ALL ABOUT EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
THE ORIGINS OF EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Two psychologists - John (Jack) Mayer, Ph.D. of the University of New Hampshire and Peter Salovey, Ph.D. of Yale University - coined the term emotional intelligence in an academic paper which was published in 1989. A journalist by the name of Daniel Goleman, took Mayer and Salovey's theory and turned it into a best-selling book titled Emotional Intelligence.
Mayer and Salovey are at the forefront of the academic research on this exciting topic. As academic researchers, their voices have been heard, but have been heard mostly in the academic world. They have been hesitant to tout their work to a wider audience, believing that much more research needed to be conducted.
As part of their ongoing research effort, Mayer and Salovey joined forces again, this time to create a test of emotional intelligence. The result was the Multifactor Emotional Intelligence Scale, or MEIS. David Caruso, Ph.D., a management psychologist, was fortunate to be part of their team.
WHAT IS EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE?
Let's start by examining two different dimensions - emotion and intelligence - which comprise emotional intelligence.
What Is Emotion?
We all know what emotion is, right? Perhaps not, as consulting the dictionary presents a not-very-helpful definition of the term: "an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate, or the like, is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness" (Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 1973, p. 467)
In turn, the dictionary defines affective as: "pertaining to feeling or emotion, especially to pleasurable or unpleasurable aspects of a mental process." (p. 24)
What comes out of this exercise is that emotion is distinct from cognition (thinking) and volition (will, or motivation). There are three states of mind, then, three ways in which we can view ourselves and our world.
What Is Intelligence?
Intelligence has been defined in many different ways. The definition which makes the most sense for our purposes is as follows: "intelligence is a set of cognitive abilities which allow us to acquire knowledge, to learn and to solve problems".
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence must somehow combine two of the three states of mind: cognition and affect, or intelligence and emotion. Emotional Intelligence is defined by Mayer and Salovey as follows:
Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth (Mayer & Salovey, 1997).
These four areas are further defined, as follows:
Identifying Emotions - the ability to recognize how you and those around you are feeling.
Using Emotions - the ability to an generate emotion, and then reason with this emotion.
Understanding Emotions - the ability to understand complex emotions and emotional "chains", how emotions transition from one stage to another.
Managing Emotions - the ability which allows you to manage emotions in your self and in others.
Heart and Head Combined
It is very important to understand that Emotional Intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of head over heart - it is the unique intersection of both. Think about the definition of emotion, intelligence, and especially, of the three parts of our mind - affect/emotion, cognition/thinking, volition/motivation. Emotional Intelligence combines affect with cognition, emotion with intelligence.
Emotional intelligence, then, is the ability to use your emotions to help you solve problems and live a more effective life. Emotional intelligence without intelligence, or intelligence without emotional intelligence, is only part of a solution. It is the head working with the heart.
Is This Really Emotional Intelligence?
If you have heard the term emotional intelligence it is probably due to the popularity of the book by Daniel Goleman. Goleman was trained as a psychologist, but as a journalist appears to have taken a great deal of journalistic privilege in his book. Goleman's view of emotional intelligence isn't so far different from that expounded initially by Salovey and Mayer in 1990. But Mayer and Salovey, in a chapter published in 1997, sharpened their view of emotional intelligence, and moved beyond their earlier conception.
So, if you've read Goleman's book, how do you fit the MEIS into it? First, consider the MEIS to measure emotional intelligence as defined in Mayer and Salovey (1997). Second, understand that many of the components of the MEIS are included in Goleman's book. Third, realize that there is a lot of hype surrounding emotional intelligence.
For instance, it seems that he was not bound by much concern for things such as facts and research. Goleman has made some wild claims about the importance of emotional intelligence. He starts with the contention that since IQ accounts for about 20% of success in life that emotional intelligence accounts for the other 80%. This is farfetched, to say the least.
WHY IS EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE SO APPEALING TO THE WORKPLACE?
For years, educators, human resource professionals, corporate trainers, recruiters, managers and others have known what sets apart the average performers from the stars. It isn't technical skills - those are easy to learn, and it's easy to determine if someone has them or not. It isn't necessarily intelligence, either. It is something else, something that you knew it if you saw it, but which was difficult to clearly define. It was people skills.
People skills - we all know what we mean when we say it - or do we? Why have we been so uncomfortable with this term? The term is ambiguous, and it means different things to different people. Plus, it sounds so soft, so mushy.
Those of us in the business of training, coaching, managing and hiring have been vindicated. Our insight into what makes people shine in the workplace has taken center stage. We can retire that care-worn, soft phrase "people skills" and replace it with a term which has rocketed to popular fame - emotional intelligence.
As we noted earlier, though, emotional intelligence does not and should not be thought of as a replacement or substitute for ability, knowledge or job skills. Emotional intelligence - people skills - enhances your success, it does not guarantee it in the absence of suitable skills.
Applications of emotional intelligence in the workplace include these:
career development - if you have an aptitude for understanding people, and yourself, perhaps you should consider a people-intensive career such as those in the mental health field.
management development - managers who focus on their technical skills do not manage, they're just in charge. Understanding and enhancing emotional intelligence enhances management skills.
team effectiveness - teams are more than the sum of the individual parts. The glue which holds teams together can be supplied by emotional intelligence.
Careers and Emotional Intelligence
A recent book, CareerSmarts: Jobs With a Future by best-selling career author Martin J. Yate, analyzed the hot jobs in order to discover the skills and personality traits required for success in each career. Yate included emotional intelligence in his analyses. Here is a partial list of the careers in Yate's book, listed from least to most emotional intelligence:
Dental Laboratory Technician
Medical Records Technician
Retail Sales Associate
Adult Education Teacher
Public Relations Professional
Human Resources Manager
Special Education Teacher
Family Medical Doctor
Adapted from CareerSmarts: Jobs With a Future (Ballantine, 1997) by Martin J. Yate. Copyright, 1997, by Martin J. Yate.
The Limits of Emotional Intelligence At Work
Would you hire someone who lacked the technical skills to do the job? Most of us wouldn't, unless of course they possessed the ability to learn the job-related skills quickly. Would you hire a person who had great technical skills but sorely lacked the skills of emotional intelligence? Perhaps you would, and perhaps you wouldn't. It should depend upon the nature of the position. Some jobs require a higher level of emotional intelligence than others, such as that of a programmer. Some jobs may actually require emotional intelligence as a critical, job-related skill, such as that of a social worker.