THE OPEN MIND
Guest: Dr. Daniel Goleman
Title: Emotional Intelligence: Beyond Our I.Q.’s
I’m Richard Heffner, your host on the open mind. And this program is about mapping, with some precision, the human heart. About speaking and acting with some authority about the urgent and perplexing questions posed by the psyche at its most irrational. In short, it is about what my guest today calls “emotional intelligence,” about recognizing and fostering, beyond our I.Q.’s, such abilities as self-control, zeal, and persistence, self-motivation, and teaching these skills to our children, giving them what he calls “a better chance to use whatever intellectual potential the genetic lottery may have given them.”
Daniel Goleman covers the behavioral sciences and the brain sciences for The New York Times. And his articles appear in syndication around the world. His new book, “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than I.Q.”, is published by Bantam Books.
Now, nearly a decade ago, when Dr. Goleman joined me on The Open Mind to discuss his earlier book, “Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deprecation,” I admitted to enormous envy at his ability to report so regularly and to write so perceptively about so many of our times’ most intensely interesting scientific concepts and endeavors in the making. It seemed to me too that his reportage was always in the service of harnessing knowledge for humankind’s betterment. Optimism incarnate. And now I would ask Dr. Goldman if this brilliant book, “Emotional Intelligence,” doesn’t mark an even higher level of faith that what he calls this past decade’s “unparalleled burst of scientific studies of emotions, its dramatic glimpses of the brain at work,” really for the first time are putting us at our own disposal. Is that what you’re saying, Dr. Goleman? Finally, at long last what we’re coming to know, and what you’re reporting about what we’re coming to know about the brain is really enabling us to be our own masters?
GOLEMAN: Well, I think we’ve always had the potential to be our own masters. And I think it’s as true as it ever was. I think what’s different is that we have a new scientific understanding of what that means. We also have very hopeful data for the first time of what it would mean to try to methodically cultivate the human heart, as you put it, and the skills and competencies that arise from our emotional abilities. To cultivate that systematically in ourselves and our children. And the data seems to be very hopeful if we would try that.
HEFFNER: But, you know, you describe a world that is not all that pleasant, a world that is rife with violence, with disturbance. We are the same people who you believe will put to such benevolent use this new understanding. How could it be?
GOLEMAN: Well, I think the time has come for this because we’re desperate, to tell you the truth. The data I cite isn’t anything anyone else hasn’t seen; it’s from the newspapers. It’s the fact that, in the last two decades, for example, homicide among teenagers quadrupled. Rape among teenagers has tripled. Suicide also. There are these headline figures which are very, very alarming. And I think beneath that there’s a larger disintegration of emotional malaise, particularly among children. The most telling data I found in researching this book was a national random survey of American kids, and they were rated by their parents and teachers—these are grownups who are doing real well—first in the mid-70’s, then in the late ‘80’s. And over the decade and a half, America’s children got worse on every measure of emotional ability. They were more aggressive, more impulsive, more hot-tempered, more disobedient, more likely to get in fights, more sad, more lonely, more stubborn, more moody. They went down across the board. It’s a real crisis, I think. And I think because of this, and because we’re getting messages about this in our personal lives, and in the newspapers and our collective lives, I think now we’re ready to start thinking about what we can do to reverse the tide. And there, as I said, I think the answer is quite hopeful.
HEFFNER: well, I, as I read your really very exciting book, as I always read your columns, I wonder now, does Dan Goleman, is this a function of his sense of absolute necessity? Or is it a function of what is really happening in the world. I sometimes wonder whether you aren’t so beset by the thought that we must do something, that that is the father to, that thought becomes the gather to some of this optimism that you express.
GOLEMAN: Well, I think feeling that you must do something is very different from knowing that you can do something. And the reason I’m hopeful is I looked around and I found out we can do something. I’ll tell you what it is. We can raise our kids differently. That is we can go back to raising them the way we used to raise them. But I think to do it now in the modern world we have to make a real change in what the schools do.
