K.S. Ramesh, Ph.D.
(Published in Northfield News, MN December 19, 1999

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Dr. Ramesh






I remember commuting to school by a city bus in Madras. The ride was memorableBus in Madras mainly because the bus conductor made it so. A pleasant person, he had a marvelous way with people.  He would skillfully maneuver the passengers and see that everyone was comfortable. As the bus meandered its way through the busy roads of Madras, the conductor would keep our spirits high with his lively commentary and wits. His charm and courtesy endeared him to all. When we got off the bus, he would wish us a lovely day - and yes that was certainly a cheerful note to take off in the morning. My memory of those bus rides has stayed with me undimmed in spite of the intervening decades.  I feel the bus conductor was truly successful in his undertaking.


Contrast his behavior, with that of some very intelligent students of especially today who cannot accept failure. Elementary school kids now regularly talk about being “stressed out”. One high achiever in grade six I know would react like it was the death of his dream if he scored less than an "A+" in mathematics.


Why is it that seemingly intelligent people behave in ways that defy common sense and logic? Psychologists now tell us that a high IQ (Intelligent Quotient) is not a reliable, definite indicator of success in life. You would be shocked to know that IQ is responsible only for a mere 20 percent of the success story. The 80 percent comes from a cluster of other factors, which have been termed by psychologist Daniel Goleman as Emotional Intelligence or Emotional Quotient (EQ).  It is encouraging to know that EQ can be developed.  The following are some of the factors that constitute it.


Self-awareness: Implies the ability to recognize our own feelings. People with greater awareness of their feelings tend to have better control over their lives.  Try tuning into your “gut feelings” - feelings which occur without your being consciously aware of them. Suppose you have been hurt by a rude remark, hours after the incident, you may not be aware of your irritability until someone points it out to you. But if you “look into” your feelings, you can change them. Emotional self-awareness is the stepping-stone to the next building block of emotional intelligence - the ability to throw off a bad mood.


Mood management: You must learn to strike a balance between good and bad moods. Very often it is difficult to stay “in control” when we are swept by a strong feeling (e.g. anger). But we certainly can control how long that emotion feelings will last. Most people find anger to be the mood that is hardest to deal with. Suppose you find a person driving recklessly, your reflexive reaction would be to get angry with that person I would guess so. The more you curse, the angrier you get.


What does one do to “ cool off”?. One myth is to give expression to anger- “ventilating” or letting off steam would make you feel better. In fact, outbursts of anger pump up the brain’s arousal system leaving you very angry.


A more effective technique is “ refraining” which means re-interpreting a situation in a more positive light. In this case of the rash driver, you might tell yourself, “perhaps he was not a skilled driver; maybe he was in a hurry”


Another anger defusing technique is staying alone to cool down. Yet another alternative is exercise, like a long walk. Whatever methods you choose do not waste time by holding on to your anger thoughts. Your aim must be to distract yourself. Never react for when you do so, you stagnate; but if you act you progress.


Self- motivation: Empowering yourself with feelings of enthusiasm, zeal and confidence is a vital factor in success stories. Common to high achievers in any discipline, is the ability to motivate themselves to pursue tough training schedules. A positive mental attitude, coupled with the ability to motivate oneself adds to achievement.


Impulse control: Often one finds it difficult to resist immediate pleasures- the ability to control oneself keeping in mind long-term goals.  The importance of this factor in the success formula was brought out in an experiment at a pre-school class.


Children were promised a treat - a chocolate, immediately.  If however, they waited until the teacher completed an experiment, they could have two bars of chocolate. As expected, some children grabbed the single chocolate immediately. A few however, preferred to wait until the teacher finished his work.  To help them in their struggle, the children (who preferred to wait) distracted themselves by discussing with each other, and even covering their eyes. These smart ones finally got the double treat.


The follow-up of study revealed that the children who as preschoolers were able to wait for the double treat, later as adolescents were still able to control themselves in pursuit of an aim.  They were able to cope with frustrations and disappointments as adults. Besides they were more socially competent and self-assertive. In contrast, the other group adolescents were more likely to be stubborn, tense and indecisive.


Impulse control can be developed through practice. When faced with the pleasures of immediate temptation, remind yourself of the long=term goals. You would perhaps find it easier then to grab the single chocolate.


People skills: The ability to be sensitive to another’s feelings is important in all relationships- on job, friendship and the family to mention but a few. We have an uncanny knack of catching and transmitting moods from each other unconsciously.  We must become more adept in recognizing the feelings behind other people’s  signal, the greater is our control over the signals we send. I once met a professor of behavioral sciences who said “ A big part of ethics is fundamentally just other- regarding behavior”. And that is precisely what etiquette is all about. If we don’t help our students get it right   in the little things, they will never be in a position to get it right in the big things. We must teach them to be courteous, hoping this will help them to be moral.


Ethics is not primarily about the big things; it is not the sole preserve of mind-bending dilemmas and difficult cases. It is mostly about everyday matters like how we treat the people around us.

It has been found the average students in class were more successful in life than the academically brilliant. Obviously, academic excellence does not guarantee success in life. Emotional quotient too plays a part. To call oneself “educated” in the true sense of the term, calls for a union of the mind and heart. A touch of excellence in the quality of life we lead would make a difference between living life to the fullest, and merely existing.

©1999 KS Ramesh, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA