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Review by Omar Al Saadi

Emotional Intelligence
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What can a couple do to protect their marriage?

The abilities to master love and work, as Sigmund Fruid put it, are distinguishing characteristics of a healthy life. To love and share life with someone, especially in our time, is not easy, and the book tracks the data on the divorce rate in the united states since 1890, when it was about 10 percent, and compares it with the current rate of divorce, which is close to 67%. The current divorce trend, as Goleman says, makes emotional intelligence more crucial than ever. The vast amount of research shows that there are emotional differences between men and women, partly biological. Still, Goleman says it also can be followed back to childhood when boys and girls are taught different lessons about handling emotions. A good example is how parents discuss feelings with a child; generally, parents are more advertent about talking about emotions with their daughters than their sons, exposing girls to more emotional information than boys. At the age of ten, there is no difference in measures of aggression between boys and girls. However, differences emerge by thirteen: girls become more skillful with aggressive tactics like vicious gossip and indirect vendettas. When faced with anger, boys are stuck to acting out strategy. Often, girls' games are played in small intimate groups, focusing on maximizing cooperation and avoiding hostility. On the other hand, boys play in larger groups in competitive games. We can see the critical difference between watching boys and girls playing. If someone disrupted the game due to a fall and getting hurt, if a boy, then he's expected to get up and stop crying, letting the game go. If the same thing happens among a group of girls, others will stop the game and gather to comfort the upset girl. Because, on average, they experience emotions with more intensity and volatility than men, women come into a marriage with great attention to the role of managing emotions, and men, on the other side, arrive less appreciative of this duty to help the relationship. How a couple discusses resentful issues matters much for the survival of their marriage. According to Goleman, agreeing on how to disagree is vital for a healthy relationship. Emotional rifts demand a couple to overcome innate gender differences. Failing this task can tear the marriage apart. In a study at the University of Washington, psychologists videotaped long conversations between couples in the laboratory, followed by a deep analysis of these videos. The study found that the early warning signal that the marriage is at risk is harsh criticism. The simple difference between complaints and personal criticism is that in a complaint, the spouse precisely defines what's bothering them—criticizing the action, not the person. On the other hand, personal criticism leaves the person on the receiving end feeling ashamed and defective, likely leading to a defensive response rather than improving things. Bearing in mind the differences in how men and women deal with distressing feelings and their potential consequences, what can couples do to protect their marriage? The book gives a few tips. One suggestion for men is not just to avoid conflict but to realize that grievances or disagreements the wife brings up from time to time could be an act of love. Men, Goleman points out, also need to be aware of not ending the discussion too early by proposing a practical solution for the matter. Instead, it is more important for a wife to feel that her husband hears the complaint and empathizes with her feelings. While coming up with a practical solution too early may seem to her as a way of ignoring her feelings as insignificant. For women, the advice is to make a real effort not to attack their husbands with personal criticism but rather complain about the particular action that causes distress. Personal criticism often leads to the husband getting defensive or stonewalling, which escalates the conflict. To make the marriage work, one needs to not focus on a specific issue that the couple fights about, like children, money, sex, or housework, but rather to improve emotional competencies, such as being able to calm yourself down and your partner, listening skills, and empathy.

"To thrive, if not to survive, corporations would do well to boost their collective emotional intelligence."

In the modern working environment, the workforce has become gradually more "knowledge workers," whose productivity is marked by adding value to information, whether as computer programmers, business analysts, or writers. And because these people are highly specialized, their productivity relies on coordinating their effort as part of a team. The team becomes the work unit rather than the individual. And that, as Goleman put it, suggests why emotional intelligence should become increasingly valued as a workplace asset in coming years. When the work team comes to collaborate, how they will accomplish their task, whether a plan for a meeting or discuss a new business strategy, will be determined by the group IQ; the total of the talents and skills of the individuals involved in the team. However, the most crucial element in group intelligence is social harmony, not the average IQ in the academic sense—the ability to harmonize, in terms of EI, boosts group productivity and success. A study conducted at Bell Labs, in an attempt to reveal what makes the difference in performance between the stars and others, found that academic talent and IQ were not good predictors of a person's future job productivity. Super high performers don't differ by their IQ but rather by emotional intelligence; they can better motivate themselves, use interpersonal skills to get their tasks done, and are good at benefiting from informal networks to operate unanticipated problems.

