Emotional Intelligence

by Louise

Totebaggers have often mentioned social skills, emotional intelligence, soft skills – call it what you like.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict.

The one aspect emotional intelligence covers is how to communicate effectively with others. This is an area that needs working on for many people.

What tips can you share with other posters on how to apply emotional intelligence in different situations?

There are a few of us who are academics, lots of lawyers, engineers and other professions – what social skills have your students, coworkers, managers, employees displayed that you have been impressed with ?

As a parent what advice would you give to your children about this topic? I’ve come to realize that this is covered at my kids’ school in guidance class.



188 thoughts on “Emotional Intelligence

  1. This was a very hot topic in the mid 90s when Daniel Goleman released his book about the topic. i remember attending an offsite and this was one of the topics related to managing staff.

    I have definitely worked for managers that have more EI vs high IQ, and they are very successful.
    I can think of one person that I actually met during my on campus college recruiting process, and I’ve had the fortune to work for him at two different banks. He knows that he isn’t the smartest guy in the room, but he isn’t afraid to admit it. He is proud of the fact that he can hire people to work for him that are smart and they can manage the details of complicated financial products.

    He is a true leader, and I saw people overcome their own fears to come to work after 9/11 because of his leadership. They walked miles and slept on cots during blackouts because he would “rally the troops”. Whether he manages ten people, or 1000- he tries to learn each person’s name. This is the same guy that knows the names of the people that clean his office in the middle of the night.

    I have worked for some very smart people too, and its fine…but the people with high EI can be very successful too. In my opinion, they tend to get great service in restaurants, hotels, any service situation where they can charm the pants off the person that is assigned to help them.

    I do admit that I don’t always like managing a person with high EI if they can’t actually do the job. In the entry level positions, it isn’t enough to have EI if you don’t have the intelligence to actually get the task done.

  2. I think as a smarter-than-average kid it is easy to overlook the importance of EQ, particularly in Totebaggy circles where high IQ is valued/praised. Kids can end up out in the “real world” very confused about why their smarts aren’t getting them where they want to be. So I think it is important to show your kids the value of both, basically by actually valuing both (if that makes sense).

  3. I’d really like to learn charisma, but I don’t know if that can actually be learned. To illustrate what I’m talking about, there was a new doctor who started rounding at the nursing home where I work. His first day, he just had this presence when he introduced himself that made you instantly like him. I would love to be able to do that.

  4. This would be an interesting lens with which to examine yesterday’s conversation which went from supporting a friend to squabbling over all sort of tangential issues, mostly one guy against a phalanx. At best it was not the support the parent needed, but the fact that the mere mention of “gay” brought on such discord is depressing in itself.

  5. At the moment I can only think of two people that I know that I believe have low EI. They have always rubbed me the wrong way – not understanding their humor, conversation always about them and their greatness, etc. Both are very successful in their careers (or at least that is the impression they give off).

    In regards to my children, just this week my daughter talked about how she joined a new club at school that is only for girls. In their first meeting they discussed friendship and what little things you can do to be a good friend. I guess it was started by a teacher who noticed that the elementary girls were getting very mean to each other.

  6. Our most successful friend has both a high IQ and high EQ and he is making a ton of money. People instantly like him because he’s funny (and fun), witty and a pretty nice guy. When I first met him (10+ years ago), I disliked him because he seemed to be kind of a know it all blowhard, but he’s grown into his personality if that makes sense. He had the raw charisma and intelligence, but the blowhard part he’s managed to tone down now that he’s in his 30s and he’s just super likable and successful.

    We try to emphasize with our oldest the importance of putting yourself out there in making new friends. She had not one kid in her class this year from the prior year so sort of had to start all over again with friends, which I think has been good for her. I think charisma is innate, but social skills, empathy and the ability to engage in small talk can be learned.

  7. I think the ultimate key to high EQ/relating with people/etc. is understanding, at a fundamental level, that other people have different wants/needs/goals/desires than you, and actively trying to figure out what those are. It’s looking to empathize instead of justify, see things from someone else’s perspective instead of converting them to your own.

    I have noticed a consistent trend when situations get my back up, and it is almost invariably when someone is approaching the conversation from a very different world view, and either doesn’t recognize that difference or make attempts to understand mine — that creates the impression that they think their view is better than mine, and that just never ends well. This happens all. the. time. with my SIL, who is several years younger but who nevertheless feels entitled to tell me what I “should” do in any variety of situations (how to handle our money, how many kids we should have, etc.), and who brushes off my reasoned responses. Of course, she also complains that DH does the same to her — which is of course 100% correct (go figure), but she doesn’t have the insight to recognize that same behavior in herself.

    I also agree with ‘Saac that we saw this yesterday. I think it got set off with terminology — like I said then, “lifestyle” is basically a trigger word, because it has been used to invalidate the biological basis of homosexuality. I don’t think Milo intended to use the term that way. But one side felt attacked by some of the terminology, and then the other side felt attacked by the response (because the terminology was not intended in that way), but then that response felt dismissive to the other side (i.e., characterizing the issues as “semantics” or “PC”), and then all hell broke loose and everyone talked past each other for the rest of the day.

    Not, you know, to reopen that whole can of worms.

  8. Why am I not surprised that the person that displays absolutely the lowest Emotional Intel as she brags about her high IQ decided to ruin this post with her typical negative remarks.

  9. Yes, let’s please not open the whole can of worms. It wasn’t that enjoyable the first time.

    I think this site has helped me realize the importance of EQ. I had a manager that used to talk about it a lot, having read the book, but she had among the worst people skills of anyone I had worked with. I had one director that I would have followed off a cliff if he had asked. He was just a really great guy to work with. The job involved a lot of travel and long hours, but he had a great sense of humor and we laughed a lot at work, and he really helped us all believe in the value of the work we were doing. I keep in touch with him still, even though he left the company and moved to the northeast almost 10 years ago.

    I have always had the attitude that my work speaks for itself, and see comments on almost every review about “flying under the radar”, etc. That director helped me understand that I need to sell myself a bit, so that is something I’ve been trying to learn. At home, I do make my kids sell me on things they want or negotiate when they want expanded privileges. I think it’s paying off, because one had a teacher comment that he is very good at charming his way out of a situation, and she had to put her foot down on that.

  10. Thinking about that manager with poor skills who liked to discuss EI. She once grabbed me out of my office, pulled me down the hall to her bosses office, and demanded in a very loud voice that I tell him she’s not controlling. She saw no irony in that in all.

  11. My brother has a very high EQ and it has served him well in his career. My husband has a very high IQ but not a high EQ. He is not mean or negative just does not have the same level of competence dealing with people as my brother.
    I have a decent EQ and generally get along with people and my way most of the time. I lose all EQ when someone lies to me. Case in point, called WSJ about my paper not being delivered this morning. Told by customer service guy they would get another one out to me. After not receiving it, called again and told they would not be delivering it today. I was not as nice as I could be because the first guy lied to me. During the conversation I had with the second CS rep and then the supervisor, there was not intent on WSJ’s behalf to get my newspaper out to me. Also it disturbs me that they moved their CS department offshore (Philippines) and have the people use American type names – first guy was Mitchell and second woman was Georgia. Do they really think people fall for this? Shame on the WSJ for dumping jobs!

  12. I think charisma and EQ are very slightly different – you can have a high EQ and be empathetic with others, good friend to all, etc., without having the charisma that makes people want to follow you.

    When I think of the people that have high charisma – they are easy-going up to a point (if you try to go against them, they will put their foot down if they can’t charm their way around you), but also give off a kind of warmth that draws people in.

  13. I see such extreme differences among my students with regard to this (I am not sure I like the term EQ – I would just say “character” ). And I know some of you will sigh because this sounds like that touchy-feely ed school type thing, but I think a student’s character is right up there with his or her intelligence in determining success in school. I have students who are just so together – they take on leadership roles, they commit to getting their work done, they ask questions in class, they are proactive. And then there are others that just baffle me… Why would you sit in the back, handing in no work, all semester? These students are the kind that are totally passive, and when small bad things happen ( hard drive crashes, two major assignments due at the same time, traffic jam) they are utterly unprepared and let the small bad thing turn into a big bad thing. The term used to be sad sacks, I teach a course that involves the entire class working together on a large software project. Some students take on lots of responsibility, really care, are able to get other students to collaborate efffectively, and just GET IT DONE. Others go and hide, refusing to talk to anyone or do anything, and then wonder why their grade is so bad at the end. I cannot imagine what happens to those students when they graduate.

