Goleman succeeds in making a powerful case for the importance of the relatively new concept of emotional intelligence, while greatly broadening our understanding of what intelligence is all about in the first place.
According to New York Times psychology and brain science editor Goleman (Vital Lies, Simple Truths, not reviewed, etc.), despite "the lopsided scientific vision of an emotionally flat mental life," we think, act, and interact at least as much on the basis of our feelings as on rational grounds. The extent to which we're knowledgeable and nuanced about our own and others' emotions constitutes "emotional literacy." Goleman covers an enormous amount of territory in exploring this topic, including the neurology of emotions, group behavior, impulse control (particularly concerning aggression), and the correlation of one's emotional state with one's ability to endure pain or heal after surgery. Goleman's primary good news is that children and adults can benefit from "emotional coaching": The brain's feeling mechanism, i.e., synapses between cells, can literally grow, even in the case of such long-term disorders as depression or obsessive- compulsive behavior. Goleman takes us into a number of schools, including one in the inner city, that have developed new curricula to teach children to be more aware of their emotions and to develop a wider repertoire to replace self-defeating, self-destructive, or antisocial behavior. The main weakness here is the author's occasionally glib tone as he bandies about statistics or scants an important topic. He also has a penchant for making and citing sweeping claims on the benefits of helping individuals achieve greater emotional literacy. And in emphasizing cognitive and behaviorist methods, he slights psychoanalytic and family-systems approaches.
Still, Goleman's clear, engaging style makes this a model for social science literature that bridges professional and lay readerships.