In the moment of severe sickness, emotions rule, and rational analyses become irrelevant.

When we are sick, especially in situations of extreme illness, we often don't look to hear purely statistical information about our health from our doctors. Even in the case of routine blood tests, let's say the doctor said, in an automatic tone, "you need further tests of the liver's fluid specimens." The doctor is likely doing his part efficiently and following the procedure in the diagnosis. Although the chance of developing cancer is tiny, we will be overwhelmed by the emotion of fear at that moment. The problem is that medical staff usually neglect the growing evidence showing the consequences of the patient's emotional states on their susceptibility to the disease and their role in recovery. In 1974, psychologist Robert Ader discovered that the immune system could learn. His founding shocked the general medical understanding that only the brain and central nervous system could respond to the environment by changing how they act. Since then, Ader's results opened the way to explore various communication pathways between the central nervous and immune systems. The immune cells travel in the bloodstream and make contact, and they leave alone the recognized cell and attack the unrecognized ones, such as viruses, bacteria, and cancer. The vital connection between emotions and the immune system is through the stress hormones; the surging of these hormones through the body temporarily suppresses the functioning of the immune cells. In the situation of chronic stress, this suppression may become harmful. And despite the increasing scientific evidence of the links between the brain, cardiovascular, and immune systems, many doctors are still skeptical about the role of emotions clinically. Studies have shown the damage anger can cause to the heart, and they found that among the factors that can lead to dying young, anger and hostility was a stronger predictor even than smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. In addition, anger becomes more lethal for those who have already developed heart disease. For example, a Harvard Medical School study asked more than 1500 people who suffered heart attacks to describe their emotional state in the hours before the attack. Being prone to anger increases the risk of heart attack among those with heart disease by more than double. Another big emotion is anxiety, which, in the evolutionary context, has the utility of preparing us to deal with some threats. But in modern life, we are often overloaded with things that trigger anxiety, whether physical or mental objects. Repeated episodes of anxiety alert stress, and there is growing evidence from several studies on its impact on infectious diseases such as cold and flu. Under chronic high-stress levels, our immune system' defenses fail to fight the viruses while they are capable in ordinary situations. Other researches show the negative effect of anxiety on the cardiovascular system. As the frequent bouts of emotional anger increase the risk of heart attacks among men, fear and anxiety may be the more lethal emotions among women. The mounting evidence for adverse medical outcomes from anxiety, anger, and depression, the book argues, entails that for patients with severe diseases, treating their anxiety and depression is medical too. But, this should not imply that the opposite domain of positive emotions, such as optimism and hope, can stand alone as a cure, even if they are a remedy to some extent. Understandably, hopeful people can better deal with challenging events, including medical conditions. Negative relationships have an impact on the immune system. Therefore, the people around us are substantial for our health, and the more significant the relationship, the more crucial for our health. A powerful example of the clinical outcome of emotional support is from Stanford Medical School, where after treating a group of women with advanced metastatic breast cancer, the doctors who ran the study were stunned by the results. Women who joined weekly support meetings had survived twice as long as those who encountered the circumstances alone.

The parents' influence on the child's emotional competence begins in the early months.

The formation of emotional intelligence starts in the early stage and continues throughout the school years. As Goleman put it, the six related ingredients of the shaping of emotional intelligence are confidence, curiosity, intentionality, self-control, relatedness, and the capacity to communicate. And these capacities depend extensively on the kind of care the parents give the child before kindergarten. The duration of repetitive encounters between parent and child is crucial to shaping emotional competencies. For instance, a little kid asks a busy mother to help with a frustrating puzzle game; the mother joyfully responds with the willingness to help carry a message, and different responses, like "don't bother me - I got important work to do," carry another one. Such experiences have a life span effect on the child's emotional expectations about relationships. Simple neglect can be more destructive than explicit abuse. A survey of maltreated children, especially those whose parents are emotionally immature or aimless and living chaotic lives, found that they are more anxious, inattentive, aggressive, apathetic, and withdrawn. The chance that these children will repeat the first grade is 65%. The human brain reaches two-thirds of its full size and a great rate of complexity in life's first 3 to 4 years, and during this time, most of the critical learnings take place, and essentially, emotional lessons. Chronic stress can harm the brain's learning centers during this period, and consequences can last lifelong.


