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  • Writer's pictureReflective Resources

E is for Emotional Intelligence

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”

Daniel Goleman

Emotions are defined as physiological responses or reactions that our body generates due to changes that happen in ourselves as well as in our surroundings. They are linked to feelings as opposed to thoughts and are triggered by the situation that you are in or the people you are with.

Emotions are like the weather – they’re always present and constantly changing. They continually ebb and flow, from mild to intense, pleasant to unpleasant, predictable to utterly unexpected”. Russ Harris

The ability to control and manage our own emotions and also control and manage other people’s emotions is an invaluable skill which can be improved through practice through conscious habits and regular meditation and once channelled, they can become our allies and can help us flourish

“People with well-developed emotional skills are also more likely to be content and effective in their lives, mastering the habits of mind that foster their own productivity; people who cannot marshal some control over their emotional life fight inner battles that sabotage their ability for focused work and clear thought.” Daniel Goleman

So what is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence, sometimes called EQ (Emotional Quotient) can be defined as an ability to monitor your own and other’s emotions, to distinguish between, and label different emotions correctly and to use this emotional information to guide your thinking (through practices like defusion) , actions and interactions with others.

Emotional Intelligence makes use of the whole gamut of information at our disposal e.g. it pays attention to non verbal information too; body language, tone of voice etc

“Emotional intelligence does not mean merely "being nice". At strategic moment it may demand not "being nice", but rather, for example, bluntly confronting someone with an uncomfortable but consequential truth they've been avoiding.”

Daniel Goleman

Emotional intelligence allows us to connect with others, understand ourselves better, and live a more authentic, healthy, and happy life through empathy, effective communication and considered responses.

How did the study of Emotional Intelligence come about?

The concept of Emotional Intelligence, as we know it today, has origins in the 1930s, when American psychologist Edward Thorndike described ‘social intelligence’ as the ability to get along with other people.

In the 1940s, another American psychologist, David Wechsler (born in Romania) , then proposed that different affective components of intelligence could play an important role in how successful people are in life.

In the 1950s, American psychologist Abraham Maslow and others from the school of thought known as humanistic psychology focused attention on the different ways that people could build emotional strength.

American developmental psychologist Howard Gardner, then introduced the idea that intelligence was more than just a single, general ability and introduced the notion of multiple intelligences. He suggested that human intelligence can be differentiated into eight modalities: visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, musical-rhythmic, logical-mathematical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic and bodily-kinaesthetic. In contrast to other notions of learning capabilities (for example, the concept of a single IQ), the basic idea behind the theory of multiple intelligences is that people learn in a variety of different ways.

The term ‘emotional intelligence’ was developed in a doctoral thesis entitled ¨A study of emotion: developing emotional intelligence; self-integration, relating to fear, pain and desire¨ by Wayne Payne (1985) . In his paper, Payne wanted to study and discover the nature and characteristics of emotion and emotional intelligence, to state a ¨theoretical and philosophical framework¨ after he discovered that the world was suffering from ¨emotional ignorance¨, where many of the problems society was facing were related to emotional states like addiction, depression, fear, pain, etc Having raised important issues and questions about emotions, it provided a language and framework to enable examination and discussion about the issues and questions raised, he also clarified ¨concepts, methods and tools for developing emotional intelligence¨ opening the way for numerous authors to subsequently develop and study the term further.

In 1987, Englishman, Keith Beasley used the term ‘The Emotional Quotient’ as the title of an article published in Mensa Magazine. The gist of the article was to highlight another aspect of human 'intelligence' - i.e. emotional sensitivity and an awareness of feelings

A few years later in 1990, psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer published their article, ‘Emotional Intelligence’ in the journal ‘Imagination, Cognition, and Personality’. The article suggested one of the first official theories of EQ describing it as “the ability to recognize, understand, utilize, and regulate emotions effectively in everyday life”

Salovey and Mayer’s model identified four different levels of emotional intelligence:

Emotional perception – i.e. to understand emotions we must perceive them accurately and use all the clues available to us e.g. facial expression, body language etc to be aware of and recognize other people’s states (both physical and psychological i.e. being in physical pain or feeling frazzled) As well as identifying emotions in other people, it is about learning to express one’s own emotions and needs accurately and appropriately, and distinguishing between accurate, honest feelings and inaccurate, dishonest feelings.

