Emotional Intelligence Myths #1: Plato By Christopher Golis MA MBA FAICD FAIM

I will begin my blogs for EI-Hub by writing a series about the myths that have developed in the field of emotional intelligence.  You can see from my biography that I was trained at the University of Cambridge and the London Business School.  Five years at those two institutions make you a serious sceptic.

Recently more and more blogs on Emotional Intelligence are quoting Plato, in particular “All learning has an emotional base.”

If you have ever read Plato you would be confused by this quote.  His Socratic dialogs are models of logical discourse.  In The Republic Plato divides the soul into three parts: the rational, the emotional, and the bestial (the instinctive desire for survival based on the “fight or flight” response).  Plato argues that to be fully human it was necessary to suppress the bestial and emotional parts of our soul and keep them under the control of the rational.  Accordingly Plato argues in The Republic that poets should be banished from the perfect society because poets try to arouse raw emotions from deep within us.  Yet here are the “experts in emotional intelligence” quoting Plato saying the opposite.

A little research quickly demonstrates that Plato never made this quote.  According to this Yahoo Answer there is no sign of this quotation before 1997, after which it’s copied promiscuously in various inspirational/psychological books – never with source identification – and then on to various me-too quotation websites.

However do the Greeks have anything to teach us about emotional intelligence?  My answer is yes.  The centre of the Greek world was Delphi, home of the famous oracle.  Inscribed on the main temple were the two great commandments.  The first was “Know yourself.”  Conscious knowledge of your core emotional drives that form your temperament is a key part of the journey of self-knowledge.

The second great commandment of the Delphic Oracle was “Nothing to excess” or sometimes it is translated as “Everything in moderation.”  Of course, moderation can be taken too far.  People with excessive self-control will not allow other people to blossom and make decisions for themselves. Also, they fail to learn how to relax. You cannot spend your whole time trying to fix the world.  Remember the best you can do is good enough.

Nevertheless it is the over-emotional and neurotic people are the ones that typically cause problems in society not those who exhibit too much self-control.

I define Emotional Intelligence is achieving self- and social mastery by being smart with core emotions.

Self-Mastery = Self Awareness + Self Management (Steps 1 & 2 as defined by Goleman)

Social Mastery = Empathy + Social Skills (Steps 3 &4 as defined by Goleman)

So you see the Greeks preceded Goleman by some 2,500 years!!!

If you want to learn what are your core emotional drives do this simple quiz.


Add Your Comment

Chris Golis - Author


"Put in a sales perspective, I loved your presentation! I got a lot from what you talked about and I will read your book."

Peter Morris, Executive Officer, Lomax Financial Group

Your presentation on 'Lifting your Level of Emotional Intelligence" to 10 CEOs scored an average 8.9 out of 10 for the topic and 8.5 for the presentation which is great. A couple of the attendees gave you a 10 out of 10, and the comments were:

- Great presentation. Very informative.

- Excellent presentation.

- made me think.

Christi Spring CEO Institute. - web www.ceo.com.au.