What I discovered is that there are a handful of exemplary pilot programs in what you’d have to call emotional literacy. These are programs in which they teach kids, as a regular course, not just math, and not just English, but how to handle their emotions and their relationships. And they do it first grade through twelfth grade. They teach kids things like handling impulse—which is an absolutely key skill—how to manage your anger, how to soothe yourself, when you’re anxious, how to think of a range of things to do when you’re upset instead of just one, like yelling or hitting, for example. They teach them how to stay motivated and how to persist despite setbacks. They teach them hot do get along, how to empathize, how to take another kid’s perspective. These are the basic skills of emotional intelligence. And the outcome data in comparison studies, control groups and so on, show, when you teach this stuff to kids, they learn it. And that’s the change I think we have to make. I think we have to start teaching this to kids more systematically.
HEFFNER: So, a) you’re saying we can…
HEFFNER: b) you’re saying we have to…
HEFFNER: and c) you’re saying it works, it really does work.
GOLEMAN: Well, I’ve say in classrooms, for example, in New Haven, which is in one of the most troubled school districts you can imagine. New Haven is a town where 20 years ago there were 30,000 industrial jobs; now there are about 1,500. Huge unemployment, huge poverty. The odds that a teenager would graduate, an eighth grader would graduate high school in New Haven are 50 percent. The highest pediatric AIDS rate in the country. The rate of sexual activity among sixth grade girls is 25 percent, and the usual time for a girl to get pregnant and drop out of high schools is somewhere after eighth grade. This is a terrible situation for a kid to grow up in. And about seven or eight years ago, the superintendent in New Haven called together 100 concerned citizens, and he said, “This is terrible. We’ve got to do something for our kids. What can we do?” And what they came up with, among other things, was a program in what they call social development. It really is a systematic training in emotional skills. And they’ve been doing it for four or five years, phasing it in to all the schools now, 19,000 kids get this as part of their education. And the classrooms I saw were wonderful. For example, picture this. A middle school classroom. On the wall of every room there’s a poster. It’s a stoplight. Red light, yellow light, green light. And by the right light, it says, “Whenever you’re upset, whenever you have a problem first stop, calm down, and think before you act.” Second step, yellow light, “Think of a range of things you could do—not just one thing, but a range of things you could do—and what their consequences would be.” Green light, “Pick the best one, and go ahead and try it.” It’s a fabulous education in the basics of emotional intelligence. Stop: impulse control. Calm down: that’s managing your own moods. Think before you act: that’s bringing some reason into passion, into impulse, And thinking of a range of consequences and choices: that’s expanding a kid’s repertoire of choice, so that, for example, instead of, if you’re angry, you just automatically yell or hit, now you think about it and you have a wider range of choice. Look, for example, one kid says to me, “You know, this kid was dissing my sneakers.” Now, in the culture of a 12-year old boy in New Haven, if a kid makes fun of your shoes, you have to fight him. It’s practically the law, or has been in the past. But in this school, a kid says, “Well, he was dissing my sneaks, but, you know what I said? I said, ‘Well, I don’t agree with you. I like those shoes.’” That’s a fabulous change. And, in fact, the principal there told me the number of fights in the school has just plummeted.
HEFFNER: Now you’re saying temperament is part of emotion, and you’ve said that temperament isn’t destiny, that you can modify, mold…
GOLEMAN: That’s right.
HEFFNER: …treat temperament and emotion. You’re saying something else too, it seems to me. You’re saying that emotional I.Q. has it all over, in a sense, intellectual I.Q. You’re giving us some hope. You’re sort of saying intellectual I.Q., intelligence quotient, is destiny.
GOLEMAN: Well, I think that some would argue, as The Bell Curve did…
GOLEMAN: …that I.Q. is fixed. Actually, the data shows that is can be raised, through special training, maybe ten or 15 points, which is a significant degree. But that aside…
HEFFNER: But nowhere near as much as the emotional quotient can.
GOLEMAN: Well, here’s the key fact. The centers in the brain that regulate emotional abilities and social skills and interpersonal confidence are among the last part of the brain to become fully mature. And the brain shapes itself through childhood according to experience. So the repeated emotional lessons of a child’s life literally shape that child’s brain. And things that a kid hears most often, does most often, strengthen the circuitry for that. And the alternatives wither. So this means that a child’s emotional brain is literally taking shape through childhood into adolescence. We’ve left it to random chance. And I Think the signs are we can no longer do that.
