Wisdom and emotional intelligence part 1

We have talked in previous posts about the problem of data overload. Everywhere we look we see an exponential increase in the amount of information in every single subject. We find ourselves literally drowning in information.

The problem we find is that information in and of itself is insufficient to help us with the challenges we face.

More than information what we need is wisdom. What is wisdom?


Wisdom is a word that goes back thousands of years.

In Solomon’s proverbs collected by Hezekiah (715-686 BC) found in the book of Proverbs (chapter 26:4-5) we find the two following sentences next to each other:
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly or you will be like him yourself.”
“Answer a fool according to his folly or he will be wise in his own eyes.”

The surprising thing is that although they are next to each to other, they are actually saying opposite things. How can that be? Why the apparent contradiction - when some one says something foolish, its best to keep quiet or you too will be foolish. Alternatively, when someone says something foolish you had better speak up or that person will think he is being sensible. Which one is correct?

It all depends on context. Sometimes when someone says something foolish it is best to remains silent and other times it  is very important to assert yourself and challenge. What you need is wisdom to decide what is most appropriate in the context in front of you.

Wisdom is capability in the complexities of life when the rules don't help. Writers, philosophers and teachers over the years have grappled with this.

Aristotle in 350 BC puts it vividly when he says:

“Anyone can become angry- that is easy. But to be angry with the right person to the right degree, at the right time for the right purpose, and in the right way- that is not easy”.

In the 20th century wisdom was re-introduced through the writing of Daniel Goleman who talked about the idea of emotional intelligence. By that he means:

It is the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.

He then divides emotional intelligence (or wisdom) into 4 helpful categories:

Self-Awareness - or the capacity to understand your own emotions, strengths and feelings. It is the ability to think about your own thinking that we talked about in  previous posts (see Awareness part 1 and part 2)

Self-Management - or the ability to manage your own emotions, behaviour and motivation.

Social Awareness - this is the capacity to understand what others say and feel, along with why they feel and act as they do. It includes the ability to listen carefully as discussed in the post on 5 levels of listening and communication.

Relationship Management - or the capacity to act in such a way as to get desired results from others and reach personal goals.

What issues and questions does the subject of wisdom and emotional intelligence raise for you?

What is the relationship between IQ and emotional intelligence? We will explore that further in the next blog post.

Do feel free to leave your questions and comments.




Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “Wisdom and emotional intelligence part 1

  1. I encounter ‘customers’ every day in my job, from all walks of life. The ones who appear affulent and intelligent with the high-up jobs appear cold and detached, and do not indulge in small-talk, whereas the people with possibly lower IQs and more what we would perceive as lower down jobs appear to me more friendly and down to earth. There have been occassions where the high IQ people have appeared warm and have engaged in conversation, although sometimes it feels false, as if they think they’re doing me a favour by actually coming down to ‘my level’. There are also however people with the ‘lower down jobs’ who won’t even say a word to you, so there’s definitely no black or white answer. It has always fascinated me how people put themselves into their own mental categories, and put others in lower categories, to reinforce their own identities and sense of self and to bolster their feelings of worth, as if ‘I consider myself to be higher up than him/her, so I’m therefore more useful/worthwhile to society, so now I feel good about myself”.

    • Interesting observations, Karl. I suppose the challenge is to maintain the same attitude and positive regard for others regardless of how positive or engaging the other person is or is not.

      • Sunil, that is the absolute key. I said ‘good morning sir’ to a customer earlier today, he did not give any response at all, so I purposely spent longer checking his credentials. I sarcastically said ‘have a great day sir’, he just looked at me and said ‘yeah’. The next person was quite the opposite so it balanced out. I realised though that nobody knows the private personal problems we carry, he might have just gotten divorced, about to have his house repossesed, or a whole host of other problems, so it’s good practice to be mindful of this, however hard it may be.