Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence, which arguably can be interpreted in a few different ways, has generally been accepted as referring to the ability to be self aware of our own thoughts and feelings, as well as being astute and sensitive enough to correctly interpret the emotional state of others.

A benefit of having a higher emotional intelligence is the ability to be more empathetic towards others when they're feeling down (or up), and having a greater ability to understand ones own feelings and make better decisions with this insight.

A new study carried out at the University of Toronto and published in the journal Psychological Science (1), suggests emotional skills can be used for good or evil.

(Cue Darth Vaders breathing sounds)

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

"In one study, the researchers had participants fill out a survey on how strong their “moral identity” is—whether it’s central to their sense of self that they treat other people with kindness and compassion. Then they had people take part in a game that tests how their behavior benefits the group. (Each person chose how many points to take from a pool; the more points you take, the better your chance of winning a lottery, but if everyone takes the maximum points, there will be no lottery.) People who have a high moral identity were kinder to others in the group—even more so if they were good at emotional regulation.
In another study, they did much the same, but for the dark side; they asked people how Machiavellian they are—for example, if they agree that “anyone who completely trusts anyone else is asking for trouble.” Then the participants answered questions about a number of behaviors, for example if they’d ever publicly embarrassed someone at work. People who were Machiavellian were more likely to have treated their coworkers badly—particularly if they were good at emotional regulation.
“Emotional intelligence is not character,” Côté says. “It’s like any set of skills that we have—verbal, mathematical, analytical—these are skills that can be used to promote moral goals or selfish goals.” Some employers are training people in emotional intelligence with the hope that it will make employees beneficial to the group. But, these results suggest, better emotional intelligence can also help people treat each other badly if they are inclined to do so. The results also suggest that training employees on emotional intelligence or EI may be a good thing as long as it is combined with enforcing guidelines for ethical conduct in the workplace."

That bully who knows how to push your buttons? You might begrudge their seemingly ignorant behaviour, but chances are they're actually pretty bright but choose to use their insight to make you feel like crap and therefore carry out their evil sith-like schemes.

So work on being more in tune with human emotions, but beware the power of the dark side.  Use your new power for good : )

Yes, I am a sci-fi nerd.  No apologies.

(1) Press release:  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: The Two Sides of Emotional Intelligence - Association for Psychological Science (Authors, Stephane Cote, Katy DeCelles, Julie McCarthy, Ivona Hideg- University of Toronto, and Gerben van Kleef- University of Amsterdam).

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