Which is more important in life: critical thinking or emotional intelligence?

I just spent three days at the Sixth Biannual International Congress on Emotional Intelligence in Oporto where the mantra was naturally that EQ was the most important thing in life. So it was somewhat refreshing to read this article: Critical thinking skills are more important than IQ for making good decisions in life.

The article describes a study that discussed whether it was better to have a modest IQ and navigate life wisely, or to have a high IQ and yet make clangers that leave your peers shaking their heads. The difference is how well developed are your critical thinking skills. Note that unlike IQ which is genetically determined, critical thinking is a skill (like emotional intelligence) that can be developed.

I had a good example of this at the conference. The speaker was in full flight and put up a slide with this attributed quote to Plato: “All learning has an emotional base.”

I could not help myself. During question time, I asked the speaker from which Socratic Dialog or where in the Republic had she sourced the quote? After a few minutes of rambling discourse she opted for the Republic. I then said that it did not appear in the Republic and just like “fake news” it was a “fake quote.” I also added that anyone familiar with the works of Plato would know it was a false quote because Plato argues strongly in his works it was necessary to suppress the bestial and emotional parts of our soul and keep them under the control of the rational. For example, 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. If there ever was a writer against the teachings of emotional intelligence it would be Plato. For further discussion see this previous blog.

I am very fortunate. I was trained in Critical Thinking Skills while an undergraduate at Cambridge. Subsequently working for 25 years in venture capital honed these skills. Learning that correlation is not causation, searching for experimental proof, looking out for logical fallacies, studying how to lie with statistics, etc. are all part of learning curve.

Which is more important in life: critical thinking or emotional intelligence? My simple answer is both. However, what I have tried to do is apply critical thinking to emotional intelligence.

In passing at least a dozen people came up to me after the session ended telling me it was a great question.


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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.