Gardner's Theory of Multiple Types of Intelligence

Many people rely only on academic success to measure their intelligence. Yet, this simplistic view fails to capture the degree to which intelligence correlates with real-world functioning.In 1983, developmental psychologist, Howard Gardner, proposed a theory of multiple intelligences. Rather than viewing intelligence as reflected only in the academic sense, he described eight discrete areas of ability that allow people to thrive. Two of these, intrapersonal (knowledge of self) and interpersonal (knowledge of others) form the basis of emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the capacity to interact effectively at an emotional and social level within ourselves and with other people. Both Gardner, who theorized multiple intelligences, and Goleman, who popularized emotional intelligence, recognized the fact that our ability to succeed is much broader than our grades in school.


The Limits of Academic Intelligence

Despite this information, many people continue to define whether they are intelligent by their high school G.P.A. or the number of degrees they hold. Some individuals underestimate their capacity for success because of their early academic difficulties. Others did well academically but underestimate the role of social intelligence in their current endeavors. They may be the best qualified “on paper” but continue to struggle for recognition in their professional fields. The television show, “The Big Bang Theory,” shows social ineptitude with great humor, yet social deficits in the real world is at best frustrating and at worst, career suicide. I have listened to multiple leaders comment that they hire based on personality because they can always teach the skills.


Pursuing Emotional Intelligence Can be Uncomfortable

Taking a broader view of intelligence requires intentionally attending to emotional intelligence. Increasing emotional intelligence can be messy. We may need to obtain feedback from others on how they perceive us. We may need to try approaches that feel un-natural and inauthentic, or delve into emotion that we would rather not acknowledge.

There are multiple benefits to tolerating the discomfort of assessing and increasing our emotional intelligence. Increased emotional intelligence optimizes professional functioning, yields increased personal fulfillment, and provides the peace that only comes with knowing and fully accepting ourselves. It’s worth it.