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Emotional intelligence: Meaning, implications

In recent years, a growing group of psychologists has come to the conclusion that the old concept of IQ (intelligence quotient) revolved around a narrow band of linguistic and math skills and doing well in IQ tests was most directly a predictor of success in academics but less so as life’s paths diverged from academic fields.

These psychologists have taken a wider view of intelligence, trying to reinvent it in terms of what it takes to lead life successfully. In fact, one psychologist Daniel Goleman (1995, 1988) has argued strongly that this other kind of intelligence is more important for a happy, productive life than IQ. Goleman terms this kind of intelligence as Emotional Intelligence (or EQ in short) and defines it as:

“Emotional intelligence is a cluster of traits or abilities relating to the emotional side of life-abilities such as recognizing and managing one’s own emotions, being able to motivate oneself and restrain one’s impulses, recognizing and managing other’s emotions and handling interpersonal relationships in an effective manner.”

Major Components of Emotional Intelligence:

Goleman has suggested that EQ consists of five major components:

(i) Knowing our own emotions

(ii) Managing our emotions

(iii) Motivating ourselves

(iv) Recognizing the emotions of others

(v) Handling relationships.

He contended that each of these components plays an important role in shaping the outcomes we experience in life.

These components are explained as follows:

(i) Knowing our Own Emotions (Self Awareness):

Recognizing a feeling as it happens is the keystone of emotional intelligence. The ability to monitor feelings from moment to moment is crucial to psychological insight and self understanding. An inability to notice our own true feelings leaves us at their mercy. People with greater certainty about their feelings are better pilots of their lives having a sure sense of how they really feel about personal decisions.

To the extent, individuals are not aware about their own feelings, they cannot make intelligent choices. Moreover since such persons aren’t aware of their own emotions, they are often low in expressiveness, they don’t show their feelings clearly through facial expressions, body language or other cues most of use to recognize other’s feelings. This can have adverse effects on their interpersonal relationships, because other people find it hard to know how they are feeling or reacting. For these reasons, self awareness seems to be quite important.

(ii) Managing our Own Emotions:

Handling feelings so that they are appropriate is an ability that builds on self awareness. This component will examine the capacity to soothe oneself, to shake off rampant anxiety, gloom or irritability and the consequence of failure at this basic emotional skill. People who are poor in this ability are constantly battling feeling of distress, while those who excel in it can bounce back far more quickly from life’s setbacks and upsets.

Managing our own emotions is very important both for our own mental health and from the point of view of interacting effectively with others. For example, consider those people who cannot control their temper. Are they bound for success and a happy life? No, they will probably be avoided by many people and will not get the jobs, promotions or lovers and friends they want.

(iii) Motivating Ourselves:

Thomas Edison, the famous inventor, once remarked “Success is two percent inspiration and ninety eight percent perspiration”. While inspiration or creativity is certainly important, but by perspiration we would mean more than simply hard-work. Marshalling emotions in the service of a goal is essential for paying attention, for self motivation and mastery and for creativity. Emotional self control-delaying gratification and stifling impulsiveness-underlies accomplishment of every sort. Being able to get into the ‘flow’ state enables. Outstanding performance of all kinds. People who have this skill tend to be more highly productive and effective in whatever they undertake.

(iv) Recognizing the Emotions of others:

Another component of emotional intelligence is the ability to read others accurately to recognize the mood they are in and what emotion they are experiencing. This skill is valuable in many practical settings. For example, if you can accurately judge the other person’s current mood, you can tell whether it is the right time to ask him or her for a favour. Similarly, people who are skilled at generating strong emotions in others are often highly successful in such fields such as sales and politics. They can get other people to feel what they want them to feel.

(v) Handling Relationships:

The art of relationships is, in large part, skill in managing emotions in others. Some people seem to have a knack for getting along with others, most people who meet these people like them and as a result they have many friends and often enjoy high level of success in their careers.

