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The "Emotionally Intelligent Soldier" Question



History of year 2003 emails between Emmerling and Hein

Original August 2003 editorial about the emotionally intelligent soldier question

Found a new use of the term "emotionally intelligent soldier"

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In April of 2003 Rob Emmerling sent me an email in which he wrote:

I wanted to inquire as to what the procedure would be for posting articles to your website.  Dan Goleman and myself are interested in adding an article to address some of the theoretical and methodological issues you and others have raised in the current debate on emotions and emotional intelligence.

In another email Rob asked me if I had any specific questions I wanted to ask Goleman. I came up with this one:

How would you describe an emotionally intelligent soldier?

I wanted to show that Dan Goleman's definition of emotional intelligence wouldn't work very well when it came to soldiers. But Dan and Rob didn't want to address my question and we stopped communicating. For two years I heard nothing else from Rob until he started his campaign to discredit me and my site, which you can read about on the main Emmerling page and on this page which has more details.

In any case, in August of 2003 I wrote an editorial about the emotionally intelligent soldier question....


Original August 2003 editorial about the emotionally intelligent soldier question.

Below is an explanation of how I thought of this question for Dan (and Rob) and why I believe it is important. I would also like your input on a good answer to this question. Thanks.



Originally written in August of 2003

Over the past couple of months I have been corresponding with Rob Emmerling, who works for Dan Goleman. It seems Dan had the idea of using my site to defend himself from some of his critics. I was both surprised and pleased by this. It means I have been doing my job well enough to get Dan's attention. Rob, who is the webmaster of the EI Consortium, wrote me a friendly sounding letter and asked me what the "procedures" were for "posting content" onto my EQI.org site. (Note that he didn't ask me how I would feel about it!) He said Dan wanted to write something for my site. Rob and I used to correspond a few years ago -- till he dropped the link to my site and I asked him why. He never replied.

I assumed that Goleman had told him to drop it because of my strong criticism of him and his claims about EI. Goleman, I can safely assume, would prefer that people not know about my site and what it contains. But now he has evidently decided that it is time to acknowledge the existence of it and to try to use it to make himself look better. I felt skeptical about this from the first email I received, but I decided to see what Goleman had in mind. Rob sent me this outline and it looked interesting enough. But I wanted to ask Dan a few of my own questions. I didn't think he was getting at the really important questions about EI and its possible significance to humanity. So I asked Rob to see if Dan would consider responding to a few additional questions from me and maybe from others such as David Caruso, Jack Mayer and Rich Roberts. Rob wrote back and said he would, so I started thinking about what I would ask him. I also told David what was going on and asked him to submit some questions, which he did as you can see here. As you can see, David's questions are more academic, more related to business and not particularly confronting. I wanted to come up with a question that would really make Goleman think about something he seems not to have thought about, or a question which would help expose the weakness in his concept of emotional intelligence. I thought about this for a long time, over several weeks, or even months. Eventually the question came to me. I wanted to ask Goleman how he would describe an emotionally intelligent soldier.

To me, this is a very powerful question. If Goleman took it seriously, he might have to challenge his own definition of emotional intelligence. Now that I think about it, I could have made the question more personal by asking how he would describe an emotionally intelligent guard at a concentration camp. I could ask him to think about a guard in one of the German concentration camps during World War II, or the person in charge of one -- the "leader" since Dan is so interested in leadership. I could ask "What would make the leader of a concentration camp a 'Star Performer'?" - the term Goleman overused in his 1998 book for the corporate world. I believe Dan is Jewish, or at least his family is, so this question could be especially personal for him. I want it to be personal because I want to evoke some emotion in him and others. I want him to really think about what he is doing with his influence in the world. (see note) But I am probably just helping him feel even more defensive. lol. Oh well. Maybe that is a good thing too. Maybe the more defensive he gets the more people will see that the emperor wears no clothes.

Here are some notes I made to myself this morning.


Intelligence is about making decisions. The more intelligent person makes better decisions.

How does a person decide whether to kill someone or not?

Loyalty to who, what?

If someone tells you to do something and you don't do it, are you then disloyal? If you are told to shoot someone and you don't do it, are you disloyal? If you are told to serve in your country's military and you refuse, are you disloyal? (See related editorial about Australian soldiers and disobedience)

How does a person know what they are "supposed to do"? What they "should do" and who they "should" be loyal to? What is appropriate? What is in their own best interests? Or in the best interests of their family or their country or their "group"?

A family is a group.

A company is a group.

A religious organization is a group.

A country is a group.

A race is a group.

The human species is a group.


Though Goleman doesn't actually list "loyalty" among his so-called emotional competencies, he does include "trustworthiness." So getting back to the idea of an emotionally intelligent soldier, would he or she break the trust of his superiors and his country if he felt sufficiently guilty about what they were doing and felt enough empathy for the families of the people they were killing? How would an emotional genius make his or her decision about when to betray his/her country? Would a cogntively or emotionally intelligent person try to think of a better way to solve conflicts than killing people? Is loyalty to one's country really such a good thing for humanity? Is a loyal and trustworthy American soldier a good thing for humanity? What about a loyal and trustworthy North Korean soldier?

I would really like Goleman to address this. Rob Emmerling wrote to me and said my question seemed "out of the scope" of what Dan wanted to write about. Well, of course it is. He only wants to write about things in his comfort zone. Things which don't threaten him and his reputation as the guru of EI. Had I asked Goleman how he would describe an emotionally intelligent student, employee or business leader, I doubt he would have felt threatened. But the world already pretty much knows what he thinks on these subjects, so what would be the point in asking him something like that? I wanted to ask something original, and I did. Then Rob basically attacked me for asking the question and wanted to know why I asked it. I think it is pretty obvious why I asked it, but because I take this seriously and am not just trying to make money from it, I am giving him a full answer answer in this editorial.

