Empathy or Brains? Is it Really a Zero Sum Game?

Twice in the last two days I’ve read about the necessity to choose between heart and head when it comes to putting one’s best foot forward in public life. And the head doesn’t seem to be winning…
As Bob Stein put it on his blog: “Rahm’s Charm Offensive: In an interview on the PBS News Hour, the President’s Chief of Staff demonstrates the difference between being brainy and empathic–a problem that is becoming crucial to the White House.” Connecting the Dots: (http://ajliebling.blogspot.com/2010/07/rahms-charm-offensive.html)

And then Judith Warner writes in Sunday The New York Times Magazine about the coaching Elena Kagan supposedly received for her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings. But just when she appears to lead us to the inevitable conclusion that dumbing down intelligence is the only way to let the empathic heart show, Warner writes, “Kagan triumphed — and she did it by beating the popular crowd at its own game. She made the senators laugh. That Chinese restaurant quip, her reflection that televising Supreme Court deliberations would require her to get her hair done more often — nothing could have been more folksy. Nor could there have been a surer sign of her true intellect”. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/11/magazine/11fob-wwln-t.html.

Once upon a time, I was accused of being an intellectual snob. As if this were a bad thing. As if preferring smart to dumb were somehow the mark of arrogance, inconsistent with empathy and goodness. As if the bigger the brain the smaller the heart.

Any hope for this radical thought: we needn’t choose head over heart – or heart over head?
I, for one, prefer a leader with 2 high IQs: BOTH Intellectual and Emotional Intelligence.

Copyright © 2010 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.


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