These are the abilities which ensure popularity, leadership and interpersonal effectiveness. People who excel in these skills do well in anything that relies on interacting smoothly with others. They are social stars. In contrast to these, there are some others, who seem to make a mess of virtually all their personal relationships. According to Goleman, such differences are another reflection of differences in emotional intelligence or as some researchers would phrase it, differences in interpersonal intelligence.

Interpersonal intelligence involves such skills as being able to co-ordinate the efforts of many people and to negotiate solutions to complex interpersonal problems, being good at giving others feedback that does not make them angry or resentful and being a team player. Again these skills are distinct from the ones needed for getting good grades or scoring high on tests of intelligence, but they play a very important role in important life outcomes.

A refined definition of emotional intelligence by Salovey and Mayer (1997) extends its meaning as ‘the ability to process emotional information, more specifically an ability to recognize the meanings of emotions and their relationships, as well as being able to reason and problem-solve on the basis of them. In particular, it involves one’s capacity to perceive and assimilate emotional feelings, to understand the information of these emotions and, lastly, the management of them.’

Interpreting this definition, Hein (2003) could cull some of the components of emotional intelligence as under:

  1. Intelligence
  2. Information processing
  3. Potential for learning
  4. Understanding
  5. Developing
  6. Growth

With several such extended definitions, the nature of emotional intelligence now encompasses:

  1. Identification of emotion
  2. Perception of emotion
  3. Expression of emotion
  4. Facilitation of emotional thought
  5. Understanding of emotion
  6. Management of emotion

Emotional intelligence contains information about relationships, which may be with an object or a person. Any change in the object or person will also change the emotions towards that person or the object. To illustrate, we will dislike a scary person, but like a person with a charismatic personality.

Relationships in emotional intelligence need not always be actual. They can even be imaginary. However, irrespective of actual or imaginary relationships, emotions are accompanied by the felt signals of relationships. Emotional intelligence is our ability to understand and interpret the emotions and by adding our cognitive intelligence, we can even solve problems.

To minimize the risk of non-performance in the workplace, we can test the emotional intelligence of the selected candidates before finalizing the recruitment process. Emotional abilities of individual employees strengthen their skills and perceptions on emotion, the appropriate use of emotions to extend the thought process, understanding emotions, and finally managing emotions.

Association with Emotional Processing:

According to Hein, a person with emotional intelligence can distinguish between healthy and unhealthy feelings and so also the negative and positive feelings. It is the innate feelings with four major attributes like emotional sensitivity, emotional memory, emotional learning ability, and emotional processing ability.

Although such innate potential can get damaged with real- life experiences, often the quality of emotional intelligence processing abilities of an individual becomes strong enough to override the real-life learning experiences.

Thus, the innate emotional processing abilities of an individual become more important than his/her life experiences to shape the emotional intelligence of the individual. We can understand this better from Goleman (1995), who considered emotional intelligence more a skill than a learned one, as emotional processing which shapes the emotional intelligence is a natural and unconscious process.

Emotions and Emotional Information:

We still have a difference of opinion about the term emotion. Despite having differences in opinion, a more generic definition attributes emotion to structured mental processes, to respond to relationships, reinforced with physiological, experimental, and cognitive inputs.

To illustrate, our anger is the outcome of our perceived blockage to our goal, and our happiness is the response to love of others. Employees may feel scared of an autocrat leader, while they may show respect to a team leader (who with a participative approach can extract the most out of them).

Emotional information is the information on emotional relationships. Availability of emotional information helps us to study not only the cross- cultural variation but also the emotion across animals. However, mere availability of emotional information would not be enough; it requires our ability to interpret it. Using emotional information as inputs, cognitive scientists can even study emotions in elementary stories.

Correlation with Cognitive Intelligence:

In Table 7.2, the correlation between emotional intelligence and cognitive intelligence has been explained from different theoretical contexts, emphasizing the highest correlation while we go for abstract reasoning. In fact, the highest correlation of cognitive intelligence is more evident when we process the situation, person, or the object, keeping pace with our abstract reasoning power. In a globalized world, for business imperative, we need to make use of an abstract reasoning power to study the cross-cultural issues.

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