The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book: Everything You Need to Know to Put Your EQ to Work by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves (Fireside, $19.95)

The Basic Idea Once you've reached a certain point, usually in childhood, you don't get any smarter, at least in terms of IQ, and your personality, barring some physical change to your brain, pretty much is what it is going to be. That, say the authors, leaves emotional intelligence -- how we understand ourselves and respond to others -- as the sole determinant of personal and professional success that we can actually improve. And they have a plan.

What? Emotional Intelligence is a much-bandied notion in the self-improvement realm that differs from some dodgier concepts at least in pedigree. It is rooted in what psychologist and educator E.L. Thorndike described as "social intelligence," the skills that enable people of average intelligence to excel in life. Bradberry and Greaves both hold doctorates in industrial-organizational psychology. They claim that surveys of 500,000 people on the role of emotions in daily life have enabled them to hone EQ assessment to a 28-question online survey that can be completed in seven minutes. The survey itself is not in the book.

Anything to It? Hard to say, based on the evidence. The authors view emotional intelligence as the product of two main skills: personal competence and social competence. And the advice in the book about how to develop oneself in those areas seems above reproach but not especially novel. One example is the idea of "leaning into discomfort" -- acknowledging and confronting your weaknesses -- as the first step to improvement. The book is sketchy in a way that makes clear that the real goal is to get you to the authors' Web site, which offers a nominally free -- you have to have a copy of the book -- personal EQ assessment along with come-ons for workshops, videos and other merchandise.

-- Gregory Mott