“You will be successful” or “I cannot wait to see where you will end up” these are the sentences that usually are told to people that are believed to become successful in life. I have always been told that I will be the one in my family to easily become successful in my life; the reasons behind this statement varied throughout time, at first it was because I have always been very goal-oriented, then they added the fact that I only care about success and I will have no problems stepping on others in order to get to it, then it switched to the fact that I have always been very good in school and that I am able to learn and memorize things very fast, and lastly because I have a very logic mind and I am very good at problem-solving.
Even though some of these reasons are not true, my family has always put me under pressure because of their idea of having a successful daughter, and, in order to reach success in an effective way, I decided to analyze the correlation between the idea of being successful and what cognitive ability might be more helpful for it. In my opinion, in order to be and be considered a successful person there is the need of some level of emotional intelligence (EI) as the base for other abilities. What is really the key to success, emotional intelligence or something else? Throughout my research I found mostly supporting arguments of EI being the most important factor, but I also found some contrasting ideas. Some scholars consider IQ and other cognitive abilities to be more relevant and important than EI for reaching success.
After analyzing the meaning of such a broad and debated topic, such as success, I will dive into different opinions on this subject and, hopefully, I will be able to formulate an answer to my question. First of all, success is a very broad and loose topic, even the Oxford Dictionary describes it as “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose”, which increases the field in which success lays. In this paper I will consider success in relation to work performance and life satisfaction. As Jane Sturges discusses in her paper What it Means to Succeed: Personal Conceptions of Career Success Held by Male and Female Managers at Different Ages (2002) success is linked to different aspects. First of all it is connected with personal accomplishment, if a manager considered himself or herself very good at what they do the level of accomplishment will increase and so will their perception of their success.
Another criteria to take into consideration is personal achievement from work, as Jane Sturges states “this achievement was often related to succeeding at challenging tasks, but sometimes was also described in terms of breaking new ground, […] being creative and experiencing personal development through work-related tasks and experiences”. When people go over their limits and succeed at something new or perceived as impossible, their confidence level increases and therefore also their perception of their level success increases as well. However, the most common criteria to evaluate success that she got during her investigation was enjoyment in terms of finding an interesting and enjoyable job that satisfies them. Enjoying their jobs will increase the time they spend working, increasing their results and their level of perceived success. In her paper she, also, discusses about external criteria to evaluate success: personal recognition, rewards and influence.
These three criterias are very important because to consider themselves successful people need to be recognized and rewarded by others in their lives. Being successful also gives the ability of influencing others because successful people have a higher level of authority and credibility in their fields than others. However, what are some cognitive abilities that correlate with success? Through my research I found several papers that connected success with emotional intelligence (EI). Emotional intelligence has become a very prominent topic in 1995 when Daniel Goleman published his first book on the subject. However he was not the first one to discuss about emotional intelligence. Salovey and Mayer in 1990 described it as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feeling and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action” (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). As Cary Cherniss discusses in his paper Emotional Intelligence: What it is and Why it Matters (2000) emotional intelligence covers different abilities, such as identifying emotions, managing feelings, handling stress, expressing emotions and being empathic.
Throughout the years many scholars have tried to find ways to test emotional intelligence, one of the more generally accepted by researcher of the subject is the MSCEIT test. This test is a model of emotional intelligence created by Mayer and Salovey in 1997. This test is based on four mental abilities or branches. During the test this abilities are divided into two little exams, the first branch that is tested is related to perceiving emotions through two tests based on facial recognition of emotions from pictures (Faces) and paintings (Pictures). The second ability is to use emotions in order to facilitate thought, which requires to describe emotional sensations using a non-feeling vocabulary (Sensation) and to identify which feeling interferes with various cognitive and behavioral tasks (Facilitation). The third ability is to understand emotions, which measured the person’s ability to analyze complex emotions (Blends) and how time changes emotional reactions (Changes).
The last branch is related to managing emotions, and the participants are asked how they would manage their emotions (Emotion Management) and others’ emotions (Social Management) in different situations. However, psychology scholars have some concerns about this method of evaluation, the MSCEIT was designed as a test that could be completed using online versions or paper and pencil, not allowing the direct assessment of people’s skills which would require sophisticated technologies. Moreover, the MSCEIT is not able to capture other aspects of emotional intelligence, such as gestures, posture, and tone of voice (Brackett, 2011). As Brackett, Rivers and Salovey state in their paper Emotional Intelligence: Implications for Personal, Social, Academic, and Workplace Success “ each ability influences how individuals utilize emotions to facilitate thinking or regulate emotions to focus on important information” (2011) emotional intelligence is strictly connected with cognitive abilities, and the MSCEIT test is not able to capture that type of intelligence as well.