Now, it also means that emotional intelligence is learned, and that it increase, or can increase, steadily through childhood, in fact, through adulthood. It’s never too late to learn or to improve; it just takes longer to chance the circuitry in adulthood. But in childhood we have this window of opportunity to get it right in the first place.
HEFFNER: Doesn’t that scare you, in a sense?
GOLEMAN: Well, what scares me is what the present trends are in terms of what a child’s life is like. I think childhood has changed radically. It’s not what it was when you were a kid, it’s now what it was when I was a kid. For one thing, parents—it’s not that they don’t love the kids as much—it’s just that they can’t spend the kid of time with their children that their parents spent with them. Economics has changed the whole game of parenting. You know, if there are two parents in the family, they’re both working. Maybe they’re holding three jobs between them just to keep it together. There’s a saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Villages aren’t working for kids anymore. More and more families live in neighborhoods where they feel it’s not safe for the kids to play in certain parts, you know, on the street. God forbid they should go in a neighbor’s house. That change with the relationship of a kid to the adults in his surroundings who might have helped him with this skill.
The other thing that’s happened is, I think, an unintended consequence of technology. More and more kids spend more and more hours watching TV or glued to a computer screen, which simply means they’re not out playing with each other. And, you know, as a kid, you learn a lot of this stuff. How to get along, how to fit in, how to harmonize, how to settle disputes. You learn it in the rough and tumble of play, Kids don’t play together as much as they did. So what’s happened is that, unintentionally, social trends and technological trends have impacted childhood so that kids no longer, in the natural course of things, pick up skills that once were a natural part of growing up. And because they don’t get it where they used to, I think we have to be more intentional about giving it to them.
HEFFNER: Well, in a nation of latchkey children, aren’t you then saying we must experience a transvaluation of vales? That indeed we have. Parents aren’t around.
HEFFNER: The old notion that the family minister or rabbi or priest, the family doctor, the family attorney, those friend or teacher, come into our homes and participate in family life with us. That’s gone. And the television or the computer screen…
GOLEMAN: That’s the babysitter.
HEFFNER: …is the babysitter.
HEFFNER: The reason I ask you whether you aren’t a little fearful about this is, whether the mechanistic approach that it seems to me that you advocate may not fall—in who else’s hands will it fall—may not fall in the hands of those who, in this window of opportunity that you talk about, will be more than happy to manipulate, to change, to mold the minds of young children, and maybe not along the lines that you’ve discussed in this wonderful book.
GOLEMAN: Well, actually, that possibly didn’t really occur to me until this moment. It’s not something that I fear. It’s not something I thought about. Because I feel that the people who will be doing this are the people who are teaching kids now. I think they’re well-intended people. I don’t see anything sinister about them. I don’t see anything malevolent about the people that are trying to introduce such programs. They’re quite well intended, and the programs themselves seem very sound in what they teach kids. For example, impulse control, handling your anger well, empathizing, which is really the root of caring and compassion. The things that are being taught, I think, are quite benevolent. I think it’s simply that they’re doing what isn’t being done for kids now. And helping kids tremendously.
HEFFNER: You know, I just did my seminar at Rutgers, have just assigned my students, before I read the book, “Brave New World” and “1984.” That’s why I raise the question: isn’t there some concern on your part? Because again that window of opportunity…
GOLEMAN: Well, I think that in a fascistic country, you know, the Kmer Rouge certainly used that window of opportunity differently. They were breeding terrorists. I don’t see that as a danger in our American democracy today. I really don’t.
HEFFNER: Yes, but you’re talking about a nation that has cared so little that it has let its children fall into the kind of structure that you would describe. How benevolent are we.