  14. Having kids has been great training for me in terms of raising my emotional intelligence and improving some of my work place skills. I tend to approach things logically and analytically. Working through issues with my kids has helped me realize that if someone is coming from an emotional place, using logic is not particularly helpful in getting them to shift their position.

    When DD was 3 or 4, I lost an argument over whether an object was pink. I was technically correct – but she cared about it a lot more. At around the same time, I was dealing with a work issue that involved a number of outside parties. The issue was on how to allocate some charges. One of the outside parties was being particularly difficult – and I realized that it had nothing to do with the rate model. He wanted to feel that his status was as important as some of the other parties (it wasn’t) and was reacting emotionally. It really had nothing to do with the rate model itself. Once I realized that, I could figure out a way to address his status concerns – and then get him on board with the rate model.

    Lauren – I watched someone with high EI get promoted beyond her competencies due to her high EI. It’s someone I like – but she got promoted into a fairly technical high level job that wasn’t the best fit. She was eventually moved out of the position.

  15. Denver Dad, I would also love to learn to be more charismatic. My perception is that charisma is a largely innate quality–the most charismatic people I know just seem to have the natural ability to inspire people and make them feel great. Not sure how true that is, though.

  16. I also agree with Lauren and seattlesoccermom that high EQ can’t substitute for the basic skills/abilities/intelligence needed to do a job. It seems like we all agree, though, that so long as you have sufficient smarts/abilities, you are probably better served by having higher EI as opposed to being smarter than necessary.

  17. In school there was a guy who had extraordinary charisma. Everybody gathered around him, but he was somewhat aloof. He was incredibly smart– if there was an award, he won it– and folks of both sexes were quite literally offering themselves up to him. He had a very caressing southern accent, and I swear the McGarrigle Sisters (Ris, they’re from Canada; if you’re old enough you might remember) wrote their song “Southern Boys” about him. (It’s worth googling you tube “Kate and Anna McGarrigle Southern Boys” to get what I mean.)

    I, like everybody else, was entranced by him. If I ever had a man crush, it was on him. Surprisingly, over the years he and I became very close friends– best friends; puppies in NYC 35 years ago.

    It was frustrating being his best friend. All the attention of any group we were in went to him. It took me years to figure him out. The first was that gentle charm– as a Northeastener I couldn’t replicate that. Second, was his intelligence– I couldn’t match that. Third, and vital I think, was that he locked his eyes on whomever captured his interest. That person became The Most Important Person, and his questions and focus were always on that person, drawing out information while revealing very little about himself.

    He cut quite a swath. Broken hearted lovers were everywhere, and as his best friend they all came to me for solace or sympathy or something as if I could offer any insight. And these were people who wouldn’t give me the time of day otherwise.

    We were friends for many years until one day he was visiting and suddenly asked to be taken to the airport because he had to deal with an emergency. Everything was fine (my wife had a crush on him) and suddenly he was gone. Completely gone.

    Ris, there’s a book in there somewhere for you. As I tried to contact him with increasingly less frequency over the years, he finally wrote back saying essentially, “Leave me alone. I betrayed you. It’s my issue, not yours; my problem, not yours. I love you but I can’t talk to you again.” Go figure.

    But what I learned from this guy (who is very successful, but low key) with the high EQ is to always focus on the other person. Zoom in. Pretend to be fascinated. Smile, laugh, be charmed and complimentary. No matter if it’s all about you pretend it isn’t and never let on. For me it’s worked with clients, teachers and friends. Focus on the other person.

    As a coda, I did ultimately find out why he disappeared from me. He did betray me– kind of big time. But with the years it’s okay, and he still has a room at my house and a son of my wife’s and mine he has yet to meet.

  18. I would say charisma is comparable to raw intelligence as being something you’re born with (or without), but like intelligence, someone can take whatever they have to start with and train themselves to use it more effectively. And I’d also agree that part of it is a charismatic person’s ability to really focus on whoever s/he is talking to — the charismatic person is the one with the gift, but the other person leaves feeling special.

  19. Ris and PTM – please meet up and write a book together based on PTM’s life experiences.

  20. I totally disagree with MM that EQ is the same thing as character. I can think of a lot of examples of people with strong/high quality character but poor ability to relate to others.

    We have good friends who are super-high-charisma folks . We have traveled with them quite a bit, and stand in their shadow when we do. However – it’s fine – the party seems to come to us where ever we go. When we were 20, that meant spontaneous alcohol fueled gatherings of beautiful people in hotel lobbies. Now, it means interesting people who flock to us and drink wine.

    Anyway, and this harks back to a common theme here — I think success can depend on having a high EQ compared to others in your field. I would put DH at 30%-ile EQ in the general population (and I would say this to his face — I know he reads here sometime), and 90%-ile EQ compared to other people in his industry. He has been able to advance rapidly due to high (relatively) awesome social skills.

  21. PTM – your response to your friend’s behavior is characteristically compassionate and forgiving. You’re right that there’s a story in there, though you’re the one who should write it. Please note how I’m refraining from asking what the betrayal was. It’s taking everything I have to do it.

    BTW, I’m thrilled to be “too young” to know of those sisters. I’ll look for them and that song on the Googles though.

  22. Do look, Ris. You’ll see exactly what I mean.

    And by the way. The McGarrigle Sisters are national treasures.

  23. Mooshi,

    Are they just shy? In the same way that some kids break out in a cold sweat if they have to call the soccer coach to say they won’t be able to be at the game? Or adults who have to stifle a panic attack before giving a presentation?

  24. My parents were quite totebaggy. Although they have EQ, they just didn’t consider it as important a factor as academics, in life since they were good at relating to people naturally. For my kids, I think academics are important but they also need to get along with people, learn to market themselves etc. If they want something, lobby for it, don’t just sit there, thinking that hard work is enough.

  25. PTM – like, Neil Young level? Or more like Bryan Adams level? Hahaha.

    Lemon – I sent you an email. How early do you want to get up tomorrow?

  26. No, shy is different. Some of the students who are really together, who exhibit this quality of character that leads to success, are really shy. I have had the pleasure of working with one guy, the son of African immigrants, who just snagged a job offer from one of the major financial companies. He is shy as all getout, but he has the character that it takes to succeed. He makes sure that he knows what is going on, he gets his work in, he will work with other students when needed, he asks questions, he doesn’t let snags get in his way, and he is just altogether competent. But he is also shy.

    On the other hand, some of the sad sacks are not really shy with their friends. They even may be charismatic. But they don’t have perseverance, resilience, or quite frankly in some cases, even the idea that they are supposed to do something to get a grade. I have some graduating seniors right now who have suddenly realized they might need to find a job. These are kids with a 1.8 GPA in their CS courses, with resumes that have no work experience or interships other than perhaps a stint as a clerk at Best Buy. For them, graduation is just one more bad thing that life sort of throws at them while they sit passively.

    People are discussing charisma, which I think is quite different. In many fields, charisma obviously helps, but I don’t think charismatic people will be successful unless they also have those other qualities of perseverance, resilience, and being proactive.

  27. Louise — Your kids have a “guidance” class that teaches EQ? What else does that class cover?
    Lemon — I’m curious about the after-school club you mentioned. Does it have a name?

    When I think about it, our schools seem to teach EQ implicitly, in all the activities they have that require these skills. But I think it would be better to explicitly teach these skills. Part of it is simply manners. Maybe they do teach it in some courses, like health. I’m not sure.

    One time I happened to hear about a “social skills” course in our elementary school, and I thought that would be a great thing for my kid. But then I learned this was only for special ed students. Do your schools teach EQ? Do you think it’s taught effectively?

  28. Mooshi,

    Is it low levels of executive function? You could tell them they need to do X, Y and Z and they would agree that needs to be done. But, they just can’t pull it together enough to make it happen?

  29. MM, I definitely agree that charisma and EI are quite different–I think you can have high EI even if you are not very charismatic at all.

  30. June, ITA with your first comment. WCE always talks about the ‘limiting reagent’ for people. I think there’s very, very few jobs that require anything more than top 20% of the distribution smarts. For anyone who’s around or over that hurdle, work ethic and EQ are likely to be the limiting reagents.

    I see this a lot in my own work. A woman who is clearly the most technically qualified was just passed over for a role leading a team in favor of a candidate who is slightly less technically competent, but who has much higher EQ. The first woman is brilliant, but she’s not well liked, in part because she’s not very good at hiding how dumb she thinks everyone else is.

