In Your Corner: Emotional intelligence is key to understanding others

A teen requested more specific information about a person’s emotional body as a follow up to a recent “In Your Corner” article. The article mentioned that humans have physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual bodies. Daniel Goleman wrote a book called “Emotional Intelligence,” in which he states that just as people have an intellectual intelligence, people also have an emotional intelligence. It’s the emotional version of IQ, or “EQ.”

Goleman defines emotional intelligence as having “self control, zeal, persistence, the ability to motivate oneself,” as well as the ability to read others’ emotions, also called empathy. His research has shown that often people with modest IQ’s but high EQ’s do better in life. Emotional intelligence can be taught by those who have it to others who are learning to experience their emotions but are not yet in control of them. A mentor helps a child learn to recognize what facial expressions mean, or reads the child’s emotions and help the child recognize it themselves.

Mentors can help others develop empathy by asking questions such as, “How do you think so-and-so feels about her dog running away?” If the child doesn’t know, the mentor relates it back to them: “How would you feel if your pet disappeared?”

Reading stories about individuals facing challenges that cause them to develop emotional intelligence can help the reader develop EQ, too. Playing video games of destruction and violence doesn’t help.

Emotions are our guides. They are impulses that help us respond to the world around us, and cause changes in the body. In anger management classes, students are taught to recognize where in their bodies they begin to feel changes, so that they can control the anger impulse before it controls them.

For example, blood flows into the hands when a person is angry, strengthening them to hold a weapon or otherwise defend against attack.

Fear causes blood to go to the legs, enabling people to run quickly. It may also cause a person to freeze to assess what might be the best thing to do.

Happiness affects the brain and cancels out worry, which helps the body relax and heal from other stressful times.

Sadness usually occurs when a person suffers a meaningful loss. It brings a drop in energy and enthusiasm for living — especially the fun things. As a result, people want to stay home and process how the change will affect their lives. In some cultures, people are given months or even a year of mourning time. It takes time to heal from a loss.

Adolescence is the time it takes for a child to become an adult emotionally and mentally. A 16-year-old may have reached his/her full growth, look like an adult and be able to reproduce, but may still not be able to understand what they or others are feeling. In some families, emotions aren’t talked about. Hopefully, these children will be able to learn about their feelings from their friends’ families, teachers or counselors. Feelings are natural.

I could be the smartest woman alive, but if I can’t understand my feelings or what others might be feeling, I won’t be able to experience the fullness of relationships with others. I wouldn’t be an understanding parent or supervisor or teacher. People who supervise or teach children need to have high EQ’s to be good role models for youth to learn empathy.

The Native Americans teach their youth that if you want to understand how a person feels, you have to walk in their moccasins for a day. That is a way to develop empathy, which is imagining how another person feels by knowing what is going on in their lives, and reading their faces. We think that everybody ought to be able to tell when a person is mad or sad or confused or surprised, but some people can’t. There is even a kind of disability called Asberger’s Syndrome, in which some people who have it don’t always read faces, feelings or touches correctly. Some, not all, of those skills can be learned, however.

People need to be tolerant of others who aren’t as sensitive to others’ feelings. They might not have had as much of a chance to learn. You are almost always safe if you follow the golden rule of treating others how you want to be treated, and you can share that with your friends, by living it.

One emotionally intelligent person in a family can usually make a big difference. He/she can read when trouble starts to brew, and maybe change the subject, make people laugh, ask respectfully what is going on, or even get to a safe place. Then, when things cool down, they can talk a bit about what was going on and try to get people to understand each other.

This holiday season your families may get together. Be aware of how some people in your family seem to anticipate the needs of others. That’s high emotional intelligence. Chances are that they are comfortable to be around. Maybe you’d like to see how much of a positive difference you can make for your family. It feels really good. Happy Holidays!

• Annaleah Atkinson is the Teen Court manager for Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i. She can be reached at, or Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i Inc., 2959 Umi St., Lihu‘e, HI 96766.


Several adults have “stepped into the corner” for our teens to answer questions and give support in the boxing ring of life! They are Catherine Stovall, community response specialist, county of Kaua‘i; Edmund Acoba, public defender; Craig DeCosta, county prosecuting attorney; officer Paul Applegate, Kaua‘i Police Department; Bill Arakaki, superintendent of schools; Jill Yoshimatsu, director of the DOE Mokihana program; and Annaleah Atkinson, Teen Court manager for Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i.

If you have something to share with Kaua‘i teens, or need to ask a question, contact Annaleah and she will field it to the person who can best help with the answer.


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