I’m a genius! At least, that’s how I ranked on a free online IQ test I took recently. I had stared at the screen identifying anomalies in shades, colors, circles and squares, finding the differences in groups of objects. I got up and walked away from the computer with a generously confident sense of superior intellect.
Moments later, my superior intellect got me into a heated discussion with my wife over a comment I had made about one of our relatives who was visiting that week (For the record, I’m sure everyone reading this article gets along with ALL their relatives at ALL times). What I said to her in our discussion was completely accurate, but the way I said it to her was utterly wrong. There was nothing that my circles and squares could help me with now. My superior intellect had been put in its place. “Yep, you’re a genius alright,” I told myself.
As a recently married man, no online test could fully prepare me to comprehend the differences that exist between my wife and me (Trust me. I’ve taken several). Don’t get me wrong. I love married life. The varying angles of alternate perspective and unexpected curves in taste not only make life more interesting, but they challenge me to grow. Return to the heated discussion. While I may have been a superior intellect when it came to comparing squares, I was clearly the farthest thing from Einstein-like when it came to empathy. In other words, my IQ was fine, but my EQ needed help. Let me explain.
IQ, of course, stands for Intellectual Quotient. The concept of IQ was coined in 1912 when a German psychologist by the name of William Stern labeled a series of standardized tests for a book proposal to the University of Wroclaw. The academic community needed a common term to define cognitive function and comparative intelligence, and Stern’s became the accepted label.
Intelligence comes in different forms however, and its manifestations are localized in differing parts of the left- and right-brain. Traditional IQ tests were historically drawn from only one part of the left-brain, leading some to question their holistic credibility and to search for alternative forms of measurement.
Emotional intelligence, EQ or EI, was a product of said search. The term first appeared in a 1964 paper by New York psychologist Michael Beldoch. The concept gained popularity in the mid-nineties, and is now a mainstream concept in the arena of personal growth. Emotional intelligence is defined as an ability to control one’s emotions and interpersonal relationships with empathy, to consider how one’s expressions impact others.
In my heated discussion, I had checked the accuracy of my words before speaking, but I hadn’t checked the emotional impact they would have. My wife took the criticism of the one relative as a reflection of herself personally, and while it wasn’t the intent, my words became hurtful. I had lacked empathy. I had failed the EQ test.
In retrospect, I can think of three simple ways to improve emotional intelligence. First, confront with grace and mercy. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Second,express anger or frustration with empathy.Use “I feel” terms and don’t play the blame game. Third, speak the truth with love. Earlier, I had spoken my truth, but I had left out love, which later required me to ask for mercy to correct my mistake.
Thanks to my experience and these steps, my EQ is now increasing by leaps and bounds. On an unrelated note, my future article will discuss how geniuses sleep on sofas.