Fostering interpersonal emotional intelligence skills through 4-H

Through its various delivery models, the 4-H program is uniquely positioned to support youth to continually develop their interpersonal skills throughout their years of participation.

Empathy is the ability to be aware of others’ feelings; it is vital to productive interactions in life. Empathy is one of the interpersonal emotional intelligence (EQ) skills defined by clinical psychologist and author Daniel Goleman. Goleman believes EQ is a greater predictor of success than intellectual intelligence. This is the third article in a series that explores how 4-H can support the development of EQ in youth. Other articles in this series include: Developing a child’s emotional intelligence through 4-H and Intrapersonal emotional intelligence skills can be gained through 4-H.

A critical interpersonal EQ skill, empathy is demonstrated by good listening, the respectful treatment of others and sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings. With youth of various ages, backgrounds and abilities typically involved in any 4-H club, these types of interpersonal skills are essential as they help the group function effectively and work cooperatively. When dealing with conflict in these clubs, adults working with youth can encourage members to “put themselves into another’s shoes” to view the other person’s perspective.

Youth involved in 4-H also have the opportunity to develop the interpersonal EQ skill of responsibility. Through their project work, members are expected to be accountable for their actions and follow through with their obligations. When opportunities present themselves, adults working with 4-H youth can help children advance this skill by demonstrating responsible behaviors.

In addition to empathy and responsibility, participation in a 4-H group provides an opportunity for youth to develop interpersonal relationships. Members work as teams, share responsibilities, learn to come to consensus and have the chance to take on leadership roles. Adults can guide youth through this as they learn to handle the complexities of building and maintaining healthy relationships.

No matter what delivery model it utilizes, the 4-H program is uniquely positioned to support youth to continually develop their interpersonal skills throughout their years of participation. Parents and other adults working with youth who are interested in learning more about developing EQ can view the Emotional Intelligence Activities series available through the University of Illinois 4-H. For more information about resources available through Michigan 4-H Youth Development, contact your local Michigan State University Extension county office.

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