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To call someone "emotional" is not a compliment in most universities. Women get the message that workplace success means leaving their emotions at home. Emotions supposedly interfere with intellect, performance and objectivity.
"People used to put Novocain in their mouth so as not to show emotion," said Dr. Leila Gonzalez-Sullivan, recently named the W. Dallas Herring Extension Professor at North Carolina State University. She led workshops on Emotional Intelligence (EI) at the AAWCC/NILD annual conference in Phoenix AZ in June.
When she started reading about EI, it didn't feel new, she said. Instead it provided a vocabulary for what she'd experienced while working in community colleges over 30 years. Theory is starting to catch up with what many women have long felt and observed.
From the time Spearman defined intelligence in terms of information processing in the early 1900s, the theory of what constitutes intelligence has gradually broadened. Thorndike wrote about social intelligence in 1920 and Neisser about practical intelligence in 1976.
Howard Gardner introduced a theory of multiple intelligences in 1983. John Mayer and Peter Salovey wrote about emotional intelligence in 1990 and writer Daniel Goldman popularized the concept with a series of best-sellers in the mid 1990s.
Workplace norms lag behind, but the conventional wisdom about leaving emotions at home is changing. A growing number of psychologists and business consultants observe that skill at understanding and managing emotions is a major factor in the success or failure of individuals, companies and colleges.