Can Emotional Intelligence be Learned?

Can Emotional Intelligence be Learned- Daniel Goleman.


For ages, people have debated if leaders are born or made. So too goes the debate about emotional intelligence. Are people born with certain levels of empathy, for example, or do they aquire empathy as a result of life’s experiences?  The answer is both. Scientific inquiry strongly suggests that there is a genetic component to emotional intelligence. Psychological and developmental research indicates that nurture plays a role as well.

One thing is certain emotional intelligence increases with age. Yet even with maturity, some people still need training to enhance their emotional intelligence. Unfortunately, far too many training programmes that intend to build leadership skills- including emotional intelligence – are a waste of time and money. The problem is simple they focus on the wrong part of the brain.

Emotional intelligence is born largely in the neurotransmitters of the brain’s limbic system – this governs our feelings, impulses, and drives. Research indicates that the limbic system learns best through motivation, extended practice, and feedback. Compare this with the type of learning that goes on in the neocortex, which governs analytical and technical ability. The neocortex grasps concepts and logic. Not surprisingly – but mistakenly – it is also the part of the brain targeted by most training programmes aimed at enhancing emotional intelligence.

To enhance emotional intelligence, organizations must refocus their training to include the limbic system. They must help people break old behavioural habits and establish new ones. That not only takes much more time that conventional training programs, it also requires an individualized approach. Its important to emphasize that building one’s emotional intelligence cannot-will not-happen without sincere desire and concerted effort. A brief seminar won’t help; nor can one buy a how-to manual. It is much harder to learn to emphasize-to internalize empathy as a natural response to people- than it is to become adept at regression analysis. But it can be done. “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In light of the upcoming EQ summit in London, Davitt Corporate Partners will be discussing each of components of Emotional Intelligence at Work. These include: Self Awareness, Self Regulation, Motivation, Empathy and Social Skill.


Discover how DavittCorporatePartners can help you to:

Develop Emotional Intelligence in Your Organisation

Win the War for Talent

Realise Individual Potential

Align Behaviour with Corporate Values


DavittCorporatePartners – Organisational Psychologists and Experts in Building Emotional Intelligence