In a profession filled with high IQs, there is evidence that working on your emotional intelligence (or EI) can pay dividends in your professional and personal life.
The education and training in law schools traditionally focused almost exclusively on developing the cognitive ability to solve legal problems. Emotions were discouraged and even criticized as a sign of weakness. Research in more recent years confirms the relevance of emotions in decision-making and the benefit of well-managed emotions to career success and personal satisfaction.
The Yale researcher in the 1990s who coined the term Emotional Intelligence found that the most sophisticated information processing and decision-making occur when we employ not only cognitive ability but also emotion. For a brief history and explanation of Emotional Intelligence, please see the ABA article by Ronda Muir, Emotional Intelligence for Lawyers. She explains,
research has established that rational decision-making is impaired if the area of the brain relating to emotions is damaged or excised. It has now been scientifically demonstrated that the best analyses and decisions are made when we engage the emotions, as well as the intellect. For lawyers, the message is clearly that, in order to upgrade their performance, they should use the additional data available from their own and others’ emotions to enhance their cognitive skills.
In his best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman reported research showing the traditional IQ test only accounts for 20% of a person’s success in life. “Psychologists have concluded that a portion of the missing factors lies in Emotional Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be aware of our own emotions and others and to control our own emotions while empathizing with the emotions of others.
Law schools place a high value on intellect and cognitive ability and we are not wrong to do so. Lawyers as a group have higher than average IQ scores. Some assume the IQ is an accurate predictor of success after law school, and it is – but only to a point. Lawyers “exhibit high average IQ scores (in the 115-130 range), while at the same time scoring lower than the general population on Emotional Intelligence (85-95).” Emotional intelligence is a better predictor of success when IQ is similar, according to Ronda Muir, in “Emotional Intelligence for Lawyers.”
What is Emotional Intelligence?
As a general matter, emotional intelligence refers to a person’s ability to recognize, understand, and manage one’s own and others’ emotional state to relate and work well with others. One approach to EI is to consider four aspects:
- What a person knows about themselves (self-awareness);
- What a person does with this understanding of their emotions to control or guide their impulses (self-management or regulation);
- What a person knows about others (social awareness); and
- What a person does with the awareness of others to use that information to build relationships and work well with others (relationship management).
Enhancing one’s Emotional Intelligence takes commitment to developing emotional competencies (self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills) through sustained practice, coaching, and feedback.
Spend time this month exploring emotional intelligence. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, start with:
- Read more about Emotional Intelligence. Starting with Emotional Intelligence for Lawyers
- Take an assessment to measure your EI. An internet search will find some free quizzes but since we are not able to endorse their validity, we direct you to Daniel Goleman’s website and a resource he recommends for Emotional intelligence tests evaluated.
- Participate in an exercise to enhance your emotional intelligence. Below is one that is included in chapter 14 of Fundamentals for Lawyer Leadership.
Record Your Observation
Pick two different scenarios where you can observe a group without participating in the group. You also should be far enough away that you cannot hear what the individuals are saying to one another. Write down what actions you observe and what you think they mean. For example, if someone frowns, do you think that person is angry, is sad, disagreed with another person, or something else? Was the emotion directed at another person in the group or someone who you do not think was present? Spend at least ten minutes observing each group.