Elitism of any kind has always invoked the gag-me-with-a-spoon reflex. In fact, some displays of snobbery gag me with enough spoons for a State dinner party.
I find the snoots hard enough to stomach when I’m dealing with an isolated individual. A Lone Ranger of pomposity, if you will. But when the “tomsnootery” is sponsored through the forming of clubs, well, someone had better hold my hair back.
It’s no surprise, then, that my discovery of the existence of Mensa, the intellectual society for those whose IQ is in the top 2% of the population, went down like a spoonful of canned peas. As in, not for long.
I’m sure that some of you think that my strong reaction reeks of sour grapes. After all, the only way you could be sure of my conviction would be for me to pass the test and renounce my membership, right? Well, something tells me that you’ll just have to take my word for it.
I admit, though, that my frustration with Mensa can’t necessarily be blamed on its members. It’s really more of an indictment of our society, which values this kind of intelligence so much that an organization like Mensa can be around for 65 years and boast 110,000 members, without a parallel society for other types of intelligence.
Because I think our world would benefit far more from a society comprised of those who have an EQ, or emotional intelligence, in the top 2%.
These people would be our emotional geniuses. They are the kind of people who have the ability to assess the mood of a room. For whatever reason a group could possibly gather, they are the kind of people who make sure that everyone is engaged and invested in the outcome—whether it be for a party, school function, business meeting or volunteer event. These skills allow them to masterfully head off conflict because they possess the levels of empathy that allow them to see all different viewpoints. In short, they make it possible for us humans to coexist peacefully.
Without their skills, frankly, I don’t think it matters how smart people are. Because a single individual, alone, will not discover the next drug that will save lives, the new technology that will save time, or the system that will improve our children’s education. These developments will only be made through the collaborative efforts of people who understand the importance of getting along with others, before they can use their intellectual minds to innovate.
My experience tells me that, these days, we take these social-emotional skills for granted. I see it in our school system, where teachers no longer have the time to teach proactively about emotional wellbeing and, instead, perform punitive triage when conflict arises. And I don’t see this changing until there is a state-mandated standardized test that probes for emotional development. Because there simply isn’t time.
The thing that parents see clearly, though, is that children who don’t have social success become emotionally distraught. And this distress definitely affects academic performance. Children who feel pain – whether it’s physical or emotional – are too distracted by the hurt to focus on reading, writing and arithmetic.
I see the impact of a low EQ in the workplace, too. Companies strive to hire the best and the brightest, with little thought over how well these people will play with others; whether they have not just the smarts but the integrity to help grow the company brand; whether they can see the value of the common goal over their own individual needs. The impact is a stressful work environment where bullies manage through fear and colleagues don’t see the value in helping teammates, focusing instead on improving their personal metrics for success.
And, perhaps, where the need for a solid EQ is most evident is in the drive-by interactions we have with others as we commute to work, navigate in and out of shops, or share and adjoining table at a restaurant. It is in these situations where we have no invested sense of community that it is most important to truly perceive the needs of those around us.
If we take the time to notice that someone needs to merge into our lane, could use a shop door held open, or is bothered by the volume of conversation coming from our restaurant table, we will be more likely to coexist without honking our horns, raising our voices and saluting with our middle fingers.
The tricky part is that we can’t look to the top 2% of our emotionally gifted to lead us because anyone with high levels of EQ would shun the title of emotional elite. So it looks like we need to make a secret society with the singular mission of peaceful coexistence, where everyone who plays nice is welcome… no matter their test scores.
Causes Shana Moore Supports