Emotional intelligence: a key element in close friendships

My eight-year-old grandson Ben is becoming friends with Max—a ten-year-old boy who lives near our Lakehouse. I enjoy watching their friendship develop. 

We go to the Lakehouse about two weekends a month so their time together is spotty and limited but they have developed a healthy and solid friendship. 

One important feature of their friendship is that both boys posses and demonstrate an amazing level of emotional intelligence. Most adults don’t possess the EQ that these boys have.

For instance, recently Ben said, “Max it’s good to see you again. I wasn’t out here last weekend because I had a birthday party I had to go to.” (Thus reassuring Max that their relationship is important and durable).

I noticed that when Ben and Max play soccer, Max (who is older and larger) doesn’t kick the ball as hard as he can or make the moves he could; he scales back his play to Ben’s level so Ben doesn’t feel inferior or frustrated.

This is astonishing. How did they learn to be so emotionally attuned to each other? Who taught them the subtleties of relating to others in a healthy and nourishing way? 

I want to use their relationship to introduce a broader topic—the importance of emotional intelligence—and an even broader topic—multiple intelligences (MI). 

In 1983, Howard Gardner published a landmark book: Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences in which he suggested that there are multiple ways a person can be intelligent (or unintelligent). Prior to Gardner’s book, IQ was considered the only measure of intelligence, but he suggested five other areas of competency. 

Multiple Intelligence (MI) 

      • Abstract intelligence – symbolic reasoning, logic (IQ)
      • Practical intelligence – knowing how things work and how to get things done
      • Emotional intelligence – being aware of, and properly responding to, the emotional world
      • Aesthetic intelligence – a sense of form and design, expressed in literature, the arts, music, and other holistic experiences
      • Kinesthetic intelligence – whole-body competence such as sports, dance, or flying a fighter jet
      • Social intelligence – properly assessing, and relating to, social environments; social awareness 

The most familiar assessment, IQ, is perhaps the least accurate indicator of success in life. Most people have enough IQ to function well in life; only a few professions require extreme IQ (rocket scientist, mathematics professor).

Of those six types of intelligence, three of them (abstract, aesthetic, and kinesthetic) are basically innate—your aptitude was set at birth and there’s not a lot you can do to improve. To some extent, practical intelligence can be developed, but for sure, emotional and social intelligence can be increased through study and practice.

To be successful in life, which of the six types of intelligence are most important? Interestingly, the two areas that can be developed: emotional and social intelligence. Granted, if aspire to be a professional athlete, you need to score high on the kinesthetic scale. If you want to play in the New York Philharmonic, you better excel in aesthetic intelligence. But for most professions, high EQ and SQ are the most important. To do well in life you need to be emotionally and socially intelligent.

Isn’t that interesting: the only areas that we can improve through study and practice are also the most important.

Back to Ben and Max. I predict that, individually, they will do well in life and that they will enjoy a lifelong friendship.

4 Replies to “Emotional intelligence: a key element in close friendships”

  1. Loved this! It is so very true that the relationships we develop during our life are so very important. As you said:

    “ Isn’t that interesting: the only areas that we can improve through study and practice are also the most important.”

  2. This was a really interesting post and, as a granny, I appreciate your reference to your grandson. As grandparents we observe how our grandchildren develop in a more detached and less judgemental way than perhaps we would have done as parents.
    Ben and Max seem to value their relationship sufficiently to give way to each other (the word in Ephesians is submit). It doesn’t sound as if either boy has any of his schoolmates involved in their play and therefore no peer pressure. I wonder how both boys would behave if there were other children present?
    Unfortunately, parents do not always have the time to invest in their child’s emotional and social intelligence and are more interested in academic grades. With so many families where both parents work, play dates and social interaction can become limited. Parents can set the right environment for many of these intelligences. The child who listens to music from a young age and is encouraged to play and sing may well develop the determination to put in the hours of practice to become a professional musician. Anyone who pursues a goal, needs a vision of what they want to achieve. Parents who are role models and visionaries paint a picture for our children of how to live life successfully. We, as grandparents, can also play our part and I know that my nan (paternal grandmother) showed me what graciousness, fun and compassion looked like.

    1. Angela, as always, your thoughts are significant. Yes, it’s wonderful being a grandparent. I relate to Ben differently than I did my two daughters. Our family is trying to balance our dreams for Ben’s life with his interests and desires. You are a wonderful grandmother.

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