In the current era, one dominated by web-based interactions and digital communication, one of the foremost complaints has centered on the impersonality of electronic correspondence. From emails without a distinct tone to misinterpreted and indecipherable text messages, our culture has suddenly found itself in the grasp of an internet world devoid of the emotional connections so inherently imperative to the human existence. Although not everyone seems to mind this new transition into a more distant and guarded form of communication and interaction, many individuals find themselves feeling distant and shut off from one of the true elements of humanity which is emotion. Even if you enjoy being able to keep your true feelings at bay, where others cannot access them, our culture is gradually losing touch with emotional intelligence in a detrimental way.
Recall the inclusion of maternal deprivation studies within the field of psychology. While not initially designed to highlight the importance of emotional intelligence, this thought process is central to explaining the importance of learning, interpreting, and utilizing the art of human emotion. In a particular notable film clip on the topic studying the impact of interpersonal relations, a mother and her child are shown playing innocently. As instructed by the researcher the mother stops responding to her infant. Repeatedly, for the next minute, the child laughs, waves, and motions, trying in vain to get her mother’s attention and affection. After realizing that no amount of attempted interactions will draw her mother back in, the child dejectedly accepts her mother’s cold behavior and sits quietly, pouting and trembling.
Although this example is crude and simplistic, the underlying message is extraordinarily clear. As human beings, we are programmed from birth to use our emotions to express our feelings, wants, and desires while basing conclusions and reactions upon those of another. Even infants who are not yet able to speak have the mental capacity to interpret emotions on a basic level. While incredibly straightforward, the maternal deprivation exercise illustrates the importance of emotional intelligence in building a happy, healthy life.
So, what is emotional intelligence, why is it important, and why should you care? 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). If the usefulness of this idea isn’t immediately clear, dwell upon the last time you got an email that was frustratingly incomprehensible in its innate lack of emotion. Was the sender mad, or being sarcastic? Was he sharing news, or trying to provide instructions? Without the necessary elements of emotion, there is so little we can gain from even the most basic of exchanges.
A History of Emotional Intelligence
Whether the term “emotional intelligence” is unique and new to you or is something you studied in class, in your profession, or in life experiences, few people on earth haven’t utilized emotional intelligence. From persuading a child he should feel guilty about breaking a friend’s toy or trying to teach a co-worker the importance of a critical project, emotional intelligence is a part of daily life for many individuals, whether consciously or subconsciously.
At its core, emotional intelligence dates back to the root of humanity. Every interaction most of us have with other human beings, from saying hello to trying to negotiate a billion-dollar merger, relies on the skills that come from understanding how human emotion functions. It is easy to believe that the most successful early humans were the ones who were compassionate and empathetic to their peers, rather than the ones who walked loudly and carried large sticks. Despite its historical presence, emotional intelligence in an academic setting is a much newer phenomenon.
In a practical sense, the psychological theory surrounding the benefits of understanding emotions has been involved in psychology for decades, but did not formally find its name until 1990. Spearheaded by researchers Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer, the idea of a logical and analytically-motivated way to connect to other people has since evolved into a litany of different stances and ideas that all seek to identify the importance of learning how to use emotions effectively in order to accomplish positive expectations.
The concept found its start in the 1920s, in a publication by Edward Thorndike. A skilled and socially aware psychologist, Thorndike described an early incarnation of the idea, social intelligence, as “the ability to understand and manage men and women, boys and girls — to act wisely in human relations.” While primitive in theory, this concept set the groundwork the future research that led to the current incarnations of emotional intelligence.
Thorndike’s ideas did not get fully developed for decades, although his peers maintained his assentations. In the 1940s, psychologist David Wechsler identified “non-intellective” elements, like personal, social, and emotional interactions, when describing “the aggregate or global capacity of the individual to act purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his environment.”
While basic in concept, both Thorndike and Wechsler were on to one of the biggest social theories in psychology: that working with emotions and expectations can be at the root of human success. Although the idea took several more years to come to fruition as an actual, well-researched theory, the field of humanistic psychology grew in part out of need to understand the human existence as a whole.
In 1975, after years of rumination rather than action, psychologist Howard Gardner published a book called “The Shattered Mind,” a scientific exploration that refers to “multiple intelligences,” noting a true dichotomy between intellectual intelligence and the ways in which human emotion guides and governs interactions.