  31. Louise, I agree wholeheartedly with your 12:26. I would also be interested to know more about how your kids’ class teaches EQ.

  32. Ris – message sent. See you at 7!

    COC – it is part of the former known as Latch Key program. They have many subset “clubs” that meet during this time. From what I can gather, the Girls Club (maybe it has a better name?) is just a social club with direction from a teacher/volunteer on social skills and teamwork. I think girl scouts would provide the same idea (which is also at the school), but this is way more informal and seems to attract the girls that one could call the “mean girls”. I guess they are too cool for girl scouts.

  33. GreenEyes, your example is exactly the type of thing I was thinking of. Reading between the lines of my childhood, I think my dad may have had similar experiences–he was/is brilliant and an extremely hard worker, and he did very well career-wise, but probably could have advanced even further if his IQ had been balanced with more EQ.

  34. Ris, you have a lot of national treasures. Justin Bieber comes to mind.

    I really want you to google that song. Really. That “Southern Boy” was definitely my friend and I do believe that he, not I, once met one of them.

  35. For some, it may be executive function. And we have a real problem with ADHD students who go off their meds so they can sell them. But that tends to look different. Those are the kids who are often pretty smart. They start the work, go off on a tangent, and never get it done. Or they hand in half the assignment on crumpled paper. They forget about the exam, and then are all apologetic, promising to never screw up again.
    The ones I am talking about don’t even show that much get up and go. For example, I have this one student in a data structures class, who comes in and sits and surfs the web. When we do in class work, he takes 30 minutes to manage to download the needed files and then he surfs. He has said maybe two words to me the entire semester. He has gotten some homework done, but didn’t show up for the first midterm, with no explanation. Another kid in the class never showed up for class for 4 weeks. Then he showed for the first midterm, and flunked it. I thought he would drop, but no, he now shows up for class. He doesn’t do anything, though. Maye he hopes to pass the class through osmosis?
    There are some really good, together students in that class too, so the contrast is very stark.

  36. Coc – some of the topics covered are conflict resolution, social/communication skills, listening, dealing with peer pressure, study skills, friendship, diversity, character traits, safety, bullying awareness. I don’t know the “how” but it seems to be a category with trained counselors for non academic, life skills.

  37. PTM – I listened to it. Love those voices! And yeah, I get it.

    The Biebs is from my hometown, in fact. Which use to earn me all kinds of cred with my youngest DSD, but now that he’s made some “questionable choices,” she’s dropped him (so to speak) and my tenuous link to him is more a liability than an asset. Sigh.

  38. COC – the social skills taught for special ed (which, BTW, is not what it is called these days) is much more basic. Along the lines of this: http://amzn.to/1MR4cK1

    Should these skills be taught, even basic ones like in the link, absolutely – to ALL kids. Especially skills on perspective taking (IMHO).

    (BTW – the referenced book is part of the materials my son uses with his speech therapist. I have found them really useful.)

  39. And separately, I feel I should apologize for my terrible writing! Every time I post something I re-read it and find grammatical errors. Argh!!!

    The social skills taught ARE much more basic.

  40. Ack…in the car today and trying to read on my phone.

    EI is important. That’s about all I can manage with my current connection.

  41. I agree with Ada and June that EI and character are two different things. Character is similar to integrity, whereas EI can be manipulative.

    I’ve been betrayed in love before, but have never been angry with the other woman. At one time I plotted with one of them to switch objects, like tea kettles or kitchen chairs, just to see if he’d notice. Years later he apologized for his stupid mistake (his words), but I cannot see being with him again.

    I learned last summer during my kid’s psycho-social testing that “charisma” is a supposedly clearly identifiable thing that can be evaluated.

  42. MM – FWIW I know what you mean. As grownups, I see them sometimes as the people who sit in low-level jobs for decades and say “not my job” or “not fair” to everything and get shuffled around but never promoted or fired. I don’t know if character is the right term, and it’s not quite drive or ambition either.

  43. “I learned last summer during my kid’s psycho-social testing that “charisma” is a supposedly clearly identifiable thing that can be evaluated.”

    Wow, what do they call it in the test results? Not charisma, I’d imagine.

    I also agree on the character/EQ difference.

  44. I know there is the usage of the word character to mean integrity, but I also think of it as a clump of skills that are not intelligence, and which make people more successful in life (not just at work, but also with their families and friends). These skills are perseverance, resilience, curiosity, integrity, self-esteem (but not too much), and an ability to work well with other people (which is NOT the same thing as charisma – there are charismatic people out there who are impossible to work with). I don’t have a good word for this group of traits, but I really, really, really hate the term EQ, which sounds like something from a self-help book

  45. CoC, they don’t test for it; it’s part of the evaluation the therapist makes during the interview. The word “charismatic” popped up in descriptions by a couple different people, so I finally asked about it, skeptically, and they explained what I just said.

  46. Ris. I kinda think that the McGarrible Sister’s song “First Born Son” might have been written about my friend, too, but I’d have to check the dates.

    My friend was/is really a remarkable figure. I’d be rich enough to afford a suite next to Rhett at the Four Seasons if I had a dollar for each time a person has come up to me– even now– asking if I’ve heard from my friend lately. The temptation to try to get in touch with him again is intense, but his message to me was clear: Leave me alone. I guess I need to respect that. He certainly knows where to find me.

    FWIW, I just told my son that I have a “friend” that grew up with Biebs (not that you did, but close enough) and he was unimpressed.

  47. “He has been able to advance rapidly due to high (relatively) awesome social skills.”
    @Ada – sounds like your husband is the EI equivalent of Hot in Cleveland!

  48. Saac, no. It’s okay though. In the fullness of time things become less important.

  49. To what extent do you think a person chooses to devote their energy to either IQ or EQ — in other words, is there an either/or element to what you focus on?

    I suspect that my daughter pours much of her thought and energy into developing and maintaining her social networks, with the result that she gives teachers the impression she’s smart but not brilliant; but at the same time she’s been gliding through middle school collecting friends everywhere she goes and you wouldn’t know there’s such a thing as a mean girl in her universe. There’s a way in which it bugs me that she’s sorta hiding her intellectual light under a bushel (though still getting good grades, at least), but I remind myself how valuable those social skills are all through life. It’s almost an invisible labor, the tending and befriending, and it’s not something that I particularly recognized that I should be putting time into at her age, but I can see that it is in fact something that takes a lot of her time and focus.

  50. I once worked for a bank where some HR person came up with a grid that had a box for different types of staff. There was a box for individual contributors. These tended to be folks with high IQs with strong technical skills. They had low EQ and they probably wouldn’t advance into leadership roles.

    I definitely think there is a difference between charisma and EQ. Some of the best leaders in business and government have high EQ.

  51. Mooshi I would conjecture that substances play the primary role in the sad sack phenomenon, depression or worse a close second, and college attendance primarily to fulfill family expectations a distant third. Just my opinion.

    I have shared before that I think a major benefit to me from finding you all was the light it shone on the degree to which negative EI darkened my whole life, from childhood loneliness to becoming the quintessential sole contributor type at work. What is somewhat freeing is that I have a much better appreciation of the degree to which I was, to put it baldly, an unintentional a$$hole, so that I realize in hindsight that the whole world wasn’t just plotting to make me miserable.

  52. I’ve been thinking about emotional intelligence lately and wondering if different people rise when society is experiencing a time of peace and prosperity and we can afford to focus on emotions and feelings. I also thought about how honesty was highly valued at some times in history (think George Washington and the cherry tree story) and how, in my opinion, it is valued less now. This story on NPR about white lies made me think about it. http://www.npr.org/2015/03/08/391610430/learning-the-hard-truth-about-lying I was also thinking about how Winston Churchill was voted out of office after WW II was over- his skills were no longer desired.

    I’ve never told white lies to “smooth the way” socially. I get along with a wider variety of people than many people do, but I also interact with a wide variety of people compared to the average person. I took Baby WCE in to meet some colleagues this morning and one guy shared the story of being assigned to go to a conference with me 18 years ago because my manager was afraid I wasn’t old enough to rent a car. (I was 21 so I was.) At this point in life, I’m starting to feel like my people skills are better but it’s hard to say how much of my earlier situation was due to “Technically competent but too young to rent a car.”

    And yesterday was the first time I realized that the debate over gay rights is, to many people, based on how historical religious/moral principles make people feel, and not about the moral/religious/historical principles (what C S Lewis calls “the tao”) in the abstract. Sorry to touch the can of worms, but I want some of you to realize that I never realized that before and you finally got through to me. I was a competitive philosophical debater and it’s how I see the world. Raised in a different place, I might have become RMS.

