Emotional Intelligence

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IQ has been emphasized as crucial for success in life. Researchers were intrigued by the fact that while IQ (intelligence quotient) could significantly predict academic performance and, to some degree, professional and personal success, there was something missing in the whole picture.


Why should I be aware of this?

High education or IQ could provide no guarantee to success in life and has been unable to explain the different destinies that people with almost same promise, schooling and opportunity face (page 35, Goleman 1996). The relative inability of grades, examinations results, I.Q. tests, SAT scores, etc to predict unerringly the success in life have been noticed repeatedly.

One key set of factors providing the missing parts in the success scenario has been identified as emotional intelligence (EI).

All about emotional intelligence

A landmark book by Daniel Goleman, based on years of research by scientists such as Peter Salovey, John Meyer, Howard Gardner, Robert Sternberg, Jack Block, etc., popularized the concept. People with high EI have been found to be more successful in life than those with lower EI even if their classical IQ is average. Goleman (1995) argues that IQ contributes about 20% to the life success factors, leaving 80% to non-IQ factors ranging from social class to luck.

Defining emotional intelligence

The first published definition was made by Salovey and Mayer (1990) who defined it as “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.”

Three main models

There are three main models of EI till date:

  • The Ability Based Model

Salovey and Mayer's initial conception of EI was revised to: "the ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions, and to regulate emotions to promote personal growth’. EI includes following abilities:

  • Perceiving emotions - the ability to identify and differentiate emotions in faces, pictures, voices, and cultural artifacts, and also to identify one’s own emotions. As a basic aspect of EI, it facilitates further processing of emotional information.
  • Using emotions - the ability to use emotions for cognitive activities, such as thinking and problem solving. The emotionally intelligent person can utilize his/ her changing moods to best fit the task at hand.
  • Understanding emotions - the ability to understand emotional language, complicated relationships and variations among emotions, to recognize and describe how emotions evolve over time.
  • Managing emotions - the ability to regulate emotions in ourselves and others. The emotionally intelligent person can utilize emotions, even negative ones to achieve goals.
  • Mixed models of EI
  • The Emotional Competencies (Goleman) model

In ‘Emotional Intelligence Why it can matter more than IQ’(1996). Goleman outlines five main EI constructs :

  • Knowing one’s emotions, self awareness - the ability to read one's emotions and recognize their impact while using gut feelings to guide decisions. Recognizing feeling as it happens from moment to moment is the key to self-understanding and insight. We are better managers of our lives if certain of our feelings. Self-awareness is a non-reactive, non judgmental attention to our inner states which does not get carried away by our emotions maintaining self-reflective ness even during strong emotions.
  • Self - management of emotions - managing our feelings, appropriate to circumstances also build on self-awareness. An ability to cope with emotional stress and storm brought by life situations has been regarded as a positive characteristic in all cultures. Keeping emotions in balance, whether downs or ups is important for our stability. Every feeling has its value and significance if it is relevant to the situation. On one hand emotional suppression creates dullness and distance, on the other persistent, uncontrollable or extreme feeling become pathological. Handling our emotions is a full time job. It thus, involves controlling one's emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.
  • Motivating one-self - channeling one’s emotions for a goal, feeling of enthusiasm, and confidence in achievement. Studies of world class achievers in various fields have found one trait in common - ability to motivate themselves to pursue relentless training routines. EI allows a person to motivate him/herself, persist when frustrated, control impulses, delay gratification, regulate his or her own moods and are able to think, empathize and hope even when distressed. Thus, emotional intelligence is a master aptitude, a capacity affecting all other abilities by either facilitating or interfering with them.
  • Empathy - recognition of others’ emotions refers to sensitivity to others feelings and concerns and capacity to take their perspective into account, appreciating the difference in how people feel about things. Empathy also builds on self-awareness. The more open we are to our own feelings, the more adept we would be at recognizing other’s feelings. In a nutshell, it is the ability to sense, understand and react to other's emotions while comprehending social networks.
  • Handling relationships - managing emotions in others involves showing social competence and social skills. It also is the core of the art of handling emotions. The ability to know others’ feelings and to act in ways that further shapes that feeling is also very important. It is the ability to inspire, influence, and develop others while managing conflict.
  • The Bar-On model of Emotional-Social Intelligence (ESI)

Psychologist Reuven Bar-On (2006) developed one of the first measures of EI that used the term "Emotion Quotient". According to him EI refers to effectively understanding oneself and others, relating well to people, and adapting to and coping with the immediate surroundings to be more successful in dealing with environmental demands. EI develops over time and can be improved through training, programming, and therapy.

  • Trait EI model

Trait based model of Petrides et al. ( 2003) refers to "a constellation of behavioral dispositions and self-perceptions concerning one’s ability to recognize, process, and utilize emotion-laden information". It includes behavioral dispositions and self perceived abilities assessed by self report and is opposed to the ability based model which refers to actual abilities as they express themselves in performance based measures.

EI can be taught by training

Goleman 1996 argues that art of emotional intelligence can be learnt and improved upon by children as a result of training from a young age. Children can be trained to become aware of their emotions and ways to control them appropriately. Therefore, the schools have a genuine opportunity to make children emotionally literate. Violence in schools, sometimes ending in the death of students, is a direct result of emotional illiteracy. We need to pay more attention to this problem rather than making reading and writing the end-all and be-all of education.

A growing importance of emotional intelligence in professional success, with emphasis on the corporate world has been visible in studies conducted by different scholars. In Working with Emotional Intelligence (1998), Goleman explored the function of EI on the job, and claimed EI to be the strongest predictor of success in the workplace, with more recent confirmation of these findings on a worldwide sample seen in Bradberry and Greaves(2005).

In a nutshell it does seem that emotional intelligence is a set of abilities, which determines how well we can use whatever other skills we have, even intellect. Increasing emotional intelligence has been correlated with better results in success in school, leadership, sales, academic performance, marriage, friendships and health. So if we practice, emotional wisdom and improve emotional intelligence, we might be more in control of how we react to our life events. And create our circumstances which are more caring, giving, supportive and enriching.

90 degrees

A note of caution

The above discussion should not compel us to undermine the role of IQ and formal and technical education for success in life. It will be false impression that IQ matters little or that high emotional intelligence might somehow compensate for low IQ. IQ is clearly an important construct. But the fact that popular and scientific interest in EI has begun to challenge long held assumptions of what leads to success in life, the emotional intelligence paradigm has helped to bring a more balanced view of the role of cognition and emotion.


  • Bar-On, R. (2006). The Bar-On model of emotional-social intelligence (ESI). Psicothema, 18 , supl., 13-25.
  • Salovey, P. & Mayer, J.D. (1990) "Emotional intelligence" Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 9, 185-211
  • Mayer, J.D. & Salovey, P. (1997). What is emotional intelligence? In P. Salovey & D. Sluyter (eds.): Emotional development and emotional intelligence: educational applications (pp. 3-31). New York: Basic Books.
  • Goleman, D. (1996). ‘Emotional Intelligence Why it can matter more than IQ’(1996). Bloomsbury
  • Goleman, D. (1998). Working with emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam Books
  • Bradberry, T. & Greaves, J. (2005). The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book, (New York: Simon and Schuster.
  • Petrides, K. V., & Furnham, A. (2003). Trait emotional intelligence: behavioral validation in two studies of emotion recognition and reactivity to mood induction. European Journal of Personality, 17, 39–75