Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman (Book Summary)

The author of this truly fundamental work introduces the reader to the concept of emotional intelligence – a combination of psychological qualities, on the development of which life success largely depends.

Despite the fact that these qualities are usually laid (and some are destroyed) in childhood, the author believes that even an adult can develop them and learn how to apply them.

The book’s greatest strength is the description of the general theory of emotional intelligence and the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying it.

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What is Emotional Intelligence?

In recent years, there has been a massive increase in interest in studying the psychology of personality and emotions.

The research results clearly say that human intelligence is determined by its genes.

But then two questions arise: is a person able to change at all, and why do people with developed intellect sometimes fail, and less intellectually gifted succeed?

The answer to these questions lies in the development of a complex of psychological qualities known as emotional intelligence.

“The notion of a pure mind devoid of any emotions is pure fantasy.”

In terms of evolution, the role of emotions was to help people cope with dangers. Our emotional system is inherited from primitive ancestors, however, if at the dawn of human history it saved people at constant risk to life, today emotions often act as an obstacle to a clear perception of reality.

Man has two types of mind: rational, which is responsible for thinking, and emotional, which guides the senses. Usually, both of them are in harmony, but in moments of intense excitement, emotions take precedence over the ability to reason logically.

“Everything that we do, what we think, remember and imagine, makes us feel. Thoughts and emotions are woven into a single whole. ”

The most ancient parts of the brain are responsible for emotions – in particular, the brain stem (controls the processes of learning and memorization) and the surrounding limbic system.

The cerebral cortex, where mental processes take place, developed later than these parts of the brain. Part of the limbic system is the paired amygdala – a repository of emotional memory.

It is thanks to the tonsils of the brain that a person’s life is colored by emotions. As a result of the neurophysiological processes occurring in them, memories associated with strong experiences acquire special significance for a person – as you know, memory is best remembered for the most pleasant and most dangerous events. At critical moments, the amygdala, unlike the cerebral cortex, reacts almost instantly,

“IQ and emotional intelligence are not opposing, but independent forces.”

The function of the amygdala is the impulse to action, and the cerebral cortex is responsible for the containment mechanism that controls emotions.

When the amygdala is excited and out of control of the cortex, a wave of emotions sweeps over the person. His attention is weakening, his ability to think rationally is declining.

Nevertheless, a person should not suppress emotions in himself, but seek a balance between emotions and reason.

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What Makes Emotional Intelligence

Life success is only 20% dependent on the development of rational intelligence.

Emotional intelligence affects much of success – certain skills (self-motivation, restraining sudden emotional impulses, control of one’s emotional state) and psychological qualities (perseverance, empathy, optimism).

Both types of intelligence are not opposing, but independent forces. Often, a brilliant intellectual is an emotionally undeveloped person, and such an imbalance causes many problems in his life.

“It is about such a dichotomy that people say“ think with your head ”and“ feel with your heart ”.”

Yale University Psychology Professor Peter Salovey identifies five forms of manifestation of a person’s emotional intelligence: self-awareness, control of emotions, motivation, empathy and building relationships with others.

1. Self-awareness: Analysis of Your Own Emotions

Human emotions are often hidden from them.

Their comprehension requires attention to their internal state, feelings, and sensations, which implies the ability to objective introspection even in a state of strong emotional arousal.

Psychologist John Mayer calls her “the ability to understand the state of his spirit and his attitude to it.” From a practical point of view, developed self-awareness is manifested in the ability to control one’s mood. Emotions are conscious and unconscious.

The second arises faster than the mind picks them up. Unconscious emotions have a powerful effect on thoughts and reactions, despite the fact that you do not even know about them.

Only by realizing them, you get the opportunity to control them. Consequently, self-awareness is the basis of the ability to control emotions, necessary in order, for example,

2. Control of Emotions: Adjustment of the Internal State

Even in ancient Greece, self-control and the ability not to give in to emotions were revered for virtue.

On the other hand, life without passions is boring. It is not necessary to suppress emotions, but strive to find the “golden mean” – the optimal level of emotionality.

A lot of what people do every day at work or on vacation is aimed at finding inner harmony. The ability to resist the overwhelming wave of emotions is a basic life skill and one of the most important psychological qualities. The human brain is designed so that the individual is not free to choose which and when feelings will embrace him.

However, by making conscious efforts, he is able to influence how long and intense their impact will be.

“To know deep down that you are right means to feel special confidence in your righteousness – much deeper than that which you can come to as a result of logical reasoning.”

One of the worst-conscious emotions is anger. Part of the reason for this is that, when enraged, a person receives a powerful emotional charge that gives him strength and energy.

Staying in an excited state, which sometimes lasts for hours, a person becomes quick-tempered, and any careless word or action can provoke an even more powerful emotional explosion.

“The ability to induce a state of complete immersion in some activity is an indicator of perfect mastery of the skills that make up emotional intelligence.”

One way to curb anger is by switching attention.

This may be, for example, walking alone or doing physical exercises. Other emotions (such as sadness and sorrow) can quench anger, but at the same time can develop into depression.

To get out of a depressed state, psychologists advise to drive off the thoughts that feed him. Plan a program of pleasant things that will help you get distracted – go to the gym, treat yourself to delicious food, do long-outlined tasks, or help someone close to you. Another effective way is to rethink the situation that plunged a person into depressive gloom in a positive way.

3. Self-motivation: Using Emotions to Achieve Goals

Positive motivation is a prerequisite for success. Great athletes and musicians are distinguished by the ability year after year, starting from small years, to work hard to improve specific skills.

It is emotions that determine how much a person will succeed in his life, as they either impede or facilitate the use of innate talents and abilities. The ability to restrain emotions and desires, delaying psychological reward, is one of the most important life skills and the key to success in any undertakings – from losing weight to entering a university.

“People with pessimistic views are more prone to emotional breakdowns.”

Anxiety clouds the mind, and a positive attitude, on the contrary, helps to think clearly. People who know how to control emotions use even a state of anxiety as a motivating factor.

Psychologists depict the connection between anxiety and performance in the form of an inverted U: lack of anxiety means lack of motivation and low productivity, and when the excitement becomes too strong, it weakens the ability to think rationally. Maximum performance is somewhere in between.

For people of creative professions, this middle ground is a state of inspiration, which sometimes may resemble slight insanity.

“From a biological point of view, the neurophysiological mechanisms that underlie emotions are the result of an evolutionary process that encompasses not five or five hundred, but at least fifty thousand generations of people.”

Optimism and the ability not to lose hope also play a significant role in our lives. Optimists are not discouraged in the face of setbacks and are always confident that everything will end happily in the end.

They tend to explain their failures by factors that are beyond their control, and therefore do not lament when something does not work out. Optimism is a sign of highly developed emotional intelligence.

It helps to achieve outstanding results in business. These two psychological qualities are based on a person’s belief that he has power over the events of his life and is able to cope with any future challenges.

“Are we able to make our emotions more intelligent, the streets of our cities more civilized, and people more friendly to each other?”

The state of ultimate performance, in which emotional intelligence is maximally involved, psychologists call immersion. This is an internal feeling of a person completely absorbed in the work that he loves and which matches his skills and inclinations.

This sensation is in the middle of the spectrum, at the opposite poles of which are boredom and anxiety. The state of utmost concentration and emotional uplift (even euphoria) makes a person forget about himself and leave for work.

The brain at such moments begins to function clearly and calmly, solving complex problems with minimal energy consumption. To learn how to achieve this state, as often as possible engage in what your soul lies to.

4. Empathy: the Basis of Interpersonal Communication

The more developed a person’s self-awareness is, the easier it is for him to understand the emotions of others.

The mutual understanding that underlies interpersonal relationships arises from a person’s ability to empathize.

People who know how to “read” the emotions of others are more sociable, sensitive and adapted to life; they more easily win the sympathy of others.

