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In 1983, Howard Gardner, the noted Harvard developmental psychologist,  developed a new way of studying intelligence, and his ideas revolutionized the way we look at growth and education in children.  Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences suggests that not only do human beings have several different ways of learning and processing information, but these skills are relatively independent of one another. Gardner states that we actually have multiple “intelligences” or more specifically 7 kinds of intelligences (i.e. linguistic, logic-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic). Within one individual, these “intelligences” fall along a spectrum from strong to weak. Some of us have math and musical talent, while others are great at public speaking and being great listeners. Some of us have tremendous abilities to remember details, while others are great at seeing the big picture. Gardner’s theory also led to a significant shift toward not looking only at IQ, but also at the “Emotional Intelligence” of a child or person. We all know people who were not necessarily successful in school but turned about to be successful in business or their careers because of their ability to understand “people”. These are people who know that successful communication involves being able to “read” the listener and the situation.
The EI, or emotional intelligence of an individual is a measure to which we need to give more attention. The ability of a leader to understand how another person thinks, feels, and interacts, is often the key to successfully managing a business or classroom. The most successful men and women in today’s world are not always the Ivy League graduates, but those individuals who have tremendous “people skills”. These skills are part of the focus of the top MBA programs in North America.
This week the Torah tells us about Abraham’s servant Eliezer going to find a wife for Isaac.  He is given instructions in terms of where to go and how to recognize the woman who would be fitting as a wife for Isaac. Rebecca and Eliezer meet at the well. Rebecca not only asks to help this stranger, Eliezer, but also feeds his camels. Eliezer recognizes that this is a sign and that she is meant to be Isaac’s wife. When Eliezer goes to meet Rebecca’s parents, he retells the story of the events that occurred at the well. What is interesting is that the Torah is very explicit in giving us all of the details of this discussion. However, Eliezer actually changes at least 10 things that he either said or did when he is talking to Rebecca’s parents to arrange the “shidduch”. Why was it necessary to change the story for Rebecca’s parents?
Eliezer was actually demonstrating his emotional intelligence. When he spoke to Rebecca’s parents, he saw that they were not the same as his teacher and model Abraham. Rebecca’s parents likely had different customs and traditions. Eliezer was able to size up the situation and speak with sensitivity about his mission of making the match a success. He negotiated with intelligence and by carefully choosing what he said.  Eliezer changed the story in ten ways, but by “reading” the situation, he was able to convince Rebecca’s parents, that it was a match “made in heaven”.
This is a crucial lesson for our lives as well. Successful communication is based on knowing our audience. This is something we need to keep in mind for ourselves in our work and our social lives. We need to always be mindful of who we are speaking to, the subject of the conversation, and the correct nuances of the message that we want to deliver. We also need to see our children not just in terms of IQ, but as individuals having multiple areas of potential and emotional intelligence.
Shabbat Shalom