  53. HM – In case of you DD, if the grades are there, work is getting done plus she has friends wherever she goes…what’s not to like.

    I’ll post a quote by William Blake

    Every Night and every Morn
    Some to Misery are born.
    Every Morn and every Night
    Some are born to Sweet Delight,
    Some are born to Sweet Delight,
    Some are born to Endless Night. ”

  54. I love Blake. And you’re right, it’s not a problem, but I do have to keep reminding myself that it’s ok.

    WCE, I wouldn’t call the examples in the article white lies. I think of white lies as the little fibs we tell to grease the wheels of social interactions, that don’t hurt anyone and aren’t told to gain advantage for the teller — like “It’s so nice to see you” or “Your new dress? It’s such a vibrant color, it suits you!” or “Thank you so much for the quilted cell phone cover — it’s such a unique piece — I will enjoy using it!” Whereas the lies in the article were all told to gain an advantage for the teller, and did cause tangible harm to others in one instance (the other applicants for the jobs the ex-admissions dean got with her fake resume).

  55. HM, that’s the sort of difference I struggle with- what’s a white lie and what’s not? I use “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” with my kids. But it seems like high level people- politicians of both parties, the executives at my company, etc.- have their dishonesty overlooked because of their position, and many of them have a history of rising due to their charisma and despite their dishonesty.

    I admire both Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, because they seem like honest, principled people. And they have different principles.

  56. The first few years my older two went off to sleepaway camp I could predict their stories of how it went — my daughter’s would be about how she had all these new friends, and she won an award for something-or-other, and her counselor’s report would be about how wonderful she was. And my older son’s would be about how there were one or two guys he initially thought might become friends but then they betrayed him, and the counselor’s report would be tactfully saying “well, he wasn’t as bad as I first thought he was going to be.”

    I can’t tell you how happy I was the first summer my son came home saying that he had a couple of friends in the cabin, most of the guys were fine, and only one or two were jerks, and the counselors were cool. (It wasn’t the makeup of the cabins that changed over time.)

  57. WCE, I wasn’t in that conversation yesterday either (I dropped in at the end and commented on how unfortunate and anti-supportive it was) but in response to your comment, I’ll say that I don’t think its about moral values or peoples’ reactions to those values. It is about a person’s existence in our society, and being treated as a person, regardless of what other people have chosen for their own lives. (You know I am agnostic, but can be interested in religious questions, and am not antagonistic towards people of whatever belief. I see sexual orientation in a similar light. Nope, that’s not me, but that fact doesn’t change the respect I owe other individuals).

  58. high level people- politicians of both parties, the executives at my company, etc.- have their dishonesty overlooked because of their position

    I think that’s exactly what happens. It doesn’t turn their dishonesty into little white lies; it just means they get away with it anyway (until they don’t).

  59. HM – did you work at bringing about the change in your son, or do you think it’s just something he figured out on his own over time. My husband is of the “they’ll figure it out” school, while I think they need some coaching.

  60. Raised in a different place, I might have become RMS.

    The horror. The horror.

    Actually, WCE, I’m not entirely following your remark — “And yesterday was the first time I realized that the debate over gay rights is, to many people, based on how historical religious/moral principles make people feel, and not about the moral/religious/historical principles (what C S Lewis calls ‘the tao’) in the abstract.”

    Do you mean that they aren’t really applying moral principles to the question of whether gay sex is wrong because [God said so | it doesn’t create the greatest good for the greatest number | it’s not consistent with treating people as ends in themselves | Other moral principle TBD]? That the objection is related to feelings about how Grandma and Grandpa viewed it? Or what?

  61. HM, I don’t even think of those kinds of “wheel greasing” comments. Exams:
    A dear friend was here earlier this week. His schedule was arrive from the UK 1:00 Sun/Mon, spend the night, drive to Gainesville Mon afternoon, give a lecture & meet with people from at least 4’different units of the university, back to our house for a night, then fly yesterday Eve to a meeting today with people like the general who runs the Army Corps of Engineers and the leader of a major devt agency. I almost got my place ready for company, but being sick for 10 days before his visit, I didn’t quite make it & the fridge was full of rotting food. We spent most of his time here buying clothes for the next day’s activity & eating out. Towards the end of a long day of shopping for clothes & souvenirs & eating at a brew pub he loved, he thanked me for taking him around. First thing out of my mouth, to a guy I love like a brother? “Otherwise I would’ve had to vacuum my bedroom. This is better than that”. He laughed. People who like me usually do when I come up with something like that, but it knocks others sideways. They tend to hate me for life, no matter how I try to be nice to them.

  62. Mooshi & Meme,

    Could it also be immaturity? I know many people who just couldn’t pull it together when they went to college at 18. So, they flunked out, got some dead end job, grew up and when they went back at 27 they did well and are now in a successful career.

  63. Daggone it! Left out the crucial detail that his bag was lost. I just got a call from American an hour ago saying they have it here. Anyway, that’s why he had to get new clothes a couple times

  64. MBT, I think it was both. He needed to gain a little perspective and maturity, which getting older helped with, but I definitely would (still do) talk out his stories with him and probe into what actually happened (as opposed to what he felt about it) and what the other boys might have been thinking and how his own actions might come off to others. And we also talked a *lot* over the years about teasing as a form of socializing, and bullshitting/insults/teasing as a form of boy socializing in particular, and how your own reaction to it could determine whether the others saw it in retrospect as ‘joking around with a friend’ or ‘poking at that guy no one likes.’

  65. HM, that sounds like what we do. Right now I think my DS has over corrected & may be coming across as hurtful when he means to be joshing around with other kids or thinks he’s simply holding his own.

  66. I had a student who was completely apathetic and non-participatory. I cornered her one time at the student union and asked if she needed any help with the class, because she was welcome to come see me during my office hours, and it turned out she was anorexic and was too exhausted and hungry to do any school work. The bitter irony was that I had admired how thin she was. (Fortunately I didn’t tell her that to her face). So the moral is You Just Never Know.

  67. And we also talked a *lot* over the years about teasing as a form of socializing, and bullshitting/insults/teasing as a form of boy socializing in particular, and how your own reaction to it could determine whether the others saw it in retrospect as ‘joking around with a friend’ or ‘poking at that guy no one likes.’

    My DH loathes that form of socializing, and it has kept him alienated from other men most of his life. Has lots of women friends, though. And joining our church has been very good for him, because most of the men are very kind and earnest, so he can actually hang out with them.

  68. “RMS, let’s discuss via e-mail.”

    I was looking forward to eavesdropping.

    From time to time, WCE says things that go over my head too, including this time.

    RMS, when you can understand what she meant, maybe you can tell us. I’m assuming that would be OK with WCE, else she wouldn’t have posted it in the first place.

  69. So I guess a man with a high EQ would be the one who is able to trade friendly insults with those kind of guys while also able to have earnest conversations with other types. So everyone likes him. I know those kind of men, but not many.

  70. I am hijacking because I just read this WSJ article, and it reminded me of so many of the positive discussions we had in the past as a group.

    Route to an $8 Million Portfolio Started With Frugal Living
    After Ronald Read’s death, friends were surprised by his wealth. His top stockholdings included Wells Fargo, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive

    I hope this link will work, and that the article is not behind the pay wall because this guy achieved this huge portfolio due to MMM type strategies.

  71. “I totally disagree with MM that EQ is the same thing as character.”

    I agree with Ada et al. History is full of charismatic/high EQ psychopaths/sociopaths.

  72. Finn, would you consider e-mailing rockymountainstepmom_at_outlook.com (her anonymous e-mail; I don’t have one) to join the conversation? I was trying to use my emotional intelligence by recognizing I should not re-open a can of worms. I have to try really, really hard to be emotionally intelligent. :)

  73. Denver Dad, I would also love to learn to be more charismatic. My perception is that charisma is a largely innate quality–the most charismatic people I know just seem to have the natural ability to inspire people and make them feel great. Not sure how true that is, though.

    June, I agree. I think you can learn it a bit, but it’s largely something you either have or you don’t. Like being cool, to reference a previous discussion.

  74. As part of my review, my boss wants me to use an executive coach to improve my “executive presence”. I finally met with the coach this past week. Her first comment to me – we will tackle what your boss wants to tackle, but we should also focus on your political savvy. I take that to mean my EQ could be better (understatement).