The ability to reason using emotions - Emotions help prioritize what we pay attention and react to; we respond emotionally to things that grab our attention. Using emotions to facilitate thought involves redirecting and prioritizing your thinking based on the feelings associated with those thoughts, generating emotions that will facilitate better judgment and memory, capitalizing on mood changes so you can appreciate multiple points of view, and using emotional states to improve your problem-solving skills and creativity.

The ability to understand emotion - The emotions that we perceive can carry a wide variety of meanings so we need to learn how to interpret these emotions correctly and understand the relationships between various emotions, perceiving the causes and consequences of emotions, understanding complex feelings and contradictory states and understanding the transitions among emotions.

The ability to manage emotions - Regulating emotions, responding appropriately and responding to the emotions of others are all important aspects of emotional management. Managing emotions, refers to being open to both pleasant and unpleasant feelings; monitoring and reflecting on your emotions; engaging, prolonging, or detaching from an emotional state; and managing the emotions both within yourself and in others (Emmerling, Shanwal, & Mandal, 2008; Mayer & Salovey, 1997).

In 1995, psychologist and New York Times science writer Daniel Goleman published his book 'Emotional Intelligence' which helped introduce EQ into the mainstream. He suggested that EQ was a vital factor in success, especially for children. He proposed the idea that rather than just being something we were born with, EQ was a set of skills that can be learned and improved upon. Furthermore, by promoting social and emotional learning in children to boost their EQ he stated it would not only improve their learning abilities and results but also help them control any unhelpful behaviour; i.e. suggesting that EQ might be as, if not more, important to individual success as IQ.

For Goleman, IQ contributes to only 20% of our success in life – the remaining 80% is the result of emotional intelligence, which includes factors such as self-motivating ability, persistence, impulse control, the regulation of humour, empathy, and hope.

IQ and EQ are not opposing skills – but they work separately. It is possible to be intellectually brilliant, but emotionally unfit, and this kind of misalignment causes the biggest problems in people’s lives.

“It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head–it is the unique intersection of both.” David Caruso

According to Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence contains five components:

Self-Awareness: Self- awareness is the ability to accurately recognize and understand your own emotions and their effects, to know your strengths and weaknesses etc. It is the foundational building block of EQ, since regulating ourselves, having empathy for others, etc rely on us identifying and understanding emotion correctly in ourselves.

Self-Regulation: To achieve a higher level of EQ, we must not only be able to recognize our own emotions, but be able to appropriately express and manage them.

Motivation: Those with high EQ are generally more intrinsically motivated i.e. they are motivated for their own personal reasons/goals rather than being motivated by external rewards such as wealth, respect or fame.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to identify and understand other people's feelings and recognize, on an intimate level, how you would feel if you were in their position through imagination. It does not mean you sympathize with, validate, or accept their behaviour, just that you have learnt to reframe your viewpoint in order to see things from their perspective with the aim of trying to understand where they are coming from and why they feel as they do.

Social Skills: Social skills allow us to successfully interact socially with one another and navigate social situations. “Those with high EQs generally have higher-than-average social skills and therefore are able to more effectively pursue their goals to get the outcomes they want when interacting with others” Kendra Cherry

Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves then capitalized on the growing interest in EQ and published their own book, 'Emotional Intelligence 2.0', proposing evidence-backed strategies to build EQ through self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management which they outlined in a step-by-step programme.

Today there are a plethora or articles and books written on the subject of Emotional Intelligence

Why is it Important to develop Emotional Intelligence skills?

Emotional intelligence is essential for good interpersonal communication, building and maintaining healthy relationships and improving well-being. As humans, we tend to be highly emotional and social creatures so being able to understand our emotions is fundamental to understanding ourselves and others, developing good relationships and helping us navigate our life journey so that we flourish and function effectively. Studies have shown that having a high level of EQ can improve almost every aspect of our life; it helps us connect with others, improves our communication skills, boosts our performance, helps us become more resilient etc

How can you improve your EQ?

Although EQ does not necessarily increase with age we all have the ability to improve our social and emotional skills at any age if we choose to learn from life’s experiences and intentionally work on various key skills and activities. It takes intentional critical self-evaluation, commitment to improvement and of course exchanging less helpful habits for more helpful ones. When one works to improve EQ it is called transformational learning, as growth comes from using critical self-reflection (the analysis of the way we pose problems to ourselves and of our own structure of assumptions that we use as a reference for interpreting our experiences.)

