Three Ways to Develop Emotional Intelligence in Generation Z

Today’s blog is from Andrew McPeak. Andrew is a next gen researcher, speaker, and author for Growing Leaders.

I bet you can identify with an experience I had recently.

A few months ago, I met a very bright young man who had been recognized by his school as one of the leaders among his peers. It turns out they might have mistaken intelligence for leadership. I spent five minutes talking to this straight-A student, and he wasn’t able to look me in the eye—even once—as I engaged him in conversation. I must have had on nice shoes.

Tim Elmore and I both talk about emotional intelligence often, but we do so because no matter how much we discuss it, it seems that the issue keeps getting larger and more important. Just recently a Loyola University Medical Center study found that emotional intelligence could help medical doctors avoid burnout at work. Another article showed just how employers are vetting new job candidates for emotional intelligence skills. The need for EQ is everywhere.

We Need Easier Solutions

As I read more and more about the need for emotional intelligence, as well as the continued problem of low EQ around the globe, I am burdened by the fact that we need better solutions to this emotional intelligence problem. We need ways for everyday leaders and teachers to be able to engage students, like the young man I met, around emotional intelligence without the need to rewrite lesson plans or upend schedules. I want to share with you three ways I’ve seen that have been working for leaders around the world for building emotional intelligence skills in kids.

1. Build Environments Designed to Support Healthy Social Interaction

The biggest obstacle to the building of healthy social and emotional skills are the environments most kids are in each day. The typical day includes far too few social situations in which to build these important skills. Lots of schools around the world are now intentionally providing kids opportunities to have healthy interactions with one another. One of the best examples of this I have seen is in something called “Buddy Benches.” These benches are a place where kids on a playground can go if they don’t have anyone to play with. Other kids are encouraged to lookout for kids who sit on this bench and go over to engage them. It’s a pretty cool way to meet a social problem with an environmental solution.

Question: Do the environments you create for students give them opportunities to utilize their social and emotional skills?

2. Change the Way Engagement Occurs in the Classroom

Another obstacle to emotional intelligence comes in the way that adults interact with kids today. I have found in my reading and research with parents, teachers, and leaders that most kids live in a world where adults talk at them, not with them. Because of the stress of a busy schedule or lesson plan, most adults don’t make the effort to engage with kids. Lots of adults, however, are trying to change that. Movements like “responsive classrooms” and initiatives like conversational-style learning are attempting to change this trend.

Question: Are you intentional in how you engage with the students you are leading?

3. Make Time for the Elephant in the Room

A fascinating series of studies out of Northwestern and Stanford Universities have found a startling way to narrow the academic achievement gap between students of high socio-economic status and those of low SES by 63%. The answer is simple: talk about it. “The key to the one-time intervention’s success was raising students’ awareness of the ways that social class shapes the college experience, according to Northwestern psychologist Nicole Stephens.” Too many schools and leaders today avoid talking about the social, racial, and economic issues that affect our learning environments. This is a shame since those very same injustices are often key culprits in perpetuating our EQ problems. If you want to solve it, maybe the answer is to start a conversation.

Question: Are you addressing the inequalities in your classroom through discussion?

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Three Ways to Develop Emotional Intelligence in Generation Z