Even though, emotional intelligence has come a long way since 1995, some people still consider it as less important than IQ, moreover, some of them believe that emotional intelligence should not be considered intelligence but it should be seen as a social ability. As Joseph V. Ciarrochi, Amy Y.C. Chan, and Peter Caputi of the University of Wollongong state in their paper A critical evaluation of the emotional intelligence construct (1999) “IQ may at times be more important than EI in understanding emotional processes”. In this paper they explain their study in which they tried to evaluate critically the emotional intelligence construct, testing IQ, personality, and other relevant measures, in this study they found out that IQ is more relevant when it comes to explaining judgmental mood biases; low IQ people were not able to succeed in managing their emotions and moods, while high IQ people did not have problems in doing so. From these results it is possible to understand that IQ may be more efficient in explaining changes in mood related to behaviors then EI.
Even though, the majority of people perceive emotional intelligence and IQ as separate things, due to the stereotypes shown in tv series and movies such Scorpion, a tv series where the protagonist has an incredibly high IQ but lacks in EI, Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence Why it can matter more than IQ (2010) affirms that EI and IQ can be present together, they are simply two separate abilities and do not affect each other, since “all of us mix IQ and emotional intelligence in varying degrees” (Goleman, 2010). However, he also believes that emotional intelligence could be the key to reach life satisfaction, because EI is the base of the social relationships, such as romantic, professional, or familiar ones. Moreover, he believes that emotional intelligence can be the cure for several problems that we face everyday; it can help bullies behave in a more civilized matter by decreasing their aggression, it can help mitigate eating disorders, it can help prevent depression, it can help decrease loneliness by improving people’s ability to create relations with others, it can help reduce addictions, and so on.
These factors can help people live a better, more satisfying life. Since emotional intelligence can decrease their problems they would be more able to follow the career path the want to, and, moreover, become successful in their fields. Emotional intelligence would give them the opportunity to enjoy their lives and jobs. Furthermore, thanks to the social abilities previously acquired growing up, they would have a very strong emotional intelligence, and it would be easier for them to become transformational leaders. As Alexander-Stamatios Antoniou in his paper Emotional Intelligence and Transformational Leadership (2004) transformational leaders work in teams and must be able to understand their teammates’ emotions, showing the need for a very high level of emotional intelligence. Moreover, they are more committed to the organization, have positive emotions towards the organization, and are better at organizational skills. Moreover, this type of leaders are, nowadays, considered more successful than others because they are able to understand, empathize, and interact with their subordinates, obtaining higher and better results from them. They are also able to manage relationships in a positive manner with their subordinates, increasing the trust level that people have towards them.
While analyzing the relationship between emotional intelligence and success it is important to remember that social abilities are not the only key to success, they could be considered “the bedrock for competencies that are” (Cary Cherniss, 2000) such as IQ, problem-solving, and so on. As Daniel Goleman stated in his book (2010), it should be clear that between emotional intelligence and emotional competencies there are differences. The latter is based and linked on the former and “a certain level of emotional intelligence is necessary to learn the emotional competencies” (Goleman, 2010). However, as Brackett, Rivers, and Salovey state in their paper high results in the MSCEIT test is strongly correlated to working well with others, being socially competent, easily having social interactions, and feeling comfortable both depending on others and having others depend on yourself (Brackett, Rivers, and Salovey, 2011). All these abilities are strongly related to being considered successful.
As I previously stated, success is also felt when there is recognition from peers and colleagues and all the abilities listed before contribute in achieving it. For example, being able to have good relationships, will make someone more incline to increase his/her connections, and would have a better relationship with his/her boss. As Cary Cherniss reports in her paper, in Feir and Barron’s study, about 80 Ph.D.’s in science, (1996) found out that “social and emotional abilities were four times more important than IQ in determining professional success and prestige” (Cary Cherniss, 2000). As Goleman states EI is “as powerful and at times even more powerful than IQ” (Goleman, 1995; p.34) in predicting success in life. In my research I was able to find a possible answer for my question about the key to success. Success is related to people’s perception of their lives, if they reached their goals, if they are satisfied in their life, or if they perform well at work. Emotional intelligence could be the perfect aspect to analyze success because it deals with social abilities and, moreover, with people’s ability to understand, interpret, and express emotions. Emotional intelligence is an important element for success, however, it does not represent the key to success. Some scholars believe that the key to success lies within the person’s IQ, the higher the IQ the more successful the person will be. Others think that EI by itself can be more than enough in order to reach success and view emotional intelligence as the most important ability, even more than IQ.
Others believe that IQ and EI exist together and with these two abilities it would be easier to become successful. Success it is such a broad topic that it is based on people’s perception of it, every person views success in different ways based on what they value the most important aspect of their lives. Undeniably emotional intelligence serves as a base for other cognitive abilities, such as IQ and problem-solving, but it is not the only and best key to success. Emotional intelligence was proved helpful in both work-performance and life satisfaction. Having high emotional intelligence abilities can help people socialize and become more confident in what they do, thanks to their successful relationships with others. However, without a good level of IQ, or good problem-solving abilities a person will not be able to reach his/her goal, failing at becoming successful. Success cannot be achieved thanks to just one single ability, it is the results of the combination of several different ones. Moreover, it would be incorrect to believe that once a person has these abilities it would be obvious that they will become successful, it would still require work and dedication in order to become and be considered a success.