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I love when business recognizes the value of empathy and emotional intelligence in the workplace and the value of the social sciences in all walks of life. It is so often misunderstood, that people lose their humanity in pursuit of purely analytical thinking, control, dominance and manipulating weaknesses. In fact, the concept of these black and white traits have been identified as least likely admired or identified in those characteristics desired in others.

Some of the earlier ideas about what constitutes intelligence were studied by numerous researchers and psychologists and determined that cognition was not the only factor to the variety of ways in which people are smart. Several researchers and contributors to this field are well known in bringing awareness and understanding of the multiple ways in which people learn, grow and develop.

In 1983, Howard Gardner’s Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligence introduced the idea of multiple intelligences. This work began to impact modalities in education and the acknowledgment that learners were not strictly visual or auditory in their capabilities. In understanding the various ways in which people are smart, as well as developing methods to appeal to those whose strengths and ability to learn are driven by as many as nine personal strengths, teachers, psychologists, managers, colleagues, and parents discovered the many ways of processing information in others and had another utensil in their toolbox of skills . Two of those competencies include interpersonal intelligence (the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people) and intrapersonal intelligence (the capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate one’s feelings, fears and motivations).

Daniel Goleman began writing about Emotional Intelligence in 1995. Emotional intelligence competencies are learned abilities like the drive to achieve and emotional self-control, both of which build on underlying EI components like self-management. The four domains of emotional intelligence expand understanding through the inside and outside of one’s thinking and behavioral development. The domains are: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.

His work has been utilized in the personal and professional arenas. His article “What Makes a Leader” has been called one of the Harvard Business Review’s top ten “must read” articles. He wrote about three abilities that distinguish the best leaders from average: self-awareness, which both lets you know your strengths and limits, and strengthens your inner ethical radar; self-management, which lets you lead yourself effectively; and empathy, which lets you read other people accurately. You put all those together in every act of leadership.

In a recent interview, Daniel Goleman stressed the crucial importance of psychology in understanding the needs of people. His use of Emotional Intelligence in leadership studies emphasizes the human element necessary in those skills needed to drive customers or employees because it is all based on people’s emotions.

For employees, how a leader makes them feel plays a large role in their level of motivation, commitment, and even drives their brain in (or out of) the best zone for marshaling whatever cognitive abilities and skills they bring to the job. For customers and clients, how they feel about their interactions with the people in an organization determines how they feel about the company as a whole.

Developing your best self by defining your passion, or the ubiquitous follow your bliss, is at its root the use of your emotional intelligence. This is part of finding your drive, presenting your spark and gaining a following and understanding of yourself and others. The use of multiple and emotional intelligences is critical to successful relationships in a wide range of arenas including between teachers and students, as well as, parents and children.

Sales may involve widgets, tangibles, and intangibles, but ultimately, the client is also buying the person selling those items. Products are available online, in brick and mortar establishments and through more and more flash and auction sites. The difference is how the transaction makes one feel about the person selling and providing the product and service. Daniel Pink echoes these thoughts in his most recent book To Sell is Human. Daniel Pink, a best-selling author, highlights the use of social science to create attunement and buoyancy whether in sales, cajoling kids, or acknowledging how we present ourselves to each other in our daily communications and interactions.

Another new book, The Athena Doctrine, written by John Gerzema, identifies the research and results of using more “female” natural abilities, sometimes identified as soft skills in the workplace. In his testing, he asked 64,000 women and men in 13 countries to classify 125 human traits–half of the sample by gender and the other half by which are most important to leadership, success, morality, and happiness today.

They consistently picked what they considered “feminine traits” or values–such as selflessness, empathy, collaboration, flexibility, and patience–as the most important. Legitimately, behavior does not have to be seen as feminine, or unmanly, as social science and other forms of non-classical intelligence quotient prove success among all genders, locations, ages, and belief systems.

Empathy is such a critical value that it benefits the workplace and personal lives as it is fundamental to success, morality and happiness.

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal wrote about the neurology and mental wellness associated with traits like empathy and social awareness. Critical brain pathways and networks are involved in our appraisals and understanding of social and emotional situations. The very delicate balance and neural connections contribute to our personal emotions, behaviors, and personality. Research studies have shown that one of the early indicators of health problems is the loss of the ability to empathize. Empathy helps us to correctly read and figure out meaningful emotional and environmental stimuli. Healthy brain function triggers messages to us to understand appropriate responses. Another social deficit in early illness is the inability to recognize insincerity and sarcasm. This becomes important in identifying social functioning in autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Schizophrenia, Dementia and other disorders and spectrums that affect the brain.

Empathy is one of the most complex social skills and behaviors as it utilizes so many executive brain functions. The ability to read people, see the interactions, discriminate between sincere and insincere comments and actions, process information, and respond appropriately within social contexts and to another’s personal needs is a multi-layered healthy brain perception and emotional process.

Extending empathy, kindness, charity, openness, honesty, clarity, and awareness of others and their needs, creates healthier people and environments. Empathy is not a weakness but rather a strength to be admired, desired, and shared.


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