Should community and youth workers teach ’emotional intelligence’

‘It is with the heart that one sees rightly: what is essential is invisible to the eye.’

Antoine de Saint-Expup�ry.

The Little Prince.

Emotional intelligence has its roots deeply embedded in the idea of ‘social intelligence’ which was first identified by E.L. Thorndike in 1920.

For many years psychologists had been discovering different intelligences and grouping them in turn into three main groups:

* Abstract intelligence.

The ability to understand and manipulate with verbal and mathematical symbols.

* Concrete intelligence.

The ability to understand and manipulate with concrete objects.

* Social intelligence.

The ability to understand and relate to people.

(Ruisel, 1992.)

Thorndike (1920) defined social intelligence as the ‘ability to understand and mange men and women, boys and girls – to act wisely in human relation’ (Thorndike, 1920) He, and later Gardner, suggested that within social intelligence there were two intelligences that comprise social intelligence, intra- and interpersonal intelligences.

Both stated that interpersonal skills were the ability to understand other people. What motivates how they react with each other and how to understand other people. An intrapersonal skill according to Thorndike is the ability to look at your self inwards. He believed that this was the capacity to form accurate veridical modes of one self and be able to use this model to operate effectively with others and self in everyday life. (Gardner, 1993)

The term EI was coined in 1990 by psychologists Mayers and Salovey. The importance of emotional intelligence ideas came about when a growing number of scientists began to decide that the old concepts of IQ revolved around a narrow band of linguistic and maths skills. These psychologists decided that a wider view must be taken on intelligence due to the fact that everyday we use intelligence that is neither linguistic nor factual based, hence ’emotional intelligence’ was formed.

In order to fully understand then concept of emotional intelligence the word emotion must first be understood. Goldie (2003) defines emotion as:

‘A complex in that it will typically involve many different elements: it involves episodes of emotional experience, including perceptions, thoughts and feelings of various kinds, and bodily changes of various kinds.’

He goes on to suggest that emotions are episodic and dynamic meaning that over time they come and go and wax and wane depending on relative factors. He suggests that emotions are structured in that it constitutes part of a narrative ‘- roughly unfolding sequence of actions and events, thoughts and feelings.’ (Goldie, 2003.) Emotion therefore is not the action that we do out of emotion but part of the narrative that the emotion forms. Goldie suggests that emotions are intentional and are directed at an object present. This though brings rise to the fact that there is not always an object present. Take for example the fear of the ‘monster under the bed’ that many young children have. Many of these young children direct strong emotions of fear and dread at the monster, yet we all know that there is no such thing as a ‘monster under the bed’ and over time these emotions towards the imaginative object are lost.

Schwarz and Clore (1988) suggest that emotions can be differentiated from mood based on the structural differences, such as the specificity of these targets. e.g. emotions are specific and intense and are reactive to an event, where as moods are diffused, unfocused and timing becomes important, (e.g. emotions are caused by something more immediate than moods.)

Emotional intelligence, ‘is a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others emotions, to discriminate among them and to use the information to guide one’s thinking and action. (Mayer and Salovey, 1993.)

Salovey and Mayer (1990) stated that EI assumes Gardner’s inter- and intrapersonal intelligences and involves abilities that can be categorised into five domains:

* Self awareness

Observing yourself and recognising a feeling when it happens.

* Managing emotions.

The ability to self regulate emotions and manage them in others.

* Motivating oneself.

The ability to access an emotion and reason with it.

* Empathy.

Sensitivity to other peoples feelings and concerns and appreciating the differences in how people feel about things.

* Handling relationships

Managing emotions in others social skills and social competence.

When put into the paradox of community and youth work and whether we as workers should teach it raises many questions.

Emotional intelligence as discussed before is a combination of self management, social skills and personal awareness. Although it can not be measured like IQ can, researchers have investigated the dimensions of EI by measuring related concepts, such as social skills, interpersonal competence, psychological maturity and emotional awareness.

According to Goldeman (1995) ’emotional intelligence is the skills that help people to harmonise.’ If this is true then surely it becomes in-valuable in the area of community and youth work where relationships are key. But the question that arises is whether we can actually teach ‘intelligence’ to people.

The current view to be educated in today’s society is that it involves ‘being in the knowledge, responsible, caring, and many would add non-violent.’ (Elias et al, Cited in Ciarrochi et al, 2001.) This implies that the young people must have an education that involves both the IQ (the intellectual skills) and the EQ addressing the social skills. By looking at the work of Mayer and Salovey (1990) and Gardner (1993) they suggest that emotional intelligence plays a central role within human interactions. Emotional intelligence is likely to be involved in the home, school, work, and other social settings. Looking at the broad scope of EI, considerable attention has been paid in enhancing this unique intelligence but who remains responsible?

Goldeman (1993) considers schools should be the place where emotional intelligence should be taught yet this brings about the challenge of how teachers can teach at the same time as attempting to broaden the emotional skills of children and young people. Some people suggest that this is where community and youth workers fit in.

