Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman summary cover image

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman [Actionable Summary]

This is a comprehensive summary of the book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski. Supporting Members get full access and a downloadable/printable version of the summary.

The Book In Three Or More Sentences:

According to Daniel Goleman, it is not the level of our IQ, but the level of our emotional intelligence (EQ) that is much more important for achieving our desired goals and handling situations of adversity. In this book, the award-winning psychologist helps us understand the importance of our feelings by sharing real-life cases, scientific research, and actionable ways to handle emotional distress. Primarily, his goal is to equip us with the tools we need to become more rational when feeling.

The Core Idea:

What’s emotional intelligence? In short, our ability to stay cool even amidst turbulent emotions caused by outside (and inside) sources. The ability to control yourself when under pressure. The power to say nice things even when you want to hurt others. Keep moving forward even when you want to quit. To disallow the brain from preventing you from doing what’s right even when you’re tired, overwhelmed, and under stress. Put differently, this book teaches us how to handle our emotions with intelligence and helps us teach our children to do the same.


  • We are hardwired to feel before we think. It’s a feature, not a bug. But a feature that can cost us a lot if we don’t know how to properly handle it.
  • Pointing exactly what you are feeling will help you better react to a situation. And, also, help you change your mood from miserably awful to surprisingly exciting.
  • Worrying about something all the time will rarely produce adequate solutions. Only when you move away from the oppressing thoughts you can find a fresh way to move forward.

7 Key Lessons from Emotional Intelligence:

Lesson #1: We Are Designed To Feel Before We Think

What was the most irrational thing you’ve done in the past that you now label as, “oh gosh, I was so stupid to do it!”?

We all have such clumsy moments in our history. Situations where we act before we think.

But have you ever asked yourself why we do it?

Well, Daniel Goleman did. That’s actually the whole premise of the book.

In Emotional Intelligence, he explains why our emotions exist. After that, provides usable techniques that help us become more intelligent when experiencing high arousal sensations. This way, we can prevent ourselves from reacting to a situation before carefully considering the consequences – for example, replying hastily to your boss to his usually illogical conclusions.

But one interesting feature we all have – which we rarely consider – is that we are designed to feel before we think. And this hardwired characteristic, as the author explains, is a feature that exists for a good reason.

For example, if we suddenly see a wild beast coming out of the bush, we don’t want to think about what we should do. We want to feel alert, scared, we would want to flee before we consider the best course of action.

However, in the modern world, we rarely face wild beasts that can cause us harm. There are still dangers, but they are more subtle. Most commonly, we have to deal with people who pretend to care about us but are actually more concerned about their own gains. Or, cases where we feel stressed, emotionally exhausted, angry, but if we let our primary emotions take over this will most commonly lead to a breakup, procrastinating on a project, a fight, or losing your job.

And while we can’t block the emotional mind – nor we should – by realizing when we are acting impulsively, and what triggers these automatic reactions, we’ll better approach disturbing moments in the future. Thus, stop acting illogically in cases where a more intelligent response is needed.

That’s what the book teaches us. And the first thing you need to realize is that we default to feeling and acting based on what we initially feel. Once you get that, you’ll become a bit more mindful about acting based on what first feels right. You’ll learn to pause, consider carefully the situation, and then respond.

“In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels. These two fundamentally different ways of knowing interact to construct our mental life. One, the rational mind, is the mode of comprehension we are typically conscious of: more prominent in awareness, thoughtful, able to ponder and reflect. But alongside that there is another system of knowing: impulsive and powerful, if sometimes illogical—the emotional mind.” Daniel Goleman

Lesson #2: Inability to Handle Emotions Leads to an Unstable Life

Our lives are a wreck and the decision we make are often bad not because we are unavoidably stupid, have a low IQ, or intolerant to books but because of our weak emotional spirit.

This is a frequent problem in our daily lives.

Smart people often end up divorced, having alcohol or drug problems, or at some point find themselves in court because they “lost it” when confronting someone in the parking lot, for example.

Intelligence and emotional intelligence are two different things. And these two different kinds of intelligence are labeled as rational and emotional in the book.

To become a well-rounded person, you need to have both of them – not just have a high IQ, but also possess the ability to control your feelings. On a lot of occasions actually, having the EQ part is much more valuable. Here’s how the author describes it: “many people with IQs of 160 work for people with IQs of 100, if the former have poor intrapersonal intelligence and the latter have a high one. And in the day-to-day world no intelligence is more important than the interpersonal. If you don’t have it, you’ll make poor choices about who to marry, what job to take, and so on. We need to train children in the personal intelligences in school.”

Surely being smart is helpful, but being able to persuade others, understand them, feel empathetic when the situation requires it, save and be mindful with your money, plan for the worst – these are all things that are often much more important to move up the world.

Intelligence is far from just scoring high on your Sat test or getting a high IQ test – this is the old way of scoring Intelligence. Smartness is understanding the people around you, predicting their moods, and attuning yourself based on how others feel and think.

As concluded in the book, we are awful in the latter because there is no EQ schooling. We are taught how to read books, how to calculate difficult mathematical equations, how to use the internet but no one is teaching us how to handle seemingly helpless situations that require vigor and grit.

These are all things we learn by just, well, living.

The starting point is understanding yourself. Making time to think about the things that move you and developing your natural competencies and gifts. Once you understand yourself, you’ll be better at handling emergency situations and also better at understanding other people. And above all, you’ll obtain the ability to nurture your relationships, keep your real friends closer, resolve conflicts with style, and quickly analyze a social situation and find the best outcome for the group.

“Inter personal intelligence is the ability to understand other people: what motivates them, how they work, how to work cooperatively with them. Successful salespeople, politicians, teachers, clinicians, and religious leaders are all likely to be individuals with high degrees of interpersonal intelligence.” Howard Gardner

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