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Importance of Emotional Intelligence for Young People

Aug 03, 2021

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Emotional intelligence (EI) is an essential yet overlooked factor in the social and academic development of young people. In fact, some studies show that students with higher emotional intelligence tend to achieve more in life.

Similarly, the influential Marshmallow Test suggested a link between students who portrayed characteristics of high emotional intelligence (e.g., self-control and delayed gratification) and better grades. So, what is emotional intelligence and why is it important for kids, young people, and us all, as a matter of fact.

Emotional Intelligence at a Glance:

Consider the following scenario:

SCENARIO 1: A young person lashes out after getting stuck on a math problem or stressing over an exam that is coming up. Or a young person yells at you for failing to buy an item he/she had requested.

SCENARIO 2: Now picture the same young person but this time, he/she first calmly expresses his/her frustration and asks for your help, and the young person understands the reason behind you not buying the items requested.

The varying responses in these two scenarios point to the presence (or lack thereof) of emotional intelligence, which I am sure you can think of many occasions when you have seen people react in a manner which you cannot quite understand. In its simplest form, emotional intelligence (EI) can be defined as the ability to identify, understand, and effectively apply/regulate our emotions. It’s the ability to monitor feelings and discriminate them to effectively guide actions and thoughts. 

Many people I work with, know little or nothing about emotional intelligence and I believe that it should be something that should be taught in schools as early as when a child is seven. These responses might not seem like a big deal, but they are a really important skills.

Although the concept of emotional intelligence has always been a part of human society, it was popularised in the 90s by Daniel Goleman through his widely read book, 'Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ'. 

The whole idea of EI can be described through 5 factors:

1. Self-Awareness: Someone who is self-aware understands their strength and limits, as well as how his/her moods or actions affect others.

2. Self-Regulation: Emotionally intelligent people are able to control their emotions and how they respond to internal/external stimuli.

3. Motivation: This is someone who is optimistic and resilient—regardless of the obstacles in their path.

4. Empathy: Empathy is all about making connections, compassion, and understanding what others feel.

5. Social Skills: Someone who is emotionally intelligent genuinely respects and cares about others—allowing them to get along with other people.

For me, Emotional Intelligence has been one of the most important benefits to my personal and professional life which I believe I developed through difficult times and key moments in my life. 

I have always been a deep thinker and can often overthink situations that have happened or may happen (which then never happen) whether that be in my relationships, a conversation I have had, moon landings or just about life in general.

Over the years, I have had to train my mind to understand that my perceptions of situations or circumstances are not a reality.

Emotional Intelligence Vs Cognitive Intelligence:

For a long time, it was assumed that cognitive intelligence (IQ) was the main determinant of success. However, researchers realised that high intelligence was not a guarantee for a life of accomplishment—but just a piece of the puzzle.

Research shows that both IQ and EI have a part to play in learning outcomes and job performance. For example, people with a high IQ tend to make more money later in life—while those with high emotional intelligence make better leaders. In fact, one study appearing in the Journal of Learning suggests that emotional intelligence might actually be a more important predictor of success than IQ.

In other words, both IQ and EI are important foundations of success—and each deserves equal attention.

How Can Teaching Emotional Intelligence Help Your Child or YOU?

Young people in general face a myriad of challenges every day including embarrassing events, peer pressure, stresses of social interaction whether it be online or in real life, these all have a harmful effect on their mental health. The good news is that it’s possible to improve the emotional intelligence of your child. The 5 factors of emotional intelligence come together to improve their social and learning outcomes.

One of the key roles of EI is shaping how we respond to challenges. For a child with higher EI, it is like a GPS that will allow them to navigate their way around obstacles, move towards more positive outcomes and on the road to a more successful future.

'All learning has an emotional base.” – Plato

It comes down to understanding the perspective of young people and teaching them to be aware of their actions or emotions. At home, you start a conversation around their undesirable feelings and work on strategies to overcome the challenges in a friendly environment.

At Forever Young People (FYP) we focus our work on nurturing positive differences in the lives of children by leverage evidence-based and holistic approaches. This drives them to become better people who are able to regulate their emotions and feel better equipped to handle the obstacles that life has to offer us.

Imagine, growing up being taught about emotional intelligence and actually being given the tools to regulate your emotions instead of ushering them away, then being

hit later on in life and not having an understanding why you are struggling with triggers, reactions, anxiety, and depression. This is why there are so many people using escapism as their tools to cope with life. It all starts at the beginning of your life, as you have experiences and traumatic events that people have never healed from, but if given the correct tools, we can.

The day we are more understanding and have greater empathy towards each other, we will realise that people’s actions are a projection of how they feel about themselves, their perceptions have been coded through their life experiences. Our behaviour is learned, so as a society shouldn’t we be teaching differently to the next generation? That is why I believe that emotional intelligence should be awarded the same level of attention as IQ and that is why at FYP our programmes have so much emphasis on this.

Thank you for reading.

Peace and Love always, Ash x