal skills are especially important in Information Technology, because purely technical skills are easily outsourced. I've become increasingly aware of this since I launched my technology services company, OptimWise, because although many aspects of IT are based online, real business is still mostly done "IRL" (in real life); where face-to-face conversations and other social skills are much more important.

A local entrepreneur recommended this book for its insights into the "soft" personal skills that become more important as they become rarer in the digital world.

I didn't find a lot of practical information here. I don't disagree with Goleman's studies or analysis, but I rate non-fiction books based on the measurable value I get out of them, and I found his below average. The best non-fiction books are those that leave me with a long to-do list of improvements I can start on right away; this mostly confirmed that I need to continue developing my social skills. Although I didn't learn anything life-altering, it does present a powerful case for how important interpersonal skills are to success.

According to Goleman,
"Emotional Intelligence" refers to your capacity to recognize your own feelings and those of others, for motivating yourself, and for managing emotions well in yourself and in your relationships. It describes abilities distinct from, but complementary to, academic intelligence, the purely cognitive capabilities measured by IQ. Many people who are book smart but lack emotional intelligence end up working for people who have lower IQs than they but who excel in emotional intelligence skills."

Why EI is more important than IQ
- IQ only accounts for 25% of your career success, at most.
- "Soft" skills matter even more in "hard" (technical) fields than other fields, because they make you stand out even more.
- Emotional competencies are twice as important as technical/cognitive competencies.
- The higher up or more advanced the job, the less important technical skills become, and the more important the interpersonal/emotional skills become.
- At the highest levels of leadership, 90% of the skills required are emotional.
- IQ is genetic, and doesn't change much after your teens, but EI is learned and can be improved throughout life.
- Technical skills can be taught relatively easily in the classroom, but emotional skills must be obtained more difficultly through life experiences.

Goleman fills the book with statistical data, firsthand reports, and dozens of examples of individuals and companies. He also includes several comparisons of people who began with similar skills and backgrounds, but one person developed their emotional competencies while the other focused on technical skills. Fast-forward a few decades, and those who concentrated on the emotional skills were more successful.

Most of the book deals with EI at the individual level, but the later chapters talk about organizational intelligence. He suggests ways to train employees by focusing on honesty, openness, communication, and teamwork. Rather than each individual trying to be a star, they should instead help everyone else be a star.

The 5 basic emotional and social competencies
Self-awareness: Knowing what we are feeling in the moment, and using those preferences to guide our decision making; having a realistic assessment of our own abilities and a well grounded sense of self confidence.

Self-regulation: Having control over our emotions so that they facilitate rather then interfere with the task in hand; being conscientious and delaying gratification to pursue goals; recovering well from emotional distress.

Motivation: Using our deepest preferences to move and guide us towards our goals, to help us take initiative and strive to improve, and to persevere in the face of setbacks and frustrations.

Empathy: Sensing what people are feeling, being able to take their perspective, and cultivating rapport and attunement with a broad diversity of people.

Social skills: Handling emotions in relationships well and accurately reading social situations and networks; interacting smoothly; using these skills to persuade and lead, negotiate and settle disputes, for cooperation and teamwork.

Take time out to do nothing and reflect on your values and passions.
Having skills isn't enough; you must believe in them to promote yourself.
Train yourself to withstand "amygdala hijacks": when your brain responds to an emotional event by going into crisis mode, which halts complex thought and triggers knee-jerk responses.
Balance the competencies. For example, too much self-control limits innovation.

The most rewarding parts of work are the creative challenge and stimulation, and the chance to keep learning.
Find your "flow": the state of mind where you're so engaged that you get lost in your work, enjoy the challenge, do your best work, and have fun.
Set your goals so high that you only hit 50% of them.
Declarative knowledge (knowing a concept and its technical details) isn't as valuable as procedural knowledge (being able to put the concept and details into action).

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