Emotional Intelligence: A Different Kind of Smart
I’ve often thought it strange that education seems to focus solely on intellectual skills. It has baffled me that we expect people to be able to communicate effectively, handle stress, or negotiate conflict without ever being taught how. That is the focus of NYU Law’s Emotional Intelligence (EQ) workshop: to help students become aware of a non-academic set of skills necessary for effective leadership in any career. NYU Law developed the EQ workshop based on feedback from employers asking for students who have the interpersonal skills necessary to better understand, empathize, and negotiate with other people.
I was drawn to the EQ workshop as a way to develop and hone attributes that would make me a successful leader. The first session began with a question: imagine someone who has been influential in your life, and name one or two of their attributes. The list we came up with included funny, smart, good listener, sincere, invested in my future, happy, wise, etc. With few exceptions, the list was composed of attributes that weren’t taught in law school. While the workshop emphasized the importance of competence and hard work, the focus was on developing soft skills to complement our scholastic pursuits.
The EQ approach focuses on four areas: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management. The workshop is intended only as an introduction to these concepts and presents only a few strategies for improving in any of the areas, but after completing the workshop the participants are invited to complete a more detailed self-assessment that provides students with a rating in each of the four areas. I took the online assessment. It gave me a helpful diagnosis of my biggest issues in each area, and also provided me with a list of strategies to help me emphasize my strengths and make improvements in weaker areas.
I was pleased to discover that my self-awareness was particularly strong, and my social awareness and relationship management weren’t far behind. My trouble was self-management, which wasn’t too much of a surprise to someone who rated so highly in self-awareness. According to the assessment, what hurt my self-management score the most was the difficulty I have in making the most out of all situations, and the suggested improvement strategy was to focus on my freedoms instead of my limitations. For me this makes a lot of sense. I tend to be frustrated when things don’t go according to my plan, and I dwell on my to-do list, which can be overwhelming at times. I would be happier and more productive if I were to focus my attention on my opportunities. I’ve made a goal to implement this and other suggested strategies, and I will retest myself in a few months to check my progress. The EQ strategies recommended by the assessment are all outlined in detail in the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0.
The problem with the EQ workshop is that it is too brief. With only two sessions, you don’t really have the time to dedicate to fully understanding and improving your emotional intelligence and the related skills. In the future I hope to see an expansion of this workshop, but for now it is a good introduction, and the online assessment is a valuable tool to help you monitor and improve in all four areas of emotional intelligence.