What is “emotional intelligence”?
Overview The term “emotional intelligence” (otherwise known as “EQ” or “EI”) may be more of a hindrance than a help to the understanding and acceptance of the ideas behind it.
Most people realise that they get the best out of their dealings with other people, whether casual encounters or long-term relationships, if they make some effort.
Take three examples. – Getting on the same wavelength as the other person – knowing what they are feeling, their concerns and motivations (also known as establishing rapport, and/or empathy) – often takes time, effort and concentration.
But this understanding can provide a common ground between the two people. It can improve their understanding of what the other person is saying, and help them work more productively together.
Therefore, a key aspect of emotional intelligence is being able to use, and develop, empathy skills when dealing with other people. – People also often take more notice of the person they are dealing with if that person is able to give clear information about what they want, to be upfront about things that matter to them, and the ways in which the other person is upsetting or annoying them.
But few people respond well to someone who makes a series of strident demands or complains constantly. Instead, they are more likely to respond favourably if the other person makes it clear what they want in a non-threatening, but firm way. Therefore, this skill of assertiveness is also a key aspect of emotional intelligence. – Most of us come under pressure at some time or another. We may call this stress, overwork, or give it another label. But the result is often the same. We become angry, intolerant and incapable of functioning in our normal way. To others, these changes can appear as hostility, anger or aggression, and usually make it difficult for them to deal with us productively. Our own work may suffer too, as the pressure leads us to make mistakes, take the wrong decisions or let important things slide. Being able to recognise these pressures and find ways of dealing with them in a less negative way is the skill of resilience. This is another key aspect of emotional intelligence.
Science and more What I hope the above examples illustrate is that emotional intelligence is about how we manage our own emotions in terms of their effect on others and on ourselves.
The skills mentioned above are behaviours (behavioural competencies; see the definition of “competency”), as are the others that most experts believe make up all those in the realm of “emotional intelligence”. Hard science underlies some of the theory behind emotional intelligence: the science of the brain and how it functions, together with scientific experiments about how humans think, perceive and act. Overlying this work, though, have been the activities of occupational psychologists, management experts, consultants and journalists. They have taken this scientific work, showed its relevance to the workplace and popularised it to make it accessible to a wide audience.
The name that immediately springs to mind in terms of making the concept of emotional intelligence widely known is that of Daniel Goleman. His first book on the subject, Emotional intelligence (Goleman, 1995) was an overnight bestseller, and has been translated into 30 languages. The book begins with the insight that people who have high IQ can nevertheless fail – at school, at work, and in relationships.
Goleman’s idea is that success in life depends just as much on abilities like self-awareness, self-control and empathy, which are rooted in the “emotional brain”. He followed this up with Working with emotional intelligence – a book that applies his theories to the workplace (Goleman, 1998), and which has had at least as much impact on the popular imagination in raising the profile of emotional intelligence. Some definitions In no particular order: 1. Dr Reuven Bar-On has been a pioneer in developing the concept of emotional intelligence, and applying it to the workplace.
He has developed an assessment tool of individuals’ levels of emotional intelligence. His Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory was first published in North America by Multi-Health Systems in 1997, and has since been translated into more than 20 languages. He defines emotional intelligence in this way: “Emotional and social intelligence is a multi-factorial array of interrelated emotional, personal and social abilities that influence our overall ability to actively and effectively cope with daily demands and pressures.” (Bar-On, 2000).
2. Professor Victor Dulewicz and Professor Malcolm Higgs, two leading UK-based researchers into emotional intelligence, have analysed thousands of individuals’ psychometric and performance assessments to develop a series of emotional intelligence assessment tools. In their 1999 book, they define emotional intelligence as a concept that involves: “Achieving one’s goals through the ability to manage one’s own feelings and emotions, to be sensitive to, and influence, other key people, and to balance one’s motives and drives with conscientious and ethical behaviour”. (Higgs and Dulewicz, 1999)
3. Peter Salovey and John (Jack) D Mayer are pioneers into the scientific bases for emotional intelligence, and have collaborated with David Caruso in developing an ability test of individuals’ emotional intelligence. According to Geetu Orme (2001), their 1990 article in an academic journal was the first publication to carry the results of their research into emotional intelligence and, indeed, to coin the term itself. “We define emotional intelligence as the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” (Salovey and Mayer, 1990)
4. Geetu Bharwaney (formerly Geetu Orme), one of those leading the application of emotional intelligence concepts through her company Ei World, has highlighted some of the core concepts about emotional intelligence: “– EQ is a set of non-cognitive abilities that influence your ability to get on in life; – EQ works synergistically with IQ to enhance performance; – EQ can be learned; – EQ can be measured; and – EQ is what differentiates exceptional from mediocre performance.” (Orme and Cannon, 2000).
5. In addition, Geetu, in an article written with Reuven Bar-On, also talks about the broad area of emotional and social intelligence. These both focus “on the use of emotions in coping with daily demands”. They point out that most definitions of this broad area involve one or more of the following: “– the ability to understand and express emotions constructively; – the ability to understand others’ feelings and establish cooperative interpersonal relationships; – the ability to manage and regulate emotions in an effective manner; – the ability to cope realistically with new situations and to solve problems of a personal and interpersonal nature as they arise; and – the ability to be sufficiently optimistic, positive and self-motivated in order to set and achieve goals.” (Orme and Bar-On, 2002)
6. Robert Cooper and Ayman Sawaf are the authors of one of the influential books of the 1990s in applying emotional intelligence concepts to the workplace; it sprang from the research that they had been undertaking in this field: “Emotional intelligence requires that we learn to acknowledge and understand feelings – in ourselves and others – and that we appropriately respond to them, effectively applying the information and energy of emotions in our daily life and work.” “A more complete definition is as follows: ‘Emotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of human energy, information, connection and influence.’” (Cooper and Sawaf, 1998)
7. Daniel Goleman is arguably the most influential advocate of the value of developing emotional intelligence. In his book Working with emotional intelligence, he develops his controversial argument that emotional intelligence is more important than any other factor in “determining who excels at a job”. In that book, he explains that: “Emotional intelligence does not mean giving free rein to feelings - ‘letting it all hang out’. Rather, it means managing feelings so that they are expressed appropriately and effectively, enabling people to work together smoothly toward their common goals.” (Goleman, 1998) References Bar-On, Reuven (2000), “Emotional and social intelligence: insights from the Emotional Quotient Inventory”, in The handbook of emotional intelligence, edited by Reuven Bar-On and James D Parker, Jossey-Bass. Cooper, Robert and Sawaf, Ayman (1998), Executive EQ: emotional intelligence in business, London: Orion. Goleman, Daniel (1996), Emotional intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ, London: Bloomsbury. Goleman, Daniel (1998), Working with emotional intelligence, London: Bloomsbury. Higgs, M and Dulewicz, V (1999), Making sense of emotional intelligence, Windsor: NFER-Nelson. Orme, Geetu (2001), Emotionally intelligent living, Carmarthen: Crown House. Orme, Geetu and Cannon, Kate (2000), “Everything you wanted to know about implementing an EQ programme: 1 – Getting started”, Competency & Emotional Intelligence Quarterly, vol. 8 no.1, Autumn, pp.19–24. Orme, Geetu and Bar-On, Reuven (2002), “The contribution of emotional intelligence to individual and organisational effectiveness, Competency & Emotional Intelligence Quarterly, vol. 9 no.4, Summer, pp.23–28. Salovey, Peter and Mayer, John D (1990), “Emotional intelligence”, Imagination, Cognition and Personality, vol. 9 no.3, pp.185–211.