    I’ve enjoyed this topic and discussion. I worry that my one son will always struggle with his lack of these kinds of skills. My other guy is a natural charmer.

  75. I interpreted WCE’d comment to mean she had always focused on the moral/religious argument behind it, where now she realizes some people’s objection is to how it makes the gay person feel. The issue some people were expressing is that for gay people, living a lifetime being marginalized by your fellow citizens can be incredibly damaging, in the case of my family friend, ultimately resulting in suicide. I interpreted it as WCE had not previously realized that some people consider the way the public debate makes the gay person feel was at driver for their opinions (rather than the rightness/wrongness of being gay itself).

  76. ATM, i think that some EQ is innate, but some can be learned over time. It is great that your firm wants to invest the time and money to give you a coach because I’ve worked for managers that had a coach, and their EQ skills did improve.

  77. my boss wants me to use an executive coach to improve my “executive presence”.

    Okay, that just makes me think of the Eddie Izzard bit about dressing like an “executive transvestite”. Of course every time I hear an ad for an “executive MBA” program, I think of that bit too.

  78. Related to this, while I’m posting here I’m texting with a high school friend whose son just got accepted to Univ of Chicago. She decribed him as a quirky kid who is brilliant, but doesn’t like to hang out with friends, and is most content with his books and Natgeo. I think at U of C he’ll find kindred spirits. My friend was homecoming queen and continues to have exceedingly good social skills, so learning to accept this different personality type in a child is our topic of discussion. Some basic, inborn personality traits are hard to overcome.

  79. I’m not sure how useful they are, but my kids’ school attempts to cover a “social-emotional” curriculum. So far that appears to teach ideas such as learn names and greet people using them, look people in the eyes when you speak to them, you can be mad but not mean, etc. I can’t tell how much they’re getting out of them yet (my kids are little) but I like the idea. Some emotional intelligence skills (like empathy) seem easier to cover than others. A big chunk I haven’t figured out yet is how to help give my DD the skills to deal with the “mean girls” at school.

  80. I know our school does some of this stuff in Health class, but I don’t know quite to what degree — most of our focus seems to be on anti-bullying stuff, but a lot of those “lessons” involve trying to teach things like empathy. DD loves the class and loves her teacher; I’m just not sure how much that part of the lesson is sinking in. :-)

    Speaking of health class, I had to laugh at last week’s assignment. They are apparently in the “abstinence” unit, and the assignment was “come up with three things you can do rather than have sex.” All I could think was, umm, really? “D’oh! We could have rented a movie or baked cookies! I wish I’d thought of that *before* we had sex!” But DD just rolled her eyes and said the teacher “just needed to ask me about my life, I could have given her 100 things.” Which, from the parental perspective, was certainly reassuring. :-)

  81. Tulip, mean girl management is an advanced course. Grown women struggle with it. But for what it’s worth, I’d say that step one is identifying whether a mean girl is just sort of radiating attitude to all, which can stem from her own insecurities, or whether she is targeting your daughter specifically.

    If the former, killing with kindness can be effective — smile in a friendly way at her in the halls, say hi, make eye contact. She doesn’t have to go so far as to try to make conversation or sit with her or anything, just look pleased to see her in passing.

    If the latter, probably your best bet is apparent indifference to the girl, combined with faintly superior amusement when the girl does something to provoke a reaction. Sort of the way you would react to a random 3 year old popping up at your office and declaring that she is the boss now because she is a princess and everyone is fired. But that’s tough to pull off in a school environment — it would take practice at home.

  82. “come up with three things you can do rather than have sex.” …. DD just rolled her eyes and said the teacher… “I could have given her 100 things.”

    I’d like to see Bill Clinton’s answer!

  83. Thanks MBT.

    WCE, I guess your question is now moot. I’m wondering if having that understanding would’ve helped you as a debater.

  84. So I tried to look up the DSM definition of “charisma”. That’s proprietary knowledge (of course), but I did find out that there are a bunch of Psychology Today type articles on learning charisma.

  85. “Right now I think my DS has over corrected & may be coming across as hurtful when he means to be joshing around with other kids or thinks he’s simply holding his own.”

    Makes me think of Sheldon Cooper. He understands, in concept, certain social behaviors, but has difficulty in execution.

    As a comedian would say, you need to know your audience. And that is part of EQ– getting to know others, or at a more basic level, even caring to know them.

  86. MBT, thanks for you post at 3:47, and WCE, thanks for confirming.

    MBT, my mother has always wanted me to interact with other people the way she does. For years I felt inferior because I didn’t have a circle of friends to go to lunch with the way she has my whole life, but in recent years I’ve begun to see her difficulty dealing with newness of any type, including new people, especially new people who are from backgrounds that are “new” to her, and that she tends to treat those who wait on her as somewhat beneath her, which my son and I don’t do. Those realizations helped me to see that we are simply different, and to consider that if her social skills were fantastic, they would also include being able to deal with a child who has different social abilities than she does. Could it be the same way with your friend and her child? At any rate, it sounds like my kid should look at U Chicago.

    HM, that’s the sort of thing I’d never figure out in a million years. I’m pretty much the same to everybody, but mean girls make me feel like a dumb cow. There are a few guys who can too, but not many. I’m generally fine with the teasey sort of thing guys do together.

    “come up with three things you can do rather than have sex.”
    Not sure I can do that, but I can tell you the one thing I am doing instead–raising a kid. Talking with his godfather recently about the fact that hormone awakening is not far off, I realized that I am doing a poor job of modeling sexual responsibility. My kid thinks complete and total abstinence is a normal and easy thing to do. I can’t think of much I can do about that, but it is an odd situation.

  87. “My DH loathes that form of socializing, and it has kept him alienated from other men most of his life. Has lots of women friends, though.”

    Having lots of women friends probably contributed to being alienated to other men.

    Looking back at HS years, I was jealous of some guys that, in hindsight, exhibited some pretty stereotypically gay behavior, because they seemed to be able to so easily engage in conversation with a lot of the girls I found attractive, but had a hard time talking to myself. I suppose they didn’t have the same fear of rejection that I did.

    Which is not to say that RMS’ DH exhibits stereotypically gay behavior.

  88. Finn, on those quizzes I come up as Sheldon and he was Amy, who has some semblance of social skills. I had to watch a few episodes before I even realized that Sheldon’s social misfires are supposed to be part of the humor.

  89. MBT- big recent news among one of DS’ groups of friends was of a friend’s getting accepted to UChicago also. However, that girl seems pretty different than your friend’s son– she’s bright, but not brilliant (per what I’ve heard from DS as well as her own dad, not NMSF, and not exceptional at all in math), and quite extroverted.

  90. “come up with three things you can do rather than have sex.”

    That gets easier with age.

  91. Saac, no, my friend isn’t like that. Her son is exactly like her husband (who was also a friend of mine in high school), so she doesn’t have any problem with his personality type. She just knows how much fun we had when we were younger, and wishes that for him. In her heart, I think she feels like he’s missing out on certain things that make life very enjoyable, but she doesn’t have a problem relating to him, and it’s not particularly shocking that one or two of her kids turned out to be exactly like their father. Re: U of C – my sister said a common sweatshirt she sees around campus is “U of C: Where fun comes to die”. So I think it’s a good place for someone not looking for a big football-based party school.

  92. Finn, we binge watched a bunch of episodes (largely at the urging of folks on here), but it’s been a long time since we watched. I think we both got tired of the stereotypical roles.

    Finn, finding stuff to do instead of sex gets easier with age? But there are all these studies coming out about senior sex. I was kinda hoping…

    MBT, I seriously will have to keep that in mind. football-based partying is far from what my kid likes. I still don’t quite understand what you’re saying about your friend–sounds to me like she doesn’t get that what’s fun for her isn’t fun for him (& maybe vice-versa), but you know her & I don’t, so I’ll take your word for it.

  93. OK, so let’s be clear: the question was not come up with three things that you’d *rather* do than having sex — it was three things that you can do with a boyfriend/girlfriend *instead of* having sex.

    Ooooh, yeah, baby, let’s clean the gutters — that’s sooooo hot.

  94. MBT, I’m wondering if the DH of your friend the homecoming queen was somewhat of a nerd, and thus a hero to nerds in your HS for marrying the homecoming queen.

    I remember one of my HS buddies telling me that one of our friends was his hero because he dated a very attractive girl that my buddy had a crush on. That friend (the hero), perhaps the smartest guy in our class, always seemed to have very attractive dates. Fast forward about 8 years, and we find out he (the here) is gay.

