John is a successful, handsome, affable, strong male in his mid-30s, who has a winning smile and wise eyes.
He reveals to me his gremlin — the recurring narrative we each carry telling us we are not “good enough” to get what we really want.
John’s gremlin tells him he is not smart enough. As a university lecturer for 30 years, I am acutely aware of how intimidating the classroom can be for students who may feel inadequate ”to make the grade” they believe is expected of them. So I can connect with John emotionally as he tells as he tells his story:
“I was in the third grade and had to read aloud to the class from a book passage. When I got to the word ‘island’ I pronounced the silent ‘S,’ and the class laughed at me. The teacher did not know how to handle it, and I sat down embarrassed and ashamed.
“My parents did not read or discuss stuff at home, so I really had no support. I went through the rest of my education as the class clown to get my friends’ approval. It was not until the 11th grade that I realized education was the way to become somebody who I wanted to be, rather than a diminishment of who I am.”
John’s story illustrates the negative effects of the narrow interpretation of intelligence many of us carry with us as a burden. Imagine if we broadened our judgment to enable people to shine with what they do best. However, our education and work institutions reinforce this self-defeating evaluation of others and ourselves by exclusively equating an intelligent person with cognitive intelligence.
Cognitive intelligence is the capability to learn, retain information, understand, reason, form concepts and use language in sophisticated ways to communicate — how smart we appear to be. It may be the most recognized and rewarded, but it is not the only valid form of intelligence.
Two other forms of intelligence are underrated: emotional and bodily-kinesthetic.
Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognize your and others’ emotions, discriminate between different feelings, identify them and develop the capability to communicate effectively by listening and speaking intuitively in the moment it matters.
A fellow coach, who is an inspirational speaker to students in her community, had an eighth-grade girl approach her to reveal sexual molestation at home. This coach showed tremendous EI in how she developed trust with the girl, spoke with the school administration and facilitated how this young girl’s situation would be sensitively and effectively handled.
There was no textbook, multiple-choice test or essay that could have prepared this coach to have so masterfully handled a situation that changed the course of a young girl’s life.
But EI is not just for the classroom and working with crisis situations. Studies have shown that people with high EI have greater mental health, job performance and leadership skills.
Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (BKI) is learning that takes place by people carrying out physical activities, rather than listening to a lecture or watching demonstrations. These are “doers.”
The fireman who knows how to run through a raging house fire and rescue a child in a locked bedroom is as intelligent as the surgeon who knows how to make an incision that can remove a brain tumor. Physical and eye–body coordinative activities are under-appreciated in our society yet will probably be more important in careers moving forward.
Jeff Saperstein (firstname.lastname@example.org, jeffsaperstein.com, linkedin.com/in/jeff-saperstein) is a career-transition coach based in Mill Valley who specializes in mid- to late-career business professionals who may feel stuck and who aspire to align their values with their work-life activities. Read past columns.