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There was a time on social media when people would brag about how little they cared about things: “no f*cks given”, “I don’t care”, “couldn’t care less” were some of the more consistent online affirmations. The need to appear less emotionally vulnerable was correlated with strength and charisma. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, studies show that emotionally intelligent people, people who show a high degree of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills are predisposed to have better social and even professional lives.

“IQ and technical skills are important, but emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership” – Daniel Goleman 

So what defines high emotional intelligence and how do you know if you have it?

Ever since the publication of Daniel Goleman’s “Emotional Intelligence” (EI) in 1995, EI has become one of the more popular buzzwords in corporate America. When the CEO of Johnson & Johnson read a Harvard Business Review article on the topic, he was so impressed that he had copies sent out to the top 400 executives in the company worldwide.

Despite this contemporary show of support the theory isn’t a new one and can be traced back 60 years.

In 1943, David Wechsler, a Romanian-American psychologist, proposed that  non-intellective abilities were essential for predicting one’s ability to succeed in life. He wrote: “The main question is whether non-intellective, that is affective and conative abilities, are admissible as factors of general intelligence. (My contention) has been that such factors are not only admissible but necessary. I have tried to show that in addition to intellective there are also definite non-intellective factors that determine intelligent behavior. If the foregoing observations are correct, it follows that we cannot expect to measure total intelligence until our tests also include some measures of the non-intellective factors”. 

When Salovey and Mayer coined the term emotional intelligence in 1990, they were aware of the previous work on non-cognitive aspects of intelligence. They described emotional intelligence as

“a form 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 action”.

Emotional intelligence has as much to do with knowing when and how to express emotion as it does with controlling it. In 1981, James Dozier discovered the power of EI under a high stress situation. When he was kidnapped by an Italian terrorist group he decided to manage his own emotional reaction as a counter to the terrorists’ crazed and agitated behavior. Knowing that emotions are contagious, Dozier calmed himself down and thereby calmed the collective energy of the group. This event was the catalyst that saved his life. 

Empathy is a particularly important aspect of emotional intelligence, and researchers have known for years that it contributes to occupational success. Rosenthal and his colleagues at Harvard discovered over two decades ago that people who were best at identifying others emotions were more successful in their work as well as in their social lives (Rosenthal, 1977). 

Pixar’s Inside Out does a good job of putting that idea into context:

It’s only when sadness steps in to allow for the feels that the collective group goals can be pushed forward. 

Emotional intelligence may sound like a “soft” quality to have, but given that humans are intrinsically emotional it makes sense that EQ (emotional quotient) be as valuable as IQ. The good news is that people can take steps to enhance their emotional intelligence and make themselves more effective in their work and personal lives. For more information on the subject check out these articles:

Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups

What Makes a Leader?

What is Emotional Intelligence? – we pulled largely from this article for our story.





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