Why Emotional Intelligence Matters

Building on the success of Daniel Goleman's 1997 best seller, "Emotional Intelligence," psychologists Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves designed a test that assesses the four pillars of EQ: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. "Emotional Intelligence Appraisal" was published in 2003, and the creators say more than 500,000 people have taken the assessment so far. The pair has used it to teach Fortune 500 companies, governments and even a few royal families how to fix management dysfunction. Now they are making their findings--and the test itself--available to anyone in their new book, "The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book: Everything You Need to Know to Put Your EQ to Work." When they say quick, they mean it. The test only takes about seven minutes, and the book is a fast read with compelling anecdotes and good context in which to understand--and improve--your score. Bradberry recently spoke with NEWSWEEK's Martha Brant. Excerpts:

Travis Bradberry: Well, there was an interesting study done at Case Western Reserve [University]. They took M.B.A. students through emotional-intelligence training--not a usual part of M.B.A. training. They tracked students over many years. Even many years after graduating from the program some participants had raised their scores 40 percent. They had trained their brains. Practice doesn't make perfect but practice makes things habitual.

Anything dealing with psychology has a biological component and an environmental component. Here's one extreme example: individuals with autism have poor emotional reasoning because the cells in the brain's limbic system are shrunken and underdeveloped.

Environment matters a lot. Women score 12 points higher on relationship management. That's huge. Women are socialized to be nurturers. Men probably have a similar capability but are not taught to do it. That's why men and women score the same on self-awareness. So despite all the talk on Dr. Phil about men not understanding emotions, they do understand them, but they are not expected to do anything with them.

People want it. The only way to get people to do anything is by showing them exactly where they are--especially if they are going to work on their EQ.

The first time I saw that data in a bar chart, I got that kind of tingly emotional reaction. Since then I've been doing a lot of thinking about it. Within each profession, the best performers have the highest EQs. Even the best CEOs have the highest EQs. But CEOs are often promoted for being good financial managers, not good people managers.

The demand right now for emotional intelligence in business is huge. They will just get better executives by making high EQ more of the norm.

When EQ first became popular, we hoped it would become more than a fad. We think it's fundamental to how people think. I hope this book will give people a vehicle to think about things they don't usually think about.

Self-awareness is the No. 1 skill for improving your EQ. There are things that we aren't aware of for a reason; they are things that make us uncomfortable, and we don't want to change so we don't think about them. It's like making yourself go to the gym. You have to do that thing you don't want to do. For example, I need to be a more social husband. When my wife tells me an event is optional and I really want to stay home, I go because I know it's a place where I'm not naturally a good husband.

It's not that emotional intelligence cures breast cancer, but stress does affect your health. There is a simple biological reason: when you get stressed out, your immune system shuts down. People get stressed out about their emotions. They feel bad. But people who have emotional mastery, when something extreme happens in their life, they are OK with it.