Emotional intelligence is neutral. It is best thought of as a tool to be developed and used. This article will explain why embracing this simple concept and viewpoint is incredibly useful.
BTW – if you prefer an audio version of this, I have included one just for you at the end of this article.
Nature versus nurture and why it does not matter
Emotional intelligence or EI covers self-awareness, self-regulation, understanding others and managing relationships. These are known as the pillars of EI. This compact list accounts for everything we do in life and work.
Emotional intelligence is *important, and I believe few people would argue with the statement.
All other things being equal, having more emotional intelligence is better than having less emotional intelligence. Clearly, having more emotional intelligence makes you a more emotionally intelligent person. Straightforward enough.
There are endless debates on whether certain human characteristics, like EI, are the result of nature or nurture or both. Is EI an inherent human characteristic? Do we get what we get and have to work with it and that’s it? Is it all about simply learning to be more emotionally intelligent? What if we don’t get enough nurture? Does that make us good or bad?
Too many questions. Too much philosophising. Forget it all and keep things simple. Treat emotional intelligence as a neutral tool and you will have something valuable to work with.
Subjective versus objective
Terms like good or bad, better or worse, nice or nasty, etc… are subjective terms or measures. They depend entirely on the measurer’s perspective or point of view. They are variable in interpretation depending on context and the people doing the interpreting.
The opposite of subjective is objective. Objective measures are mutually agreed things. Things which are as near to being universal as practical given our current knowledge about the world. They create consistency and confidence. A second is a second, a metre is a metre, a kilogram is a kilogram, etc…
What emotional intelligence does not make you is either an objectively better person or an objectively worse person – you and the people you interact with will determine that measurement. These determinations are subjective. Your EI level is neutral. The determinations are not.
Think of a hammer for instance. It is a neutral tool. Neither good nor bad until used. You can use it to bang in nails or you can hit somebody on the head, but it is still only a hammer.
Emotional intelligence is neutral. It is therefore very useful to consider it as being just a neutral tool. A neutral tool to be developed and used as you see fit.
Emotional intelligence is entirely neutral
So, emotional intelligence is a completely neutral concept. It is what it is.
Like a hammer in your DIY toolbox, EI is a tool in your interpersonal toolbox. EI can be developed. You can have more or less of it ranging on a scale from zero to high. The skills you pick up in terms of the four EI pillars can then be used in any way you like.
You choose whether emotional intelligence is “good” or “bad”
Having emotional intelligence does not automatically create anything other than emotional intelligence.
If you intend to be a socially good person, there are some steps you will need to take. You will gather as much information as you can about what determines a “good” person in your personal and social context. You will then work towards achieving that status. If you have well-developed emotional intelligence that will help you to be “good,” but it will not make you good. You must do that yourself.
You could also intend to be “bad” in the same way.
Emotional intelligence is just a neutral tool for you to use in ways which you choose.
Other people get a vote
The results you get might fully satisfy your own subjective intention. The two emotional intelligence pillars of self-awareness and self-regulation cover this.
Most of us, however, live in proximity with other people. We are part of larger systems. That is why emotional intelligence also has understanding others and managing relationships as two of the four pillars.
Other people in these systems get a vote on whether you are “good” or “bad.” These other people also have varying levels of emotional intelligence. I never said this would be easy.
There is what you perceive and there is what other people perceive.
Monitor your emotional intelligence results
The responsibility for all this is entirely yours. You should be in control.
You cannot directly control other people, but you can influence them to a greater or lesser extent. How and why you do that is entirely up to you.
Emotional intelligence is neutral but the effect you have on the world is not.
Keeping an eye on this is a full-time job and a job for life.
Use your emotional intelligence to keep your effects on the world as you intend them to be.
Balance your perceptions and intentions with what other people perceive and feed back to you.
I have used the term “important” here followed by a strong assertion that everyone would agree with me. This is of course a wholly subjective and opinionated statement. This topic might be important to me but not necessarily to you. It is your choice whether it is important or not. You will see this confident and assertive style of language everywhere. It suggests the words used are objective matters of fact which simply cannot be challenged. Language can be very slippery, and communication is often highly ambiguous as a result. Beware of this type of language used both by you and others. Observe it and challenge it whenever you can.
That’s all for this one
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PS Do you want to maximise your emotional self-control? Here is a link to my very useful and totally FREE Rapid Emotional State Management Technique audio file which you can download, listen to, and then learn to manage your emotional states with confidence. You’ll also join my monthly newsletter community. In the unlikely event that you don’t like it, an unsubscribe option is available.
PPS Here is the audio version of this article if you would prefer to listen.