Book smart or street smart?

What’s more important in determining life success — book smarts or street smarts? Lets join the debate of importance of cognitive intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ).

Studies have shown that IQ only counts for about 20% of our success, and it is our EQ — our emotional intelligence, how we deal with our emotions — that accounts for 80% of our success.

Emotional intelligence quotient scores are in decline all over the world, according to research done by the Emotional Intelligence Network, a non-profit whose mission is to foster and raise awareness of EQ through research and education. It tracks emotional intelligence levels among 100,000 people in 126 countries using online tests. Some experts blame this decline on increased stress and anxiety levels, which make it harder to cope with life’s curveballs. Another culprit is our growing reliance on technology and social media for communication. We aren’t using the basic face-to-face social and emotional skills that are so crucial to interpersonal relationships and future academic and career success.

The emotionally intelligent child is also one who can label her own emotions accurately, regulate them and control reactions to them; for example, she can verbalize her anger or frustration and think of ways to defuse her feelings rather than throw a book against the wall. A child with a high EQ can also handle more complex social situations and build meaningful friendships, in part because of that ability to relate to or empathize with peers.

Can Emotional Intelligence Be Learned?

Unlike IQ, which is static, EQ can increase. But to really develop and master those skills, a child may need explicit teaching and practice.

EQ is centered on abilities such as:

  • Identifying emotions

  • Evaluating how others feel

  • Controlling one’s own emotions

  • Perceiving how others feel

  • Using emotions to facilitate social communication

  • Relating to others

Some strategies for teaching emotional intelligence include offering character education, modelling positive behaviors, encouraging people to think about how others are feeling, and finding ways to be more empathetic toward others.

Quite often, it can be tricky for us as adults to really understand how we are feeling, and so when we put ourselves in the shoes of a child, particularly a young child, we can start to see how this may prove quite difficult for them. One of the greatest gifts we can give a child in terms of their emotional intelligence is helping them to identify their emotions.

Verbally, we can do this by naming their emotions for them — if you can see they are frustrated, sad or angry, you can say something like “I can see you are feeling sad about that”. We can also give them different scenarios where they act as the observer, and try to see how people would feel in those situations. When children argue or hurt each other, we can ask the hurt child to tell the other child how they are feeling — “when you pinched me that really hurt and made me feel very sad”.

Essential oils have become popular and new research is surfacing showing how essential oils (aromatic compounds that come from plants) affect mood, neurochemistry, and the stress response.

Essential oils are particularly effective in affecting our mood. When we inhale an aroma, this is processed by our olfactory system and directly affects the limbic seat of our brain — where emotions and memories are stored and this creates a rush of emotional response by the limbic system. This is quite a complex response.

Other chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, can also stimulate the limbic system, and it is often issues with these that lead to feelings of anxiety, depression and so on.

One of the reasons the healthy exchange of neurotransmitters is weakened is because of poor nutrition, and so ensuring that children receive a good, healthy diet, with quality supplementation.

The exchange of neurotransmitters can also be blocked by toxicity in the body, so switching to all natural products in our house for cleaning and personal care, and so on, can help reduce this toxicity.

Another point to remember is that 90% of our serotonin (our ‘happy’ hormone) is produced in our gut, and so the importance of a healthy microbiome in our childrens’ guts is paramount. Children who are born by c-section or who are not breastfed, or those who have had any antibiotics, could be affected by this, and so using a good probiotic is a good way to help support this healthy microbiome.

It’s never a one thing that will affect one’s behaviour, we should be looking at our health more holistically.