Goleman's reluctance or refusal to answer the question brings to mind a totalitarian leader. One who simply states that certain questions are "off limits." This reminds me of the Muslim I talked to in Singapore who told me he was hit with a cane when he was young for asking questions his teachers and religious leaders didn't like. He said "You learn that there are certain questions you just don't ask." Well, to me this is bullshit. I can't say it any other way. If humanity is to advance, our "leaders," including our religious leaders and "gurus," must answer all questions - with real answers - not with the kind of evasive crap we have come to accept from them. Moreover, we must never be frightened out of asking the most confronting questions. If our "leaders" try to frighten us out of asking hard questions, or if they just ignore them or evade them, I'd say it is time for new leaders -- maybe even a new system for selecting them.

I have more to say about Emmerling's email, but I will leave it at that for now. If you are really interested you can read about it on my personal site. Or actually, I will copy it here and paste it at the bottom of this article.

S. Hein
Muar, Malaysia
August 13, 2003


From his writing and from my observations of him speaking, Goleman doesn't seem to be a particularly emotional guy. Or at least he seems very controlled. He seems to be high strung, trying to maintain his image and his cool. But I expect that he loses his cool sometimes, as most of us do, and as I certainly do -- quite regularly in fact! He seems to like to hide his emotions behind big words, thoughts and stories about everyone except himself. One of the only personal stories I remember him talking about was from his 95 book when he said something like he was so afraid of a test once that he had an anxiety attack -- or something like that. I don't have the book with me here in Malaysia to check it out! Goleman was clearly raised to live up to high standards, at least by what Western society calls high standards, in other words, high academic achievement, going to high status universities like Harvard, making a lot of money, rubbing shoulders with powerful people like Fortune 500 corporate presidents. If he was raised in a Jewish family we can also guess that there were fairly strict standards of behavior, since the Jewish culture is so tradition and family oriented. As I point out in my page on him, there was some reason he needed to get away from his family and the values he was raised with when he went to India in search of a guru, which he found and evidently let run his life for a time. By the way, I am also on a search, but it is not a search for a guru. It is more of a search for myself, or perhaps for myself and my life partner. Anyhow, having to live up to someone else's expectations of us causes stress. The kind of stress that makes you need to get away, meditate, smoke pot and take LSD!

(I wonder what would have happened if the gurus like the one Dan seemed to worship for a while had taught their followers feeling words instead of teaching them to meditate and do drugs!)

See my notes on Dan's book "The Meditative Mind" if you don't get my humor.


Outline of Goleman's Response to Critics Sent to Me by Rob Emmerling


  • Impact of EI within psychology and popular culture
  • EI as an emerging and developing construct

    Philosophy of science as it relates to emerging theory and research

  • Outline of issues to be discussed (i.e. areas of controversy / disagreement to be considered and addressed in the article)

  • General Issues Raised on EQi.org website

  • Assertion that there is only one "correct" definition of EI (i.e. Mayer, Salovey & Caruso’s definition). All competing theories must be discredited if EI is to continue to be a viable construct.
  • The concept of EI has "stretched" past with the originators of the concept intended
  • EI is overly concerned with the management of emotion at the expense of emotional expression and the use of emotions as information.

  • Work and Organizational Issues Raised on EQi.org website

  • Predictive validity of EI has only been tentatively established. Assertion that EI is more predictive than IQ in the workplace has not been established

    "Corporate" definitions of EI that focus on performance are used as tools to squeeze additional output out of already pressured and competitive employees

    EI is really just a repackaging of personality theory and of familiar HR concepts with a new name

    The assertion that EI can be developed fails to acknowledge either the relatively fixed nature of personality traits or the differences in innate (genetic) potential among individuals.



    David Caruso's Questions for Dan Goleman

    - what does the field need to move forward?

    - how do you respond to critics such as Roberts, Matthews and Zeidner?

    - are they being helpful to the field?

    - how do emotional competencies differ from the leadership competencies many companies identify already ?


    August 12, 2003 personal writing about the Emmerling letter

    Thinking about letter from Goleman's agent telling me that Goleman was "disappointed" with my writing about him. Wondering if he has read my section on disappointment. Thinking about my question for him. "How would you describe an emotionally intelligent soldier?" His middleman, Rob Emmerling, asked me why I would ask him that question and said it seems "outside the scope" of what DG wanted to write about. I feel cynical, sarcastic. Emmerling also said something like if I don't change what I wrote about Goleman we wouldn't be able to "move forward on this project." So I feel threatened and defiant. It wasn't my idea to have Goleman write something for my site in the first place.

    I am pretty proud of the question. And proud of what I wrote about Goleman. To me he is like the emperor who has no clothes. I am simply exposing him for what he really is, just as the little boy said, "Look, the king is not wearing any clothes!" Goleman is a fraud as far as I am concerned. If they don't want to write something for my site, fine. I could care less. And Emmerling tells me that Robert Sternberg has written some "guidelines" about personal attacks, or some such thing. And he offers to send them to me. Well, guess what? It is my site and I make my own "guidelines." I am not impressed by too many people with Ph.D.s. Their guidelines don't work for me. I think we need fewer Ph.D's in the world, not more.

    Note - this reminds me of the joke about higher education which goes something like this:

    Advancing in higher education means learning more and more about less and less, till you know everything about nothing.


    Found a new use of the term "emotionally intelligent soldier"

    I just did another google search and found this link. Haven't read it yet, but wanted to at least show it for now.

    You can find it with this link:


    March 26, 2006