A decade later, in 1985, psychology student Wayne Payne first came up with the phrase “emotional intelligence” in his doctoral dissertation, using it to discuss the intelligence of emotions, self-integration, inherent emotional states, and emotional theory. The use of the idea in modern academic study served as somewhat of a benchmark for the current theory, guiding psychology into the study of emotional intelligence.
In 1987, acclaimed researcher Keith Beasley published an article in Mensa Magazine in which the term “emotional quotient” was used, intending it to serve a complement of sorts to the more widely understood intelligence quotient, or IQ. While not able to be objectively evaluated, Beasley highlighted the idea that evaluating emotional ability is just as important as intellectual ability.
Three years later, in 1990, Psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer brought initial notoriety to the concept of emotional intelligence on a large scale. Their groundbreaking article, “Emotional Intelligence,” presented a full-bodied theory regarding the ability to learn, grow, and develop based on emotional acuity. Due to the success of the idea, emotional intelligence has grown rapidly resulting in successful research and empirical study by social scientists all over the world.
As the research in the area of emotional intelligence has grown, so has the number of theories, leading to a well-developed web of study focused on how to best use innate and learned emotional skills to relate, identify, and interact with others. Today, multiple models exist that attempt to highlight, explain, or promote the effectiveness of emotional intelligence as an area of scientific practice and study.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Right out of college, I had an interview as a department head at a local community center. Driving across the open countryside from my urban home to a rural town a few miles away, I knew the job was as good as mine. My credentials were strong, I had years of experience, and, with my hard-won degree, I was likely more educated than my fellow applicants.
Upon meeting the human resources director, my expectations shifted. As we trundled across the muted carpet from room to room, I knew more and more with each footstep that this would not be the start of my future career. The short, direct woman who gave me a very uninteresting tour was emotionless. Brusque. Cold. From the first moment we met, I was unable to connect to her, to show her my passion for my career and my applicable skills. As we continued to make our way around the facility, I was struck with a unique confusion, an incomprehensible sense of dread, derived from an inexplicable inability to relate to another human being.
By the time our tour concluded in an interview room as painstakingly plain as my interviewer, I was lost in a state of bewilderment. As question after monotone question was pitched to me, I found myself flustered and unable to explain myself. Despite my qualifications and glowing recommendations, there was no way for me to connect with the woman.
Psychologist and emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goldman likes to tell an anecdote about a flight attendant on a blustery Super Bowl Sunday, decades ago. The flight in question had been delayed several hours and the weary travelers were eager to get home, see their families, and catch the end of the big game. Upon encountering several individuals who refused to be seated while taxiing to the gate after the plane touched down, an attendant, rather than reprimanding the passengers for standing, cracked a joke about staying seated. Instead of feeling scolded or demeaned, the standing passengers laughed and returned to their seats.
This example is a classic representation of the use of emotional intelligence. The flight attendant in this narrative was clever. She saw a stressful situation and with one simple sentence managed to calm and amuse a plane full of disgruntled passengers. Had the flight attendant scolded the passengers, she likely would have had the same results, but with fewer happy passengers, and perhaps several complaints to the airline. Instead, the woman in our example got what she wanted by understanding how to alleviate the stress of the travelers in a way that benefited both parties.
Had I, as a young college graduate, had the same emotional intelligence and social tools at my disposal, I may have gotten that job after all. I may have been able to make a positive change in my life, simply by knowing how to read my interviewer and respond to her in the best possible way. If anything, I should have spent more time listening, and less time doodling, during my Intro to Psychology class.
These two examples illustrate the value of emotional intelligence, and its link to expectation therapy, better than any academic language ever could. In the first example, I had expectations of success but let them slip away and was unable to follow through due to an improper handling of the situation. In the second, the flight attendant knew that getting to the gate was her main objective. She surveyed her scenario, read the emotions and impatience of her passengers, and reacted appropriately. She succeeded. I did not.
Today, emotional intelligence exists in numerous spheres. The original theory, as described by Salovey and Mayer, is framed within a model of intelligence. It equates the ability to use emotions to better a personal situation with the ability to learn and process information analytically. This idea places emotional intelligence on the same page as intellectual intelligence – something that is in part innate and in part learned over the course of the life.
A rival model, theorized by Reuven Bar-On, relates emotional intelligence to personality theory, arguing that part of one’s emotional understanding is derived from personality and well-being. Other theories relate to expectations and personal and professional understanding.