Although various reasons can make people feel helpless in a catastrophic situation, such as torture and repeated abuse in childhood, this uncontrollable stress has similar biological marks. When your life is at risk, and there is nothing you can do to escape it, a brain change begins to mobilize the body for an emergency, and you are more susceptible to PTSD. A person who experienced the helpless feeling, for instance, being under the rubble for days or a short experience of nearly dying in a car crash, likely will recover from the panic she underwent in the beginning. Still, some symptoms can last for much longer. One of the book's examples is a woman with her year's old son trapped inside a home after a devastating earthquake. She recovered from the horrific panic that followed in the first few days, but she suffered for a long time with her inability to sleep on these nights when her husband was away, as he had been during the ominous night. The learned or acquired fear is associated with changes in the limbic circuitry focusing on the amygdala. In Intense PTSD, this limbic circuitry becomes hyperreactive, secreting large doses of neurotransmitter hormones in response to a situation where the threat is slight or even absent, like in the example of the earthquake experience. Proper emotional learning and time can change the intense emotional memories and the thought patterns and reactions they trigger. While the amygdala is the critical brain region involved in learned fear, the prefrontal cortex is crucial for overcoming it. To be sure, the original fear does not disappear; instead, the neocortex activity suppresses the messages from the amygdala that tell the rest of the brain to respond with fear. And the book clarifies a few steps for the person with PTSD to regain safety. The early stages start by helping to find ways to calm the triggered emotions to some level that allows relearning and gaining some sense of control over their fear. Medication is one way that can help the patient, and another way may be calming techniques since psychological calm is the foundation for retrieving the sense of security they had felt before the trauma. Telling the trauma story is helpful, not just describing what they saw and heard but also their responses, such as the feeling of dread or nausea. Putting feelings into words brings the memories under the control of the neocortex, which makes the reactions they torch more understandable and more manageable. If PTSD can heal, Goleman proposes, so are the less noticeable scars; emotional learning is lifelong, and even the deeply implanted emotional habits of the heart learned in childhood can be reshaped.


Temperament is an ancient word that can carry multiple meanings, but in modern times, it generally refers to the usual attitude, mood, or behavior. For example, the habitual emotional reactions of timid people fall under the sweep of temperament. The question is whether the experience can change such a genetic endowment. In answering this question, the book relies on the studies of Jerom Kagan, a psychologist at Harvard, who suggests that there are at least four temperamental types, timid, bold, upbeat, and melancholy, and each one belongs to a different pattern of brain activity. Kagan finds those oversensitive children who are timed about unfamiliar things become timorous adults; these children grow to be anxious when meeting new people, at school, or on the playground. And as adults, they panic if they need to give a speech or perform publicly. But, not all shy children withdraw from life when they are adults. Temperament is not destiny, and what makes the differences are the emotional lessons and responses children learn during the growing process; the data tells that one of three infants born with an overactive amygdala has overcome their timidness when they reach kindergarten age. And these changes most likely are outcomes of the encouraging and gentle pressure put by their parents to be more outgoing. Goleman stresses that emotional capacities improve with the right learning, and the possibility for improvement lies in how the human brain grows since each brain area develops at a different rate during childhood. Several critical brain areas for emotional life are among the slowest to mature. For example, the frontal lobes are the core of self-control, understanding, and crafty response; these lobes do not fully develop until late adolescence, somewhere between sixteen and eighteen years old. The good news, even if not to the extent of childhood, brain plasticity remains throughout life, and each newly learned lesson implies a change in brain wiring, and, with the right effort, emotional habits can be reshaped throughout life.

