Transcript for Daniel Goleman on "Emotional Intelligence"

Anne Strainchamps: But first, the guy who taught us that thinking isn't all in the mind. Psychologist, Daniel Goleman, the man behind the phrase, "emotional intelligence." Steve Paulson recently interviewed him and, Steve, remind us, who's Daniel Goleman?

Steve Paulson: Well, Anne, he's a clinical psychologist who worked for many years as a science writer for The New York Times, but what really put him on the map was his book, "Emotional Intelligence," which has sold millions of copies since it was first published nearly 20 years ago. And his book has had a profound impact on the way we think about intelligence. It showed us that IQ is arguably less important than our people skills, our ability to get along with other people, and now a lot of business leaders are taking up the banner of emotional intelligence. But that is only one piece of what makes Dan Goleman interesting.

Strainchamps: Yeah, isn't he also one of the Western scientists who's gotten really close to the Dalai Lama?

Paulson: He is. Goleman was one of the first American scholars to go to India to meet the Dalai Lama, so he helped make Buddhism respectable for Americans, not only as a meditative practice, but also as a science of the mind, which has challenged some fundamental ideas about Western psychology, and there's a fascinating personal story, as well. Back in the '70s, when Goleman was doing his doctoral work at Harvard, he met Richard Alpert, who had been fired from Harvard because of his infamous LSD research he had done with Timothy Leary. Alpert later went to India, became a spiritual teacher. Well, Goleman heard about a fellowship to go to study in India, inspired in part by what Richard Alpert had done.

Daniel Goleman: He had gone to India and come back, not as Richard Alpert, but as Ram Dass, and was talking about yoga, which then was very exotic. Meditation, which was practically unheard of, although it's starting to be part of the zeitgeist. And transformation of being, that sounded very interesting to me from a psychological point of view. So, I grabbed that fellowship, ran off to India, met his teacher and many others, including a wonderful man named Khuna Rinpoche, who I later learned was the Dalai Lama's instructor on compassion. You can imagine what he was like. And I realized that there was a psychological system at the heart of Buddhism that was absolutely unknown in Western psychology. And I started to write about it, and the way it worked with the mind, the way it conceived of what you could do to transform the mind, and meditation was very much at the heart of that.

Paulson: What didn't Western psychology understand about this?

Goleman: Western psychology did not understand a, that practices like meditation did transform the mind, and now we know, the brain. No one had ever heard of the word, neuroplasticity in the 1970s, but the idea that repeated experiences change the structure and function of the brain was implicit in Buddhist psychology and unknown in Western psychology. And also the fact that you could transform the mind, to the point where, for example, your inner emotional state was not at the whim of external conditions, but was an ongoing, say, equanimious state that was one of kindness. This was inconceivable.

Paulson: You're saying psychologists in the 1970s didn't even think about this kind of thing?

Goleman: I would say psychologists in the 2010s don't think about it that much as whole.

Paulson: Really?

Goleman: Although, it's getting to be a more and more familiar idea, yes.

Paulson: So, to pick up the story of your own journey, and so, you were a doctoral student getting your PhD at Harvard.

Goleman: That's right, that's right. Paulson: Then you discovered all this stuff about Buddhism. Goleman: Well, what I discovered was an alternate psychological system. It's called Abhidharma , which is the Sanskrit term for this model of mind. Then I started writing about it in psychology journals, albeit very obscure psychology journals, because they were the only ones that were interested. I felt that it was important to bring this news to Western psychology because what it did was extend the horizon line of the potential of being human. You know, if psychology's about anything, it's about the mind and what are it's upper limits; what are the worst places we can go, what are the best places we can go? And this described some best places that we hadn't heard of yet, they weren't on the itinerary.

Paulson: Now, you are probably best known for your book, "Emotional Intelligence," which has gone on to sell millions of copies. How did you get interested in this subject?