  95. MBT – I totally get what you are saying about your friend, my mom used to say she would love to put my younger brother and me in a jar and shake us up a little – I was very responsible and serious and he was out for fun although neither of us to an extreme. She would have loved to have a little bit rub off on each other to make each of our lives more rich. Doesn’t mean she didn’t get who we were, she just thought each of our lives would be easier if we were more well rounded, for lack of a better term.

  96. ” with a boyfriend/girlfriend”

    Oh. You didn’t mention that part initially.

    Bill Clinton probably has some interesting ideas.

  97. SM, just curious– did watching Sheldon et al help saac increase his EQ? Or, for that matter, did it help you?

  98. Finn, mine’s been increasing over the last 8 or so years, and his is growing all the time. We talk about the characters on Big Bang, Peep and the Big Wide World, and everything in between to work on his EQ. When people on here explain where their reactions are coming from, like Lauren did for me the other day, that’s really helpful.

  99. Finn, you’ve gotta read the link I posted yesterday by my calculus friend before you join the discussion with RMS and me. :)

  100. WCE, I did read it yesterday, so I appreciated RMS’ comment.

    I wondered whether his gay-ness is largely what drove him to the priesthood, e.g., did he, or others, interpret that as his ‘having a calling?’

  101. I don’t know if you’d call my friend’s DH a nerd. (I didn’t consider him a nerd, but we had all our classes together, so there is some selection bias there. Maybe my friends who didn’t take physics and calc thought we were both nerds). He was pretty introverted (she now thinks he has some Aspergers), and very smart, but also the quarterback of the state champion football team, played ball for an Ivy and went to Stanford law. Oh, and they’re both gorgeous. Still. Guys were certainly jealous that he was dating her.

  102. MBT- I think being the QB automatically DQs him from nerdship.

    So much for my theory.

  103. MBT, Like your friend, I’ve come to grips with DS1’s lack of physical social life. No parties, does not want to see high school football team play on Friday night, etc. He seems to have some genuine friends (few of whom I’ve met) that he enjoys interacting with digitally. He also truly enjoys hanging out with his little brother, which is baffling to me because it’s so different (and better!) from the relationship that I had with my little sister.

    It’s so different from my high school life, that I, too, wonder if he’s missing the “high school experience.” However, he’s happy, so I’ve learned to let him be himself.

  104. LfB– You are making me remember back to some of those stupidly awkward assignments. Things teens can do together other than have sex? Many of them actually are in that situation, whether or not they want to be!

    Honolulu– That’s great advice, and thank you. I’m struggling to get some of that into 7-year-old understandable lessons. There’s one girl who appears to be targeting my kid (but who is also dealing with separating parents at home, I recently learned). I suspect that girl needs a friend, more than anything, but that’s not my call. I have talked with my daughter about how a group of 3 is often hard (two start talking and one feels left out) and so she may want to choose where she sits at lunch accordingly, so she doesn’t get left out of conversations, etc. This particular girl is apparently mean and exclusionary at lunch and then acts like they are the best of friends at the after care program. I offered dd a couple of options including inviting the girl over to our house to play so that perhaps they got along better and she was included more (my childish side hates this idea, I must admit), and also letting her know that she’s perfectly allowed to tell this girl that she doesn’t want to play with her at the aftercare program because of the mean behavior at lunch. It seems to be getting better lately, so I think she’s figuring it out and branching out with her social circle.

  105. Three things? Why, you could have a taffy pull! You could get together with the other kids and go ice skating on the lake! You could roll up the rug and put the latest records on the Victrola and practice the latest dances!

    You could sit around and read old Betsy-Tacy books and think about how different life was 100 years ago in Minnesota. Of course even 100 years ago SOME couples were observed “spooning”. So, y’know, humanity has always been corrupt.

  106. Rocky, now you’re reminding me of my own sometimes less than smooth attempts to avoid a guy’s advances, like when Paul was supposed to give me a ride home from the pizza place, took a detour “, turned off the car & scooted over towards me. I got out. He did too. I went over to a tree. He came my way. I thought he was going to pin me against the trunk, so I grabbed a branch & swung up. He tried to talk me into being “nice”‘for a few minutes, finally gave up and drove me home. I had the door open before he even came to a complete stop in the driveway. Climbing the tree was nearly as clunky and old fashioned as your examples!

  107. U of C undergrad is definitely great for the intensely nerdy. I am neither charismatic nor cool (Denver Dad–correlation?), have always been quite dorky and a bookworm, and was not particularly looking for a sports-centric school, but I don’t think I would have been nerdy enough to fit in at U of C undergrad. I don’t have enough nerd cred.

  108. MBT, I guess your friend at least knows that being like his dad isn’t the end of the world. He might go to great schools, partially on scholarship, fill a big role on campus, and marry someone as great as she is, just like dad.

  109. Tulip – on the mean girls issue: it may not be a problem if it is just one girl that is unkind to your daughter, but I always recommend that girls get involved in at least one activity that is not related to school (community theater, non school team, etc.) so she had friends from other places.

  110. Tulip, given the young age and the other circumstances you noted, it’s most likely just a case of the girl trying to take out her stress on someone convenient. Just declining to play with her in aftercare and not seeking her out at lunch would probably do the trick. And I agree with ssk re having at least one activity that involves a different group of girls than the schoolmates.

  111. Houston, my son sounds a great deal like yours. I had considered moving him to a different high school that actually has a football team and more traditional experience, but the rest of the family pointed out that he wouldn’t go to those things anyway. He’s happy, so I’m rolling with it.

  112. SM, he might suggest other things. Remember, his definition of sex was rather narrow.

  113. @Houston – you never know..DH is the few good friends type….we met when we were quite young and had a great time. Didn’t many engineer type Totebaggers meet their partners in college or very soon after….

  114. When asked if he might ever wish to attend a football game, my son just scoffs. He did wear a costume to a medieval pep rally earlier this year, but that was just because it was a way to wear the costume and have people think he was being school-spirited rather than weird.

    MBT, I still think he and your son probably have run into each other on some pvp server.

  115. MBT – my son rarely went to football games either. Or basketball games. He was certainly very busy with rowing, but I guess it just wasn’t something he cared about. I went to all of the football and basketball games I could when I was in high school.

  116. HM – I’ve had that same thought. SSK – I did, too, so in my mind that is what high school is “supposed” to be.

  117. I never went to a HS football game, but did go to several baseball games (the field was near my house) so I could ogle the players. ;)

  118. I enjoy hearing about totebag kids. Good parenting certainly requires EQ skills as we try to adjust to the types of people our kids are rather than what we might have expected them to be. Certainly relates to Thursday’s topic.

    My observation is that while nerdiness abounds at UChicago, there’s room for many types of kids. And they have a strong tradition of residential houses, which means introverted students find a ready-made community of peers that provides good social structure, especially for those who may have some difficulties in forming friendships.

  119. My friend who went to UChicago was extroverted and well-liked by everybody. Nerdy and a unique guy, but definitely not low EQ!

  120. On a totally unrelated note, I think we’ve talked about the increasing prevalence of food allergies here before. I have 5 friends locally with babies. 4 of the little ones have had severe allergic reactions to food recently and made ER visits. Small sample size I know, but wow. Hopefully they outgrow it; I have no idea how school cafeterias and the like are going to deal with so many kids being allergic to common ingredients (not just peanuts).

  121. Late to this discussion. I have certainly benefitted in my career from having a high EQ relative to my peer group at work. I’m smart enough and good enough at what I do to have credibility and produce results, but I’m certainly not the smartest. I have made it into roles where I manage a team of brilliant people who are excellent at what they do. I used to feel a little insecure about managing folks with much more intelligence and/or experience, until I realized that not everyone is decisive, or good with people, or willing to take the lead, and I happen to be ok with all those things, and that’s why Im in management. If I were a brilliant scientist, I’d still be in that role. Fortunately, in my company there is a technical ladder that parallels the management track such that a lot of these brilliant nerds are rewarded quite handsomely for staying technical.

  122. MBT, I don’t know if your household reads Foxtrot, but the possibility makes me think of this (the one with Hawkins/Jason saying goodbye).

  123. I posted the link a few weeks ago on a new, well done peanut allergy study. There is increasing evidence that avoidance of allergens may actually lead to allergies. (Kind of a dirty house theory for the gut, I suppose.). I wonder if you friends’ babies had all been rigorously avoiding the offending ingredient until they turned one? (Which is no longer the recommendation – highly allergenic foods should be introduced as quickly as possible).