No matter what model you subscribe to, the core of emotional intelligence is the same: by recognizing, understanding, and regulating emotions, we can bring our goals, ideas, and positive expectations to life.
The Five Components of Emotional Intelligence
Let us, for a moment, return to my failed interview. If you recall, I arrived at the job interview with high hopes, only to be unable to connect with my interviewer and her associates and thus failed in my goal, losing the chance for the job I so badly wanted. Going a step further, we can deconstruct this example to illustrate a basic human interaction: desire, followed by an attempt to fulfill expectation, followed by a success or a failure. In my case, my trials ultimately failed.
Regardless of your own preferred stance on the origins, accuracy, and theory behind emotional intelligence, every model of EI operates with the assumptions of five components:
- Self-regulation and control
- Internal motivation
- Social skills
- Expectations at the core level
In order to understand how these components work together to create the framework upon which emotional intelligence is built, let’s create an example. Assume you are striving for a promotion at work, a big step up the career ladder that will increase your job satisfaction and your income.
Regulation is a key facet of the core of emotional intelligence. In order to succeed, an individual must be able to recognize their emotions and regulate how they are displayed to others. While this idea may sound simply on the surface, it is more challenging than it sounds.
A large part of successful emotional recognition and regulation is the identification of emotions, something that even seasoned adults struggle with. Let’s apply this theory within our example and assume that the evaluation season at work came and went and you were not promoted. Additionally, a co-worker you rather dislike was promoted to a similar position, despite displaying what you believe to be sub par leadership traits. In your situation, you are mad, jealous, and upset. After all, a new job title could make a big difference in your life.
Do you have your situation in mind? Now, take a step back. Think about why you would have these emotions surrounding your lack of job progress. Maybe you were frustrated because you had expectations that you were not able to meet. Maybe you were jealous because you were rejected from something you truly desired. There is always a reason for our emotions, whether rational or irrational.
If you are not sure the purpose of rekindling negative emotions, ask yourself this: would jealousy or anger help your situation? Are negative feelings rational and helpful in our example? If you are like most people, the answer is probably no. An important part of self-regulation and control is identifying your emotions, understanding what is triggering them, and controlling them appropriately.
Internal motivation is the second of the five components of IE. Essentially, internal motivation summarizes the drive needed in order to succeed in life, whether in professional, personal, or academic life. Recall our above example in which you are striving for a promotion at work. Simply wanting something, like a promotion, isn’t enough; internal motivation speaks to your unique, personal emotions and drives.
For example, your internal motivations surrounding a promotion may be concerned with additional income to support your family, personal pride surrounding a job well done, or prestige within your career. No matter what you want and why you want it, your internal motivation is yours and yours alone. When individuals lose sight of their internal motivation, it is simple to let goals and expectations fall by the wayside.
Part of working with other people is empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself into other people’s shoes in order to attempt to understand their situations, emotions, and struggles. In our example, most of your negative emotions are likely directed towards your boss. In order to understand why he didn’t promote you, understanding your boss’s feelings and motivations is central.
For example, perhaps your boss has been stressed recently and had to make a tough decision he did not want to make. Perhaps the employee who was promoted over you had seniority and your boss was backed into a corner. Or, perhaps, he saw a problem in your performance that you had not noticed. No matter what the motivation of your fictional boss may have been, being able empathize with the people around you will clarify your situation, enforce your expectations, and help you better regulate your emotions.
Empathy is important on an overarching scale, going far beyond problem solving. Understanding how to be empathetic can take you far in many walks of life, from getting a better deal from a car salesman to making a good impression at an interview. When you understanding how to experience the emotions of others, you put yourself in a strong place to respond accordingly.
The fourth component that comprises emotional intelligence is social skills. Being able to work with other people, speak to them with respect and dignity, and make smart choices in social situations, is critical.
In our example, we left off trying to empathize with the decision your boss made. In succeeding at your job, interacting with clients, and negotiating promotions and wages, social skills are essential. Perhaps your boss has watched your discussions with coworkers and clients and did not see the appropriate social skills necessary for the open position. On the other hand, perhaps you asked your boss for a raise several months ago but he did not think your request was appropriate, thus hurting your chances in the long run.
