Goleman, meanwhile, quit writing for the New York Times to focus on books and cofounding a new research organization: the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations (CREIO). Gradually, he expanded his interest to cover broader concepts of emotional intelligence — first in organizations and communities, and then in society at large. He is particularly interested in advancing children’s development and influencing schools. At the Kennedy School gathering, he was asked why people often seem to lose their empathy and compassion when they advance to positions of power. Goleman replied that they had simply never acquired the exceptional emotional intelligence that leaders in high positions need. “I would give up on our current flock of leaders and start with kids,” he added. “The real window of opportunity for this set of abilities is in the first 20 years of life.”
In addition to CREIO, Goleman cofounded the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, or CASEL, which is focused on programs for preschool through high school. In a recently published meta-analysis project, CASEL, based at the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that young people who participated in after-school programs on “social and emotional learning” (SEL) showed significant improvement in their attendance and behavior. High school seniors showed a 15 percent gain in standardized test scores after SEL, which represents a greater boost than coaching services for the tests typically deliver.
“SEL helps kids master their emotions so they’re in the internal state that’s ideal for learning,” Goleman says. “That’s why Singapore is making SEL training mandatory. Singapore is really a corporation disguised as a country — and they see this as enhancing their human capital.” Goleman notes that SEL programs are also now offered in New York and Illinois and that several other states are considering implementing such programs. He adds with a smile that since CASEL’s chairman, Timothy Shriver, is the brother-in-law of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the chances are good that California will also embrace mandatory SEL training.
The Transparent Company
Goleman’s 2006 book, Social Intelligence, drew on advances in brain studies to expand from the neuroscience of personal emotions to more complex interactions among people. It describes such intriguing phenomena as “mirror neurons,” which are highly specialized brain cells that attune people to the attitudes and moods of those around them — for example, signaling a couple that the moment is right for a first kiss.
The link between social connection and neural response is visible because of new technology, in particular functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which can produce real-time video images of the brain as people interact with one another. These images reveal an exquisite circuitry devoted to social engagements, often instantaneous and nonverbal. We are “wired to connect,” as Goleman puts it, and that has profound implications for personal and professional relationships. As with emotional intelligence, the most profound insight may well involve plasticity: With greater attention and self-awareness, people can learn to develop better social skills, and their neural patterns will adjust accordingly.
In other words, to improve both social and emotional intelligence, people must cultivate mindfulness — becoming intentionally aware of thoughts and actions, particularly in the present moment. Many mindfulness practices involve meditation in some form, and Goleman has never lost his interest in it. Although he doesn’t consider himself a Buddhist, he sits every day in a form of Tibetan Buddhist meditation; in his Berkshire home, he has built a replica of a Japanese teahouse at the top of a set of stone stairs. In addition, he leads workshops with his wife, Tara, based on her book, Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart (Harmony Books, 2001).