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Beyond Emotional Intelligence

John Mayer, the University of New Hampshire psychologist who co-developed with Peter Salovey the groundbreaking theory of emotional intelligence popularized by Daniel Goleman in the book “Emotional Intelligence”, has introduced another paradigm-shifting idea. Mayer maintains that in order to become our best selves, we use an even broader intelligence—personal intelligence—to understand our own personality and the personalities of the people around us.

In “Personal Intelligence: The Power of Personality and How It Shapes Our Lives,” Mayer lays out the various components of personal intelligence and draws on case studies of athletes, journalists, police detectives, and painters. 

A release from the university quotes Mayer as saying, “People who are high in personal intelligence are able to anticipate their own desires and actions, predict the behavior of others, motivate themselves over the long term, and make better life decisions. Think of all the ways we read and interpret the people around us each day: We notice body language and facial expressions to estimate one another’s moods. We draw initial guesses about personalities based on how people dress and present themselves, and we adjust how we interact with them accordingly. We run through scenarios in our heads, trying to anticipate how others will react, in order to choose the best course in dealing with a boss, a coworker, or a partner. We pick up on small pieces of feedback about ourselves from others, which we incorporate into a fuller and more accurate perception of ourselves. And we make all kinds of decisions—about work-life balance, the neighborhood we live in, or who we spend our time with—based on what we think will be the best fit for our personalities.”

The release notes that these skills are all part of personal intelligence, and they come much more naturally to some than to others. 

Writing about Mayer’s new book, Salovey, now president of Yale University, said: “John D. Mayer has done so much to get us to think about human personality in new ways. With ‘Personal Intelligence,’ Mayer once again challenges us—arguing that there is a set of skills that may determine what sets successful people apart from those who seem oblivious to the needs and desires of those around them. He is a clear thinker and a beautiful writer, and his arguments compel us to broaden our understanding of what constitutes an intelligent individual.”

Mayer is a professor of psychology at UNH and a key innovator in intelligence research. He has written more than 125 scientific articles, books, and psychological tests, including the internationally known Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT™). He has lectured around the world and has appeared on NPR and BBC-TV. His work has been covered in The New York Times, Time, The Washington Post, and The New Republic.

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