  124. You know, it would be neat to see a graph of number of peanut allergies vs percentage of breast feeding women actively avoiding peanuts (pretty standard 10 years ago) – the protein that causes the allergy is expressed in breast milk, so the recommendation used to be to avoid while breast feeding. Wonder if that helped with the spike.

  125. They are hippie types and the babies are still nursing. They also seem to follow elimination diets while breastfeeding, convinced that certain foods irritated the babies.

    Again, small sample size, but they all seem to have gone to so much trouble regarding infant nutrition (exclusive breastfeeding, doing something called baby led weaning where they don’t do baby food, etc.) and it seems like all they got were incredibly delicate and sickly kids!

    I have to say, it takes some of the pressure off for when I have my own. Clearly nursing and the like are not a panacea.

  126. Ada, here’s my piece of anecdata: my kid was exclusively breastfed until he was 6 mos old, then ate rice cereal a few times a week for two months before gradually starting on other solids. Our home has never, ever been overly hygenic. At age 3 he traveled to Tahiti, Mexico at age 5, and he lived in Germany for 1.5 years. Lots of different cultures of germs! He had ear infections frequently, until he got ear tubes, has had asthma on and off for years at a time, and now gets injections for what his allergist says are “severe” allergies. So far he has not developed the kind of food allergies that lead to anaphylactic shock, but he is still a pretty extreme outlier from the curve that theory suggests.

    Otoh, I nursed for a year, was raised in a spotless household, have allergies that can lead to me throwing up when I eat the wrong food, a list to which new items are still being added, and I don’t tolerate gluten well. I have one sister with lactose intolerance and one with celiac. They nursed for 6 and 12 months, respectively. They and their kids all have allergies. It’s hard to know if this is all related to the grandfather/ great-grandfather with type I diabetes, or if it’s because our parents, who lost close family members to infection and who received medical training in the 1950s, put too much faith in very clean if not completely sterile environments.

    I recognize that these sorts of questions require much larger data pools than 10 people, but looking at just our family, it’s hard to see any one clear factor.

    Btw, I’m typing on my cell phone again, cannot scroll back to check for incorrect words & punctuation or for forgotten sentences. Sorry for any errors.

  127. Forgot to mention that I didn’t actively eliminate anything from my diet while nursing, and the boy was fed meat from his earliest years, but strawberries and peanuts were introduced around age 2.

  128. For fellow new/potential moms interested in a pediatric gastroenterologist’s of colic/fussiness (and for perspective that if your baby is growing well, be happy), I recommend _Colic Solved_ by Bryan Vartabedian. He explains why elimination diets take a long time to work (say, a month, because you have to get allergen proteins out of your system and then give your baby’s irritated esophagus a chance to heal) and has what I, as a mom of fussy preemies, think is gospel: “Your baby just may not be the happiest baby on the block.”

    None of my kids have any allergies, though one had breathing problems for awhile. I doubt I did anything, though I am a mediocre housekeeper, so y’all can admire that achievement. And Baby WCE will have 3 older brothers going to public school, childcare and a dog in the house.

  129. I don’t believe that mothers should be eliminating this and that from their own diet nor should they be banning certain foods from their babies diets. Also as the babies grow it is not necessary to purée everything because babies need to experience the texture of various foods. In fact kids should be gradually led to eating what their parents. No kids menu for years on end.

  130. Louise, I agree with you on that. I don’t think DS ordered from a kids menu until he was 4 or 5 and able to respond to the hostess’ offer of it himself. My mom didn’t believe he was reading until she took him to an Applebee’s, read him the options on the kids menu except for corn dogs, which she thought were unhealthy, and that’s what he ordered, at that age. As for texture, his babysitter made him food for a year or two. I think she pureed a lot of things, then cut things into bites for him when he was older. I just let him eat from my plate, so he got olives, shrimp, beans, whatever I had, alongside the breast milk which remained a staple of his diet at home. Very schizophrenic diets for him!

  131. Honolulu & ssk– Yup, my kiddo is meeting friends in karate, and typically is with a different crowd when she does soccer. She likes all these different crowds. Plus she’s got a little social circle at our church. So I think this is more outlier than long term issue, but it’s good to hear perspectives!

    Because of all the allergy advice, we were fairly cautious about introducing allergens to our oldest (those were the reccs at the time) but at a certain point we figured that as long as we spaced out introducing things so we could identify a trigger, we were ok. I made all their food because I like to cook, and it ended up being pretty easy to make a bunch in advance and freeze it. With my 3rd I used a mini food processor to take a lot of what we were having for dinner and get it rather coarsely chopped. So not pureed, but spoonable and with meat small enough to not be a choking issue. Much of that did not look remotely appetizing, but it tasted as good as whatever we were having. So far none of my 3 have any allergies. We have a cat. We aren’t super-clean. They were in daycare from a young age. My youngest does have eczema, and my two youngest kids will get asthma-type wheezing after a serious cold. Not sure how much of any of this is anything we do, luck, genetics, the particular environment they’re in, etc.

  132. My dd (the one with severe allergy to milk) was breastfed, and I drank lots of milk. She had no problems with what I ate or drank, but I remember clearly when dh gave her a tiny bit of strawberry ice cream around 4 or 5 months and she got some on her hand and rubbed her eyes – and got hives! We experimented again a month or so later with a soggy cheerio and milk, and the problem was still there. We had hoped it would go away by a year, but no such luck.

    I was very interested to the peanut study – I hope it makes a difference in the number of kids with allergies in the future.

  133. SSK, what led you to try the Cheerio and milk/ how did you suspect that it was the milk, not the strawberries, that she was reacting to?

  134. I think it is important to distinguish between food intolerances and actual allergies. See this

    Allergies are an immune system response; intolerances seem to be largely a digestive system problem. Saac – your issues, and your sisters, sound like food intolerance rather than allergies. The peanut study, however, was looking at allergies, so its conclusions probably don’t have much to do with your problems.

  135. We have a lot of allergies on both sides of our family, though none of them are triggered by food or animals. We have the usual severe hay fever, and I am very allergic to penicillin (when I reacted, as a teen, I was covered in hives and my throat started to swell). My DH also has a weird contact allergy to materials like cardboard. He touches cardboard, and gets hives. Only DS1 has allergy problems, though. He has the same hay fever, and also is very allergic to dogs and mildly allergic to cats (yes, I know, that is the reverse of the usual – maybe because he spent his first 6 years with a cat in the house, he developed less of an allergic response?). He starts wheezing and gets hives if he gets near dog hair.

  136. Mooshi, you are right that medicine has classified autoimmune diseases as separate things. More recently, though, hypotheses are being developed which link them together, so that the extreme allergies, the food intolerance and celiac (which is different from intolerance) and diabetes may be linked. Maybe someone here knows more about this and can tell us.

  137. s&m – I think we thought at first it could be the strawberry, so that is why we waited a few weeks and then tried the cheerio/milk combo. A very scientific study! I wasn’t too worried at first because most babies outgrow the allergy by a year, but that never happened, and she is still extremely allergic. Luckily there are many more food choices for her out in the world these days, but she will have to be careful the rest of her life (I assume).

  138. SM – in looking at kids of a close relative – it seems like it was a perfect genetic storm. Father’s side of family was lactose intolerant but not allergic, on the mother’s side the grandmother had an allergy to eggs plus asthma runs in the mother’s side of family. When you look at every family member before the kids, the issues didn’t appear to be huge but the kids inherited every allergy of both sides so no nuts, eggs, milk and in one child’s case no gluten as well.

  139. Oh food allergies… My mom is allergic to just about everything outside, seafood, and peanuts. I hope DS doesn’t get the peanut allergy. Maybe he won’t- I live on peanut butter!

  140. Lactose intolerance doesn’t have to mean no milk. Acidophilus milk or lactaid tablets are viable options.

  141. saac – it is funny, but I lost my taste for milk for the most part after I was done having kids. I was never a huge milk drinker as a child, but I drank my 3 glasses every day while pregnant and nursing. Now I will eat yoghurt and cheese, but very rarely a glass of milk.

  142. Type 1 diabetes and celiac have a definite link as autoimmune issues that tend to occur together. There are antibody tests but as I understand it – if the patient is avoiding gluten before the test the results can be inconclusive. The correlation is high enough that I watch for the signs of both type 1 and celiac in myself and DS since DD was DX. DD’s endocrinologist requires annual antibody tests for celiac as a matter of course because of the high correlation of the two diseases.

