The Beyond the Hype Article from the April 2007 PM Network Magazine prompted a dialogue between fellow emotional intelligence blogger Galba Bright and myself. We were focused on how to best to help individuals improve their level of emotional intelligence and I asked Galba the following three questions.
- How do we determine where people are? (what is the current level of EQ)
- Based on where they are, how do we determine their EQ potential?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the tools (training, coaching,books)?
Today I am going to focus on the third of these three questions – strengths and weaknesses of the tools for developing emotional intelligence. As I see it, there are four common ways of learning about a topic like emotional intelligence. I am going to explore the strengths and weaknesses of these four approaches. Then I will share my experience with a fifth way; the way I learned about emotional intelligence.
Here are the four ways, in order of increasing effectiveness:
- Read a book
- Take a self-study or e-training course
- Traditional classroom training
- One-on-one coaching
1. READ A BOOK
I have to admit that I love books. I’ve learned a lot of things by reading books. When I was 16 years old I pulled the engine out of my Ford Mustang and put a new one in – all based on the instructions I read in a book.
I’ve actually read more than a dozen books on emotional intelligence. You can check out my list of emotional intelligence books here on my Squidoo lens.
But this is not how I learned about emotional intelligence. Most of the books I read described emotional intelligence as if it were being studied in a laboratory or was something out there, like space. You see, you can’t learn how to feel your feelings from a book. Further, most people cannot accurately assess their own strengths and weaknesses to be able to determine where to invest or make changes. For example, if I knew that I had an emotional intelligence problem, I would probably change it. But reading a book is not going to help me understand problems I don’t even know I had.
The best books on emotional intelligence have assessments to help you understand where you currently are and exercises to help you to develop or improve your skills. Here are a couple of books with exercises:
- Emotional Intelligence at Work by Hendrie Weisinger Ph.D.
- The EQ Difference: A Powerful Plan for Putting Emotional Intelligence to Work by Adele B. Lynn
Unfortunately, books are not the most effective way to learn about emotional intelligence. They cannot tell you where you need to improve and they rarely provide tools to change or develop skills.
Taking a self-study or e-training course on emotional intelligence is a lot like reading a book. You can gain knowledge about the topic but not necessarily be any better in terms of performance or interpersonal skills.
If a self-study or e-Training course contained feedback from others – such as a Johari’s window approach or a 360 degree assessment – that would provide you a clue as to what you need to improve.
3. Traditional Classroom Training
Traditional classroom training has the advantage over the first two approaches in that you can get some feedback from the instructor. You might see some things that you were not able to see for yourself and to get some help practicing new skills and techniques.
Classroom training might also make use of role-playing and other interactive techniques that help you apply the knowledge to develop new skills and competencies. In terms of effectiveness for emotional intelligence learning, classroom training is much better than either books or self-study.
The downside of classroom training is that most training courses are pretty boring. Students cannot simply sit back and let the information flow over them and expect to get much improvement in their emotional intelligence.
4. One-on-One Coaching
With coaching, you can get insights into those areas where you need to improve. Your coach can hold up a mirror to us so that we can see both our blind spots as well as how well we are hiding information from others. Coaches can provide feedback that is non-threatening. Coaches can help you see different approaches and applications, can assist with role-playing, and they can hold you accountable to follow through on plans or actions.
The main downside of coaching is the cost. Many people simply cannot afford to retain a coach to help them with their emotional intelligence. Companies that are willing to spend for traditional classroom training may be unwilling to pay for coaching.
Which Approach is best?
For the purposes of learning about emotional intelligence, I would put these four approaches to learning on a continuum such as the one below. I believe that the learning is more effective as you move from doing things alone to learning by including others.
As I mentioned above, there is one additional approach to learning about emotional intelligence. It is the way that I learned about emotional intelligence, though as I noted, I also read a lot of books and worked with a coach. In my next post, I will explore that 5th approach in detail.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about these learning approaches and any that you have tried.