Goleman: Well, I'm a clinical psychologist by training, and that's really someone who works with emotions all the time, although I did go into journalism. So, I was covering what they called the decade of the brain in the mid-'90s, and the National Institute of Health had given a lot of money to brain research, and very interesting findings were coming out. And I'm covering this, and in The Times you can write, in those days you could write an article up to 2,000 words. Now it's, I think, 800, which is a story in itself, but another story. I realized that there was bigger story here, and that I really wanted to write a book about the new science of emotion in the brain, that this was very new and exciting. We had lots of implications for our everyday lives, and I happened to, since my job was basically to harvest academic writing, I would read technical journals and then translate them for everybody in The times. I stumbled across an article that had the title, "Emotional Intelligence," and I thought, "Wow, that is a powerful concept." Sounds like an oxymoron, but it means we can be intelligent about emotions. It was written by a guy, a friend of mine, Peter Salovey, who's now the president of Yale University. He was a psychologist at Yale then and his, I think, graduate student, John Mayer. And I took that concept and used it as a frame for a book on emotions writ large. Paulson: So, what's the difference between emotional intelligence and the more classic way we talk about intelligence, as measured by IQ? Goleman: Well, IQ, which is of course, extraordinarily important, is academic intelligence. It's verbal abilities, it's math abilities, it's spacial reasoning. It's the kind of smarts that helps you get through school and do very, very well. But, it turns out that once you get into the workplace, that kind of intelligence predicts powerfully what job you can hold. You need an IQ of one standard deviation or so above average, 115-120, say, to be a professional. To be a doctor, to be a nurse, to be a teacher, to be a top executive. But once you're in those roles, IQ isn't a powerful predictor anymore of who will be successful within that discipline, or at the top ranks of a company. Turns out that how you handle yourself and how you handle your relationships is a more powerful predictor of who, for example, will emerge as a leader. And that defines emotional intelligence. How we manage ourselves, our self-awareness, our empathy, our ability to collaborate, negotiate, and so on.

Paulson: So, this is about being good with other people, emotionally.

Goleman: Being good with other people is part of it. Being good with yourself is another part. Being able to get done what you have to do, to have fun, to be spontaneous, to be focused, all of that has to do with self-discipline, but that's part of emotional intelligence, too. Paulson: Now, you said that emotional intelligence is key to good leadership. Is that widely acknowledged among, I don't know, corporations, the business world, the academic world, that top leaders should have a high degree of emotional intelligence? Goleman: It is more and more, and I'm rather surprised. When I wrote the book, "Emotional Intelligence," I had one thin chapter called, "Managing with Heart," and on the basis of that I went on to write another book which was "Working with Emotional Intelligence," about workplace benefits of being emotionally intelligent and for leadership. And Harvard Business Review asked me to write an article on emotional intelligence and leadership called, "What Makes a Leader?" That was in '98. It is still one of their most-requested reprints. And it's because companies and organizations are buying it in bulk to pass out to people.

Paulson: What are the essential qualities to a great leader?

Goleman: I would say, from an emotional intelligence point of view, the essential qualities of a great leader have to do with self-awareness, and using that as a, for example, an ethical rudder, is what we're doing or where we're going in keeping with our sense of purpose, values, meaning, our mission? You can't know that without self-awareness. I would say that managing yourself well is absolutely essential for a leader.

Paulson: What do you mean, managing yourself?

Goleman: Well, emotions are very unruly. However, there's a set of emotions that help people work at their best, and leaders have a privileged position and tough position, emotionally, in an organization, and it's this: In any human group, people pay most attention to, and put most importance on, what the most powerful person in that group says and does. That makes the leader the emotional sender, and there's a series of experiments that have been done, mostly at the Yale School of Management, where people in a working group, a leader is put in a bad mood, and then he goes into the group, and everyone in the group catches the mood and performance goes down. The leader's put into a good mood, people catch the good mood, performance goes up. So, there's an optimal, internal state for performance. It's called "flow," sometimes. There's whole literature on that, and it has to do with feeling good, being energized, being enthused, being motivated, and people work at their best. Well, you could say, once you understand that, then, that the leader's emotional role becomes helping other people get and stay in their best state. Well, you can't do that unless your own emotions are under control. You've got to come into work in that state. You've got to radiate it out in some way. Implicitly, not in a clunky way like, "Hey, don't we feel great here?"

Paulson: You know, you're really talking about the capacity to inspire and what goes into that.

Goleman: Yeah, and inspire in the root sense of the word, to breath into. There's a brain-to-brain bridge, social neuroscience has discovered this, where emotions become highly contagious, and they, as I said, they tend to flow from most powerful person outward. So, you're inspiring by your being.

Strainchamps: Daniel Goleman is a psychologist and science journalist. He spoke with Steve Paulson. What do you think of Goleman's ideas about emotional intelligence? We're always curious to know what you think. You can find us on Facebook or Twitter, or post a message on our website at

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