GOLEMAN: Yeah. I don’t see that as having been a malevolent motive that had that happen. I think what’s happening to our children is an unintended consequence of larger forces at work. The macroeconomy, for example, which is forcing, which is stretching families and parents as never before. The technological changes. Whenever you interfere with a complex system, systems theory tells us, no matter what you’re trying to do, when you invest an antibiotic, which is for a good reason, there are unintended consequences. The unintended consequences, we’re now learning, is that we’re breeding germs that resist antibiotics. The more general lesson is that every large change, for example, introducing television, introducing computer CD-ROMs, educational CD-ROMs, wonderful concept. Unintended consequence: Hey, kids don’t play together as they used to. I think we’ve got to get smarted about seeing hoe these larger trends are affecting kids and what kind of human beings that’s turning them into and helping them along.
HEFFNER: Okay. Unintended consequences. We have unintentionally done this to our children. Now we are going to take steps to educate them emotionally. Are you so sanguine about those in whose hands we shall place their emotional education?
GOLEMAN: Well, Dick, give me a scenario. I mean, you seem to be quite fearful of it.
HEFFNER: You’re darned tootin’. You’re darn tootin’.
GOLEMAN: What are you thinking of? Let’s entertain the possibilities.
HEFFNER: I’m thinking of the same argument that has gone on, the discussion about teaching moral values in the schools. And I was thinking of a program that I did with Mario Cuomo back many, many years ago about teaching moral values. And I wondered whether this isn’t the same thing. I mean, how much of a jump is there from teaching emotional maturity, emotional intelligence, and teaching moral values. Then the question comes up: Whose concepts of value or maturity? If it’s yours and mine, great. But I’m afraid it’s not going to be, necessarily.
GOLEMAN: Well, for one thing, let me make it clear that the courses I’ve seen are not values education. It’s a completely different game. Values education poses kids ethical conundrums, it gives them a, you know, a word of the week, a slogan of the week, which becomes a focus for discussion. It’s actually a conceptual kind of teaching. This is really skills training for life. In a sense, it’s value free. It isn’t trying to impose any moral agenda. It’s trying to help kids get along. I guess it is. I’ll tell you the tow core values. It teaches kids how to be happier and more productive, and it teaches kids how to get along better with each other. Now, if that doesn’t fit into your value structure somewhere, I think we can all agree that there’s really, you know, that’s good.
HEFFNER: Hey, Dan, we’re talking about, you’re talking about economic forces. You begin there. But, doggone it, when we had a different set of values, larger economic forces could stand on their heads and it wouldn’t change a parent’s concept of what he or she owed to the children. When you live in a society in which dog eats dog and we stand by the sidelines and applaud, those are values. That’s a kind of emotional intelligence. You’re talking about, you’re making an assumption about this emotional maturity, emotional intelligence, that I think might not always be shared by those who are in the catbird seats in our society. Is that unfair?
GOLEMAN: Well, I suppose it’s a possible scenario. It’s just that I haven’t seen anything like that happening. And the outcomes I Have seen, and the lessons that are being taught, are so basically good and, frankly, non-controversial, that I supposed in some possible world it could happen, but I don’t see it happening.
HEFFNER: But you’re talking about cooperation. The emotional value is focused on cooperation. It seems to me every example you give is based upon cooperation, not get what you can when you can, because that is what makes the machinery of society go round.
GOLEMAN: Well, I would disagree with your assumption, Dick. I think that, for example, if you’re running a business, and you’re trying to compete in this world, you want people working for you who cooperate. You don’t want people who are dog-eat-dog, completely out for themselves. You want a working team. And one of the things this is teaching kids is how to be part of a team. It’s also teaching them how to know what they really want and how to represent themselves with integrity, how to manage their inner life, how to be productive. One of the interesting lessons has to do with optimism and pursuing goals. There’s a real, actually a fabulous stuffy about this that was done at the Met Life Insurance Company, where a psychologist, Martin Seligman, convinced the personnel people to take on as employees a group of people who otherwise would not have met the criterion for new salespeople. But they scored very high in a test of optimism. And as a beginning insurance salesman, you have the most thankless job. What you do is, you make cold calls. You call people, “Hello, I’m from Met Life.” And the answer is “click” more often than not. People hang up on you. If you’re pessimistic, you react to that in one way: you say, “Geez, I’m no good at this. I can’t get this right. I may as well quit.” You blame yourself. If you’re optimistic, people who are optimists have a very different way of looking at setbacks. They say, “Not my problem; his problem. He was in a bad mood,” Or, “Well, maybe I should try another approach.” In other words, they see it as due to the situation and something they can change. So the optimists keep plugging away. After two years, the optimists outsold everybody else by 40 percent, they quit at less than half the rate of others.