Assumptions - Not making assumptions and asking questions is key to understanding the intention behind other’s responses. Effective critical self-reflection requires you to question yourself and the assumptions you make on an ongoing basis

“The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.” Daniel Goleman

Attention – Attention is about consciously choosing to observe or notice, usually with a view to action afterwards. Paying attention is an under-used tool. By necessity we perform many tasks and activities on auto-pilot, but there is a whole part of our existence that we are not fully appreciating because we are too busy, going too fast and our heads are often elsewhere, rather than in the here and now. In our state of near constant preoccupation, and familiarity with our environment we stop noticing the many things going on around us at so many different levels and we are impoverished because of it. Whether you wish to understand yourself more or others, the key thing is to pay attention. Take the time to listen to what your body is saying to you or other people are trying to communicate.

“People's emotions are rarely put into words , far more often they are expressed through other cues. The key to intuiting another's feelings is in the ability to read nonverbal channels , tone of voice , gesture , facial expression and the like” Daniel Goleman

Body language - It is important to pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues. Our body language is an important dimension in the way we express ourselves and communicate. We give off non-verbal signs through e.g. our facial expressions, our tone of voice, our body position and movements, the gestures we make with our hands etc Body language is a huge part of conscious, or more often subconscious, communication and this non verbal behaviour has an influence on our interactions with others; not only on how we are perceived by others but also whether we trigger reactions which cause others to shut down or go on the offensive rather than respond to us openly.

Dialectics – Dialectics help us develop a growth mindset allowing us to take a step back to appreciate the validity of different perspectives and in so doing we can discover new insights and positions reconciling and transcending thesis and antithesis. Being more dialectical in our approach can help to reduce the emotional intensity that comes from unbalanced, 'all-or-nothing thinking' too and serves as a healthy reminder that people are unique and have different points of view therefore there is more than one way to see something.

Empathy - Having empathy is essentially about having the ability to see things from another's perspective and then responding to concerns and needs accordingly. Empathy is a skill, and like any skill, it can be cultivated through intentional effort. It is concerned with seeking to understand someone’s thoughts and emotions, in a rational, rather than emotional sense (even if you don’t agree with them).

Mindfulness -We can use mindfulness to build and maintain our emotional intelligence through enhanced self-awareness and self-regulation. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to help reduce or eliminate distress when faced with tense situations.

“Emotional self-control-- delaying gratification and stifling impulsiveness- underlies accomplishment of every sort” Daniel Goleman

Reflect – Taking time to reflect and respond, rather than rush and react is an important part of emotional intelligence. It is important to be aware not only of how our own assumptions and emotions influence our responses but to try and get behind the impact that others’ experiences and emotions play in the formation of their perspectives. When we ask questions such as ‘Why is this person feeling this way?’ and consider whether there are any unseen factors that might be contributing to these feelings, and then comparing how our emotions differ from theirs, it becomes easier to understand the role that emotions play in how people think and behave.

“The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.” Donald Calne

Bishop T.D. Jakes once said “Never make a permanent decision about a temporary situation” Paraphrasing this slightly, it is good advice to never make a permanent decision on a temporary emotion. Emotions can be powerful and blind one temporarily to the best response so whenever one is involved in a highly charged emotional event (‘good’ or ‘bad’) the emotionally intelligent response would be to take some time before responding. This allows us time to calm our emotional response and gives us the time and space we may need to think more rationally about all the factors involved.

“‘Emotional intelligence’ refers to the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and our relationships.” Daniel Goleman

Emotional Intelligence is about paying attention to our own feelings, trying to remain objective and accepting of them and thinking about how our actions affect our interactions with others.

“Our feelings are not there to be cast out or conquered. They’re there to be engaged and expressed with imagination and intelligence.” T.K. Coleman

For further links

“What is Emotional Intelligence?” by the School of Life (YouTube link)

“The Power of Emotional Intelligence” by Travis Bradberry (YouTube link)

Interview with Dr. David Caruso - Chuck Wolfe interviews Consortium member David Caruso talking about their work together, the ability model of emotional intelligence, and insights into how to use emotional intelligence to address staying emotionally and mentally healthy during times of crisis and uncertainty. (YouTube link)

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