  143. Ssk you migh appreciate this – today I sighed and turned off the rain setting on my sprinkler system around 4pm. It is now 11:15 and it has been raining for at least 30 minutes. And I had the car washed Saturday morning. If I had known “I had the power” I would have used it long ago.

  144. BAM, how bad is the water situation there? Is it to the ‘let it mellow’ state yet?

  145. Re: allergies: how much of this is just better detection/better treatment? On the former, DS gets sniffly and tends to break out in rashes, but the first-line tests for all of the common allergens were negative or very mild, so even 30 years go we would have written it off as hay fever. We’d never have known he had a severe shellfish allergy, because it was detected through multi-level immune response blood tests that didn’t exist back then, and he is a picky eater and had never tried it on his own. Heck, for all I know, some of the things he ate as a baby might have led to the picky eating if he was having low-level intolerance and discomfort, so he could have gone his whole life without ever knowing.

    On the latter, realistically, 100 years ago, I would have died long before having kids. But thanks to the modern medicine of the 1970s, I survived several severe asthma attacks and went on to create two more kids, at least one of whom carries on my faulty genes, and the other of whom may have some recessive susceptibility (heck, dad is allergic to sulfa drugs, so maybe they both got it from both sides).

    Re: elimination diets: the only thing I eliminated while breastfeeding was green chile. Very distinct aversion on the part of DD — she’d even refuse the milk if I stored it for later. :-)

  146. LfB, over 30 years ago we all got tested and all did the shots. I was tested again more recently, & reacted to every single one of the 66 different things they tested me for. I’m doing the shots again, as does DS (huge response to Live Oak, very common here). I’ve recently learned that my serum does not contain the foods I tested allergic to–no way to desensitize, I should avoid. Blurg

  147. Saac – do you feel like the shots help? Last time we discussed it with our pediatrician he said it’s all anecdotal, not supported by studies, so it was our choice, and we opted not to do them. If you did them for years and still show as allergic to everything, what do you see as the benefit?

  148. Type 1 diabetes and celiac have a definite link as autoimmune issues that tend to occur together. There are antibody tests but as I understand it – if the patient is avoiding gluten before the test the results can be inconclusive. The correlation is high enough that I watch for the signs of both type 1 and celiac in myself and DS since DD was DX. DD’s endocrinologist requires annual antibody tests for celiac as a matter of course because of the high correlation of the two diseases.

    My daughter was just diagnosed with celiac. They had to do the endoscopy and biopsies because her IgA level is low so the blood test isn’t valid. You do have to be eating gluten for the tests to be valid because it picks up the response to gluten. It’s the same reason that you can’t be taking antihistamines when you do the allergy scratch tests. You need to have a response for the tests to measure.

  149. So many women who I know have had to eliminate foods from their diet while breastfeeding. Usually dairy. I would guess that at least half of my friends have done this. One of my 3 has a dairy sensitivity. Once the offending dairy was removed from her diet, she became a new baby. The pedi has told me this is very common and is usually not an allergy, but instead an inability to digest milk protein and almost all babies outgrow this by about a year. I imagine that this used to be diagnosed as colic or just a fussy baby.

  150. From what I’ve read allergies, eczema, celiac, ms, diabetes, etc. are all related and all stem from inflammation. The only woman I know who has done an elimination diet while nursing/pregnant is my SIL and the whole family is now “dairy free” but their substitutions for the dairy are crappy processed foods. My husband had allergies as a kid, but not severe (peanuts, dairy, a few things), and he outgrew them. I had a few minor allergies but also outgrew them. Kids are allergy free. My house is not super clean, I ate everything while pregnant/breastfeeding but I have no idea if we are just lucky or less hygiene/less processed foods helped.

  151. MBT, this is the third time I’ve done the desensitization. The first time, I thought I’d lose the allergies forever. I think that was also my parents expectation, but am not sure. The second time, in college, I did drops under the tongue. It helped, but the allergies came back faster. Now I’ve been told not to expect it to last for my son or me, once we stop. He is at maintanence level, getting a shot every 4 weeks. I’m still building up to that. We both experience a huge difference with the shots. Our allergies aren’t just itchy eyes/skin & runny nose. We also get really tired from them. When a new pollen comes out, I sometimes think that I’m sick, until my throat still hurts and I’m still tired a couple days later. Not dealing with that is definitely worth the allergy shot hassle, imo.

  152. @Saac — FWIW, those symptoms can also be thyroid — I get that periodically, and it usually leaves me in bed for a day, and it is frequently not correlated to any allergen I know about.

  153. Bay Area Mom – Please keep doing what you are doing!! I watered my flowers Sunday morning, and we got quite a rain shower last night (not just drizzle). Just now the sky has started darkening, so hopefully we will get a little more up here.

    Finn – they are back to no water at restaurants unless you ask for it, and you are only supposed to water your lawn two days a week. I thought everyone was doing that already!

  154. ATL– has your SIL’s family verified that their dairy issue Isn’t lactose intolerance? I believe there is a test for that, and a practical test they could try themselves is to drink some acidophilus milk.

    My understanding is that is not an allergy or related to inflammation, but is similar to the milk protein issue Cat mentioned.

  155. Finn – I think she did get her son tested but it didn’t come back with an actual allergy, but she says he’s intolerant (this is her oldest). So with her next two pregnancies I think she’s just avoided dairy just in case.

  156. I had (what appeared to be) a milk allergy as a kid. No testing was ever done, but I used to break out in hives, and so I just didn’t drink milk. Milk chocolate did the same thing– we didn’t have a lot of access to dark chocolate, and so we never figured out if that was a chocolate issue or a milk issue. By some magic I do not understand, I outgrew that allergy sometime in high school. I don’t have a taste to drink a lot of milk, but I put it in coffee, have cereal, make pudding, whatever, with no reactions now. And blessedly no reactions to chocolate! I wish we understood all of it better.

  157. Tulip, the obvious question your post suggests is, what about ice cream? Did that cause the same reaction? Did you never develop a taste for that?

  158. When DD had the allergy scratch test done I believe there was a separate category for “milk” and “milk protein”, so the intolerance/stomach problem may come from that “milk protein” as Finn suggested. DD reacted to both.

    I never had any allergies as a kid. I started getting pollen type allergy problems in my 20s. Weird. I also found out (the hard way) that I am allergic to flax seed. Not sure what else. DH will have a short allergic reaction to something that he eats in restaurants. He sneezes 6 or 7 times and as a runny nose/bit of wheeziness for 10 minutes, then it is done. I suspect some spice or other condiment.

  159. Finn – we are there, but they are not making a big deal out of that particular water saving measure this time around, probably due to the level of low flush toilets relative to last time around. The governor is talking about penalties for watering your lawn more than twice a week – etc.etc.

  160. Late to the allergy discussion – but for some further anecdata, DS has life-threatening allergies to peanuts and some tree nuts. DS also has allergies (non-life threatening) to cats, pollen, used to have cold-induced asthma, and used to have eczema. I breast fed DS and ate plenty of peanut butter while I was nursing him – but he’s still allergic. And he’s the youngest kid and started in daycare at 4 months so he certainly was exposed to lots of germs. And our house is not particularly sterile. I don’t feel like there’s anything I could have done differently to prevent his allergies.

    I do wonder if there’s some sort of environmental factor that is increasing the number of food allergies. There are always several kids in DS’ classrooms with food allergies.

  161. on CA and the water shortage – I visit Palm Springs 1 or 2 times a year (my dad moved there 2 years ago). I am always struck by how green all the lawns are (and how many people have lawns vs some sort of desert plantings) – not to mention all the golf courses, etc. If it’s warm out when I’m visiting, lots of the restaurants with outdoor seating have misters going. It always surprises me that Palm Springs does not seem to have any water conservation practices in place.

  162. The Bay Area, Las Angeles area, and Palm Springs are wealthy communities. They will feel the effects of the drought last, if at all. Drought impacts are economic impacts, and wealthier communities are better situated to withstand them.

  163. Finn– I never reacted to ice cream. Or yogurt or cheese for that matter. But straight milk did it every time. And chocolate. I used to sneak it sometimes, or grab one when other people had some and I couldn’t. I always got caught because of the hives!

    Our lawn looks positively sad. I’m not even watering twice a week, but I suppose I should water *some* before it all dies. Sigh.

Comments are closed.