Now, the lesson of being able to look at the world this way is a very good one for kids, because its’ going to help them keep going toward the goals despite setbacks and frustrations.
HEFFNER: What’s happened…You know, I was just thinking, if I could rustle through my papers here…
HEFFNER: …and find the transcript of our program together nearly a decade ago. At the end of it, I asked you the question that I so frequently ask about pessimism and optimism. And you sort of conceded at the very end that you weren’t all that optimistic. You’ve changed in this decade.
GOLEMAN: Well, that was a different book and a different topic, you’ll remember.
HEFFNER: Oh, I understand that. But the same guy.
GOLEMAN: Same guy. Uh huh.
HEFFNER: And has it been the scientific discoveries that you’ve covered since that time…
GOLEMAND: Yeah. I’m actually…I’ve seen in the last decade a burst of new findings about emotions and about the brain and abouthow programs like this actually can make people reverse trends that had been very disturbing to me ten years ago. And that being the case, I’ve become an optimist. It’s true. I’ve converted.
HEFFNER: Had you studied with Skinner?
GOLEMAN: I knew Fred Skinner, but he wasn’t my brand of psychologist.
HEFFNER: Yet this sounds so much like…
GOLEMAN: This is nothing like…
HEFFNER: The Skinner Box?
GOLEMAN: Absolutely not. The Skinner Box was about as emotionally unintelligent s you can imagine. It was the opposite of the kinds of things I’m seeing as very positive, and describe in the book. For example, the Skinner box, Fred Skinner, who I knew when I was at Harvard, was very well-intended. He thought that it would be great if…Now, I think the Skinner box is commonly misunderstood. People don’t know what it actually was. He thought it would be a wonderful, germ-free environment for kids to play in. That’s what it was. And he actually put his daughter in the Skinner box.
GOLEMAN: Who, by the way, did not become psychotic, contrary to popular myth or rumor. The problem is that kids, particularly infants and toddlers, need a lot of contact and a lot of interaction, because the emotional brain is beginning to form, and the kids learn to soothe themselves, for example, as infants, from Mom picking them up, holding the, rocking them, and helping them calm down when they’re crying. Kids learn empathy or the ability to understand how another is feeling, the roots of empathy are in the attunement of a mother to a baby, and the sense that, yes, someone understands how I feel. So the kind of crucial lessons you need in emotional life were exactly the opposite of the Skinner box.
HEFFNER: Yes, but what reminded me of the Skinner box, and of Skinner, was the sense of molding, of molding that is so basic to your emotional intelligence.
GOLEMAN: Well, I think, you know, it can’t be denied that parents mold their children emotionally, and that’s why we have a huge industry of psychotherapists, to try to remold themselves years alter. That’s absolutely true.
HEFFNER: You know, we have, what, 30 seconds left to this program. And the people in the control room go berserk when I say, “Would you stay where you are and let us go on with this program.” What I really mean, if you’ll stay where you are, we’ll do another program that will be seen next week.
HEFFNER: And I hope you’ll do that.
GOLEMAN: Sure. I’d love to.
HEFFNER: Thanks so much for joining me today with this discussion of emotional intelligence, why it can matter more than I.Q. Dan Goleman, thanks very much.
GOLEMAN: A pleasure.
HEFFNER: And thanks, too, to you in the audience. I hope you join us again next time as well. And if you’d like to share your thoughts about our program today, please write to: The Open Mind, P.O. Box 7977, FDR Station, New York, NY 10150. For transcripts, send $4 in check or money order.
Meanwhile, as another old friend used to say, “Good night, and good luck.”