Ciarrochi (2001) suggests that EI is the ‘array of skills that allowed children to move in the world as citizens, including the skills for group participation, decision making, and social awareness.’ This goes most of the way to defining the basic principles of both community and youth work. This area of work is about promoting social awareness and decision making skills that can be used in everyday life. Workers teach these skills in the hope that they will become better citizens in the years to come. But the issue still remains as to how.

When teaching logical-mathematical intelligence we can use visual aids, problem solving exercises and mental calculations. These allow the educator to enable their ‘pupils’ to think critically about it and then conceptualise the ideas that are thrown at them. The advantage of using this method is the educator is always sure when the pupil has grasped the ideas as it is a concept of getting the problems right or wrong. The same applies to linguistic intelligence, using strategies such as reading, talking and listening. These two intelligences are the ones that are mainly addressed in the school surroundings.

Interpersonal intelligence, or emotional intelligence, is much harder to teach; it can not be formally measured using formal tests and is more process than product driven.

When teaching emotional intelligence it is not as easy as teaching spatial or linguistic intelligence. Kyriacou (2001) states that emotional intelligence has to be taught through the use of co-operative learning and community involvement. Maybe this is another reason as to why this type of educating is suited to community and youth workers, since we, as workers work within the ideal setting in which this type of learning is done best.

Kyriacou goes on to suggest that although emotional intelligence can be addresses within today’s curriculum it needs more attention paying to it outside of the education institution, due to the fact that in order to learn effective emotion skills one needs to be able to socialise without the structures that the educational system possesses. Even Gardner suggests that emotional intelligence can not be taught in the classroom setting due to the constraints present.

By teaching emotional intelligence, workers can create an improved atmosphere within any group setting, increasing the awareness of group members and of the member’s feelings. ‘Sensing what people are feeling, being able to take their perspective, and cultivating rapport with a broad diversity of people.’ (Goldeman, 1998.) Making people more aware of their won feelings enables them to interact more effectively within the community. Being more aware of one’s own feelings as a whole enables one to make more informed choices and able to lead a personal life that one feels comfortable with.

A lot of emotional intelligence is about increasing relationships between people and young people. By improving relationships, issues can start to be addresses, communities start to work more effectively and work places become more efficient, simply by increasing peoples awareness of other peoples feelings.

Some people believe that we should not teach emotional intelligence to anyone as it interferes with our learning programs. If we look at Darwin in the 19th century and his survival of the fittest argument we can see that things happen over time. We should not teach social skills on the basis that the world and its evolving race is based on the survival of the fittest and selective breeding; therefore it is all about adopting to your surrounding and environment. By teaching social skills, some would say that we are interfering with nature and therefore should not educate in this area and leave nature to run its course.

Goleman also looked at the idea of how can we realistically teach for friendship/relationship sake? Some people just can not make friends as it is fair, as youth and community workers, to teach skills to these people in the hope that they do make friends.

The huge issue that has to be addressed here is can we really teach intrapersonal skills from an inter perspective; personally I do not think that this is possible. It is like trying to make a cake mixture from an already baked cake. From many perspectives it just does not work. How can one teach skills to be used to create an ideal projection of ones self when we as workers sometimes do not fully know that person as an individual?

In Salovey, & Sluyter, (1997) they suggest that for some the educating about the emotions is not needed. They go on to suggest that as children grow older their ability to regulate their emotions without the help of others, and that this improves with age. By the age of 10-12 they know their own feelings and d not need any help from external factors. They suggest that older children, 9 or 10 years old, on the other hand, are capable of coping with distress by thinking about other things and are often able to assess the needs of situations and apply appropriate regulatory strategies without requiring adult intervention. If this is true then there is no place in community and youth work for the education of emotions and feelings due to the fact that the principles and coping strategies are already in place by the age of 12 years long before the majority have any contact at all with any community and youth worker.

Personally I believe that we in a sense as ‘educators’ should teach emotional intlligence. As I have addressed throughout this essay it impacts upon every aspect of our daily lives. I think that the understanding of other people’s emotions is invaluable in today’s society. Just being able to understand someone’s feelings can be really important. I think that a lot of this educating is down to community and youth workers due tot the fact that we have more informal contact time with members of the community than any one else. Educational institutions do help in the developing of these essential skills but I think that the young people especially do need time to be able to back these skills up with more practise.

I believe that it is down to community and youth workers to stretch these skills to their limits and to allow the young people to interact within a safe environment in order to develop these essential skills. Although at first this may seem a bit daunting for some workers but I believe that simply by adding in more conversation and social groups into the program then these skills can be easily addressed sometimes without even knowing it. Role plays, I have found to be the best way of addressing the emotions. Although they are not experiencing the emotions in the ‘real’ world, it allows the young people to explore the different situations and experience the emotion that goes with that certain situation. In some ways role play can be used as a practise for a real life situation.

I believe that emotional intelligence is an invaluable way of relating to others in the surrounds that we live in and without these skills that world would be very mono-tone, without difference. We as community and youth workers have a duty to help the members of the community to develop these skills, whether it be through role play, conversation, social gatherings, what ever the chosen method it is not hard to build the teaching of emotional intelligence into our everyday programs.

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