Empathy begins to form in infancy, in the process of “adjustment” – the unconscious imitation of the child’s gestures and facial expressions of the mother. This condition allows him to feel secure and strengthens his emotional bond with the parent.

5. Relationship Management: Communication With People

The ability to express one’s feelings is one of the key social skills. Emotions are contagious.

When they meet, people exchange barely noticeable non-verbal signals about their feelings and unconsciously copy the emotions emanating from others.

This means that the signals of one person affect everyone else. When communicating, people tend to repeat each other’s facial expressions and gestures, thereby tuning in to a common emotional wave.

Such adjustment to the emotions of another is the basis of the ability to build relationships. The better you capture other people’s feelings and control your non-verbal signals, the better you control how you influence others.

This is one of the main manifestations of emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence in Practice

Emotional intelligence is especially important in the following areas of our lives:

  • Personnel Management.The arrogance of the bosses and the oppressed state in which this arrogance plunges the team, reduce productivity and even scare people away. Using emotional intelligence to eliminate negative phenomena of this kind is one of the most useful tools in the manager’s arsenal. Assessment of the work of subordinates is the main field of application of emotional intelligence for a leader. He should be able to correctly express his opinion and listen to comments, without perceiving them as personal attacks and manifestations of hostility. For constructive criticism, talk face-to-face with a person and demonstrate your participation. When criticizing, do not forget to praise, but only for specific merits. A person listening to comments must learn to perceive them as information for consideration. In the context of the modern “knowledge economy”, the significance of the group coefficient of emotional development is undeniable. The secret of effective teams is the ability to use everyone’s talents for the benefit of the group as a whole.
  • Family life. Developed emotional intelligence helps to cope with psychological and social conflicts that destroy marriage. Men and women from childhood learn completely different emotional skills. Critical remarks of spouses about each other are the first sign of problems in marriage. To live in harmony, spouses must learn to express criticism without becoming personal. Reprimanding personal qualities causes a person to be ashamed or resentful, forcing him to defend himself or to flee from accusations.
  • Parenting. According to modern research, the emotional health of children in developed countries is deteriorating from year to year. This is evidenced by the widespread of psychological problems such as apathy, impaired attention, antisocial behavior, anxiety, and depression. Both children and adults need to purposefully develop the five skills that make up emotional intelligence.
  • Health. The emotional sphere of a person is closely related to his immune system. Stress weakens the body, making it defenseless against infections and diseases. Destructive emotions – not only anger that has long been associated with heart disease, but also any other negative experiences – damage your physical well-being. An effective countermeasure is doing relaxation exercises. Recognition of the problems and their open discussion also stimulates the strengthening of the immune system. Doctors are well aware that controlling the emotional sphere is one of the types of disease prevention, and the patient recovers faster when his psychological needs are satisfied.

Emotional “Literacy”

Character is an old term for a combination of skills that make up emotional intelligence.

A person who cultivates the ability to restrain impulsive impulses thereby develops his emotional intelligence.

He learns to understand, control and independently motivate himself, accept others as they are, and build productive relationships with them.


  • 20% of our success in life depends on our ability to think rationally, and emotional intelligence affects a lot of success.
  • Manifestations of emotional intelligence – self-awareness, empathy, self-motivation, the ability to control emotions and build relationships.
  • Man has two forms of mind – the sensory and the thinking.
  • The brain regions responsible for logic and emotions function independently of each other.
  • Strong emotions disrupt the clarity of thought. Anxiety reduces the ability to think logically.
  • It is necessary to find a balance between rational thinking and feelings.
  • A state of deep immersion in your favorite business is the highest manifestation of emotional intelligence.
  • The development of emotional intelligence among employees helps to increase the efficiency of company management.
  • A critical appraisal of staff work is the main area of application of emotional intelligence in management.
  • The success of a group does not depend on the IQ of its members, but on their emotional intelligence.

Why You Should Read “Emotional Intelligence”

  • To solve popular business problems
  • To solve psychological problems
  • To get more respect and love

This book is available as:

AudiobookeBook | Print