Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior. Some researchers suggest that emotional intelligence can be learned and strengthened, while others claim it is an inborn characteristic.
Some experts believe EI is more important that IQ because, if you can’t communicate and get along with others, you will have a hard time applying how “smart” you are. But as with any concept there are also those who criticize the whole EI idea – and whether it really has validity. The thing you can’t argue with is evidence that those who exhibit more emotional intelligence traits do have greater mental health, exemplary job performance, and more potent leadership skills.
“All learning has an emotional base.”
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So, it is important to be able to express and control our emotions and to be able to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others.
If you’re still unclear as to what EI is, imagine that you can’t understand when a friend is feeling sad or when a co-worker is angry. That would represent having no emotional intelligence.
Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer have been leading the research on emotional intelligence since 1990.
According to Salovey and Mayer you can branch EI into four factors:
- Perceiving emotions is the first step in understanding emotions and can involve understanding nonverbal signals such as body language and facial expressions.
- Reasoning with emotions is the next step and involves using emotions to promote thinking and cognitive activity.
(Emotions helps us prioritize what we pay attention and react to. We respond emotionally to things that capture our attention.)
- Understanding the emotions that we perceive can carry a wide variety of meanings. Sometimes – as in when angry emotions are expressed – we need to figure out what is causing the anger and what it might mean.
(If your boss is acting angry, it might mean that he is dissatisfied with your work. Or it could just be that he’s angry because of the speeding ticket he got on his way to work or he’s left for the morning in the midst of an argument with his wife.)
- Managing emotions is an important factor in emotional intelligence. Regulating and responding appropriately to our own emotions and responding to the emotions of others is really the visible factor of emotional intelligence. And whether we have high or low EI depends heavily on how we manage all of the emotions that bombard our psyche.
EI has developed over several decades like this:
1930s – Edward Thorndike describes the concept of “social intelligence” as the ability to get along with other people.
1940s – David Wechsler suggests that affective components of intelligence may be essential to success in life.
1950s – Humanistic psychologists such as Abraham Maslow describe how people can build emotional strength.
1975 – Howard Gardner publishes The Shattered Mind, which introduces the concept of multiple intelligences.
1985 – Wayne Payne introduces the term emotional intelligence in his doctoral dissertation entitled “A study of emotion: developing emotional intelligence; self-integration; relating to fear, pain and desire (theory, structure of reality, problem-solving, contraction/expansion, tuning in/coming out/letting go).”
1987 – In an article published in Mensa Magazine, Keith Beasley uses the term “emotional quotient.” It has been suggested that this is the first published use of the term, although Reuven Bar-On claims to have used the term in an unpublished version of his graduate thesis.
1990 – Psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer publish their landmark article, “Emotional Intelligence,” in the journal Imagination, Cognition, and Personality.
1995 – The concept of emotional intelligence is popularized after publication of psychologist and New York Times science writer Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.
Nature vs. Nurture
At one point in time, IQ was viewed as the primary determinant of success because those with high IQs were assumed to be destined for a life of accomplishment and achievement. Researchers have had this “nature versus nurture” debate for years. However, some critics began to realize that not only was high intelligence no guarantee for success in life, it was also not a broad enough measuring scope to fully estimate the wide range of human abilities and knowledge.
IQ is still probably the winner when it comes to academic achievement. People with high IQs typically to do well in school, often earn more money, and tend to be healthier in general. But today experts recognize it is not the only determinate of life success, but a part of a complex array of influences that includes emotional intelligence – among other things.
EI is gaining importance in the business world. Many companies have begun mandating emotional intelligence training and utilize EQ tests as part of the hiring process.
Can emotional intelligence be taught or strengthened? Well according to the experts, yes. Emotional learning programs have resulted in kids achieving better scores (50%) and higher grade point averages (40%). These programs can also be shown to lower suspension rates, increased school attendance, and reduced disciplinary problems.
Emotional Intelligence test: