Emotional Intelligence

by Andy Smith

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognise and manage emotions, in yourself and in other people.

EI is increasingly being recognised as being at least as important as IQ for success in business, relationships and life in general.

Traditionally, your ‘Intelligence Quotient’ – the logical, mathematical and linguistic abilities measured by IQ tests – was thought to be the full story on how intelligent you were. This older model would suggest that a high IQ is all you need for success.

Experience tells us that this is not the whole picture. Something more is needed. At a minimum you need a degree of self-knowledge and self-control, the ability to stay motivated in the face of setbacks and ‘people skills’ – the ability to understand and inspire others.

Since the mid-1980s, the ‘IQ only’ model has faced challenges from several directions.

Howard Gardner’s book Frames Of Mind introduced the idea of ‘multiple intelligences’, including spatial, visual, bodily/kinaesthetic, intrapersonal (understanding yourself) and interpersonal (being able to understand and get on with others) – as well as the traditional IQ. Gardner’s ideas began to explain why IQ on its own did not guarantee success in most areas of life, and were enthusiastically adopted by educationalists.

Reuven Bar-On, a clinical psychologist at Tel Aviv University, developed psychological tests to measure a person’s ‘Emotional Quotient’ or ‘EQ’, which covers the vital ‘interpersonal’ and ‘intrapersonal’ dimensions to complement the logical, mathematical and linguistic abilities of IQ.

The term ‘emotional intelligence’ (EI) comes from psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey. In 1990 they proposed a model of emotional intelligence as...

...a set of skills hypothesised to contribute to the accurate appraisal and expression of emotion in oneself and in others, the effective regulation of emotion in self and others, and the use of feelings to motivate, plan and achieve in one’s life.

John Mayer and Peter Salovey

In 1995, in his bestseller Emotional Intelligence, journalist Daniel Goleman simplified this model into five areas of ability:

  • Self-awareness – knowing one’s own emotions
  • Self-management – being able to handle one’s own feelings
  • Motivation – being able to marshal one’s own emotions in pursuit of a goal
  • Empathy – understanding how others are feeling
  • Handling relationships – being able to handle and inspire emotions in others, or ‘people skills’.

Many different models of emotional intelligence, both academic and corporate, have since emerged. Each model includes these areas in one form or another, whatever terminology is used to label them.