Emotional Intelligence, Empathy and Listening

How listening links with EQ and Empathy

We are all becoming increasingly aware that emotional intelligence, empathy and the ability to be a good listener are beneficial to the well-being of the individual and others. Peter Hudson explores how they are inseparably linked and how they offer a new way towards a better society.


I’ve been re-reading a couple of favourite books recently and have been impressed and motivated all over again. One is an old favourite, ‘Emotional Intelligence’[1] by Daniel Goleman, and the other a new favourite, ‘Empathy’[2] by Roman Krznaric.

Neither of them is actually about ‘Listening’, which is my bag, although they both speak of its importance. So I want to try and write about all three to get my head around them and see how they link together and what we can learn from them all. Emotional Intelligence is a ground breaker that redefines intelligence and success and the second is fast becoming a ground breaker arguing, convincingly, that Empathy is a crucial quality that we all must develop for the 21st century.

Goleman foresees the day when all children will have classes ‘inculcating essential human competencies such as self-awareness, self-control, and empathy, and the arts of listening, resolving conflicts and cooperation’. Krznaric believes that ‘empathy can create a revolution. Not one of those old-fashioned revolutions based on new laws, institutions or governments, but something much more radical: a revolution of human relationships’.

Based on significant research Goleman asserts that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is as important, if not more important than IQ for success generally and for successful leaders in particular. The main components of EQ are:

    1. Self-awareness—knowing one’s strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, and impact on others
    2. Self-regulation—controlling or redirecting disruptive impulses and moods
    3. Motivation—relishing achievement for its own sake
    4. Empathy—understanding other people’s emotional makeup
    5. Social skill—building rapport with others to move them in desired directions

Krznaric spends a whole book talking about empathy so it’s clearly a pretty important part of EQ! His definition is: ‘Empathy is the art of stepping imaginatively into the shoes of another person, understanding their feelings and perspectives, and using that understanding to guide your actions.’

And where does listening come into all of this? Well, you need to be an effective and competent listener to be able to act with emotional Intelligence, including acting empathically. It’s not one of the components of EQ, but rather underlines all of them.

Both Goleman and Krznaric cite plenty of research showing that these qualities are embedded in our evolutionary past – EQ, including empathy, is part of our genetic inheritance, embedded in the emotional architecture of our brains. The research shows, however, that the neuro-circuits are malleable and can change and are shaped by emotional lessons we learn at home and at school.

This is the crux of the matter – how, as educators, can we ensure that children and young people can have the highest EQ and empathy quotients possible? If it is as important as technical and intellectual ability, why isn’t it included in all basic schooling? The answer is probably complex but at bottom it’s because, throughout history, emotions have been treated as wishy-washy and even namby-pamby. In a traditional male dominated world it was intellectual abilities that were assumed to be superior; and it really isn’t very long at all since that world has been challenged.

The good news is that increasingly programmes of learning for emotional intelligence are being developed in schools around the world.

A meta-analysis of more than 200 separate studies that compared students with emotional intelligence-based programs and those without them found that positive behaviour increased 10 percent, negative went down 10 percent, and academic achievement scores jumped up 11 percent.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s flood our schools with EQ, Empathy and Listening courses. Surely it can only make things better!


Peter Hudson, a past Chair of the British Association of Social Functioning, is a qualified counsellor and psychotherapist. His career has encompassed counselling and psychotherapy in private practice, the state sector with the UK’s National Health Service and in schools both in the UK and overseas.

To book Peter for training in your school please contact: info@consiliumeducation.com 



[1] Emotional intelligence: Daniel Goleman, Bloomsbury 1995

[2] Empathy: Roman Krznaric, Rider Books 2014

See also https://www.cleverism.com/emotional-intelligence-emotional-quotient-eq/ for another look at EQ by Martin Luenendonk


Feature image:  geralt – Pixabay

Other Images: stux & PublicDomainPictures – Pixabay