Schooling the emotions

Studies of childhood aggressiveness point out that the family life of aggressive children often contains parents who neglect and harsh punishing, which makes the child paranoid and hostile. For such children, when experiencing anger, the only way to react is by lashing out. They can't think of a different reaction. When they are adults, and among all children, they are the ones most at risk for committing violent crimes. A number of experimental programs have brought positive outcomes after training aggressive kids to control their anger before it becomes a serious problem. One of the examples is from Duke University, where the angry troublemaker students went through sessions of forty minutes twice a week for six to twelve weeks. One of the key skills is training the children to become aware of their feelings, such as flushing or muscle tightening, and take them as a cue to stop and think about what to do next instead of acting out impulsively. For young people, problematic relationships trigger depression, whether with their parents or peers. Depressed children and teenagers often are not accurate when labeling their feelings; for instance, the feeling of sadness may appear as irritability, impatience, and anger, especially toward their parents. To be sure, it is inevitable that part of the tendency to depression is due to genetic causes. Still, some of this tendency can be traced to the pessimistic thought patterns predisposing children to react to life upsets, such as social rejection or parents' blame for poor school grades, by becoming depressed. If the twentieth century was an Age of Anxiety, the opening of the twentieth-first seems to be the millennial of depression, especially among the young. Worldwide data shows that each subsequent generation has a higher risk of suffering a major depression since the beginning of the century than their parents. Emotional stress in childhood may affect brain development, leading to depression when the person is under tremendous pressure in maturity decades later. And even mild episodes of depression can become more severe later in life, which contradicts the old understanding that children grow out of such mild depression. And the habitual pessimistic thoughts that determine how adults interpret life's losses and make them feel hopeless seem to feed the sense of hopelessness among depressed children; melancholic children tend toward pessimistic thoughts before they become depressed.

Are any productive ways to help children look differently at their hardships and lower the risk of depression?

In a study in one of Oregon's high schools, seventy-five mildly depressed students joined an after-school eight-week class to learn to challenge their habitual pessimistic thoughts, become more adept at making friends, and have more social engagement. At the end of the program, 55 percent of the students had recovered, compared to only about 25 percent of the comparison group of depressed students who were not in the program. A year later, 25% of the low-level depression students who did not join the program had gone into full major depression compared to only 14 percent of students in the prevention program. The program seemed to have reduced the risk of depression to half. The results from the eight-session class support what experts on childhood depression assert; fundamental psychiatric changes require something to be done before the child gets depressed in the first place. While the use of most drugs among young people has regressed in the last decades in the United States, there has been an increase in alcohol use. According to Goleman, the addiction signs for alcoholics and drug abusers can be traced to their teen years. By the time they leave high school, 90 percent of American students have tried alcohol, yet, only about 14 percent end up alcoholics. Likewise, data shows that of the millions of Americans who have tried cocaine, fewer than 5 percent became addicted. Goleman argues emotional patterns make people more likely to find emotional alleviation in one substance than another. For example, there are two emotional pathways to alcoholism; the first starts with a high-strung and anxious child who discovers as a teenager that alcohol will calm the anxiety; the second path to alcoholism comes from a high-level agitation, impulsivity, and boredom. Depression can make people drink even though the effects of alcohol make depression worse after a brief high. Handling the brain-based feelings that lead people to use drugs or alcohol can be achieved without medication. Instead, by learning ways to soothe the feelings of anxiety, lift depression, and calm rage, you remove the attributed causes of trying drugs or alcohol in the first place. The book brings examples of a few private school programs bringing emotions and social life into their curriculums, making the emotions and social life topics rather than irrelevant to the child's school day. Goleman says that the next step is to take the learned lessons from these programs and generalize them as preventive programs available in all schools and taught by ordinary teachers. May one argues that such school classes would contribute little to solving the tremendous problems they address; these classes seem short and insufficient at first glance. But like any learning in the experience of raising children, the lesson itself is small but meaningful when delivered repeatedly over a sustained period of years. That is how emotional learning is entrenched; the repeated experience strengthens new neural habits in our brain to apply in situations such as frustration, anger, and hurt. The book not just indicates facts about our brains and emotions. Still, it offers valuable tools to help people cope with their life defeats and open a wide array of doors, and brings the reader to the process of questioning, making you, as a reader, ask questions. Then the answer will stun you in the following pages or chapters. And despite the information density, many compelling examples boost the memorization and connection between the book chapters and topics.

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