thinking

Using Our Intelligences for Good, Not Bad

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Dan Goleman and I are always yoked together because both of us challenged the idea of a single intelligence in a way that was immediately understood by the general public, especially by teachers and business leaders.

We are friends and are very much on the same page on most matters. His notion of ‘emotional intelligence’ is quite similar to my concepts of ‘interpersonal’ and ‘intrapersonal’ intelligence.

Where we differ, on my analysis, is that my intelligences are amoral: you can use any intelligence for beneficent or malevolent ends. Both Goethe and Goebbels were masters of the German language; Goethe wrote great poetry, Goebbels fomented hatred. Dan combines description with prescription: he casts emotional intelligence as using one’s people skills in a positive way.

The research reported in an article from The Atlantic indicates that emotional intelligence can be used for a variety of ends, including the manipulation of other individuals. Presumably both Nelson Mandela and Slobodan Milosevic had plenty of knowledge of how to affect others (in my term, they were both interpersonally intelligent). Mandela helped to reconcile a warring country; Milosevic introduced the notion of ethnic cleansing during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

On the street, it’s perfectly fine to speak of ‘emotional intelligence’ as being desirable. Like grit, it is a capacity that we want to develop in our young persons. But, like grit, it has to be combined with positive values. We need more ‘good grit’ and ‘good intelligence,’ not simply more grit or intelligence for its own sake.

Click here to read the article via The Atlantic.

-Howard Gardner