In improving your communications and interactions with others, you are far more likely to meet your expectations. Have you ever heard the phrase “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”? Albeit clichéd, the ideal applies in this situation. The nicer and more compassionate you are to others, the better you’ll fare in the world of communicating with the people in your life, as well as striving to achieve your goals.
The fifth and final component of emotional intelligence is your core expectations. When it comes to making positive changes in your life, from winning people over to getting the promotion you so desperately crave, uplifting and affirmative expectations can make a world of difference.
By combining social skills, empathy, internal motivation, and self-regulation, you can create a situation that sets you up to achieve whatever expectations you set your mind to. With the help of the other components of emotional intelligence, you can use your skills and traits to achieve even the most ambitious of expectations.
Let’s return, for the last time, to our example. By empathizing with your boss, using your social skills to promote your desires and dreams, regulating your emotions, both positive and negative, and focusing on your internal motivations, you will be on the right track to achieving your promotion, or your positive expectation.
Factors that Affect Emotional Intelligence
Understanding the five components is a big part of mastering the art of emotional intelligence, but it is not the only part. There are many different factors that influence your ability to use emotional intelligence in your favor. Although many different elements can play a role, the following components are more influential than others.
Affective behavior is one of the most important factors that can affect emotional intelligence. In essence, affective behavior is behavior driven by the desire to produce a result, such as promoting a business sale or coaxing a new client. When it comes to striving for a desired result, emotional intelligence and affective behavior work hand in hand. Emotional intelligence is a large part of achieving expectations, which include positive expectations.
Emotional experiences can also play a large role in emotional intelligence. Say, for example, you’re a 19-year-old college freshman from a small town. What are the chances that you have had the same kind of experiences that have shaped your emotions, reactions, and regulatory functions as a 45-year-old veteran? While there are young adults who are very effective at mastering the skill sets needed for social intelligence, a wide range of emotional experiences can be a benefit.
However, in some ways, too much emotional experience without the proper regulation can be just as harmful as not enough. Individuals who feel jaded, depressed, or otherwise altered from past experiences can have an equally hard time mastering the five components of emotional intelligence. Emotional problems are considered a factor in the success of EQ simply for their ability to generate negative thought patterns and unregulated emotions. Sufferers of mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and bi-polar disorder, can find the ability to process, regulate, and analyze the use of emotions to be a true challenge.
A difference in intellectual intelligence also plays a role in mapping the landscape of emotional intelligence. Although the two are not intrinsically linked – after all, that is why I’m writing this! Those with strong analytic skills may be better at making rational decisions, thinking with an endgame in mind, and knowing when to act in order to promote a specific result.
This isn’t to say that extreme intellectual intelligence can’t hinder emotional intelligence; in some cases, anti-social personality traits can accompany extraordinarily high IQs. However, this also isn’t to say that someone of any intelligence quotient can’t master emotional intelligence – of course they can!
Gender differences can also play a role in emotional acuity. There is a long-standing theory that women are better at experiencing, handling, and processing emotions than men. However, there is also substantial research that indicates that women are given the social freedom to be expressive with their emotions while men are conditioned from a young age to be as emotionless as possible. While some people are more inclined towards emotional intelligence than others, the cultural norms surrounding how emotions are used in modern culture can be quite influential.
A final factor in the potential success of emotional intelligence is personality difference. Some people are born nurturing and compassionate, while others are not. Some people even develop harmful traits, like suspicion and jealousy, over time. The ways in which we process and accept or reject certain ideas and traits can have a strong influence on the ability to fulfill the five components of social intelligence.
It is important to realize that each of us is different, with our own unique feelings, experiences, emotions, and personalities. Our differences make our communities vibrant, our cultures rich, and our lives beautiful. While some people are more inclined towards positive thinking, the regulation of emotion, and the ability to see situations in which emotion can be used to generate a result, others may have to learn patiently over time.
Is Emotional Intelligence More Important Than Intelligence Quotient?
From a young age, we are taught about intellectual intelligence. From school placement tests to academic successes, the societal constructs with which we mature indicate to us that intelligence is among the best possible traits for those who want to see success on the horizon.
It is easy for someone not yet aware of the power of positive expectations and the ability to control the expression of emotion to claim that intellectual intelligence carries more weight. After all, our successes, our futures, and our expectations are as children are largely derived from academic performance. However, as psychologists like Daniel Goldman argue, a high IQ is only a small part of the true range of human intelligence.
Unlike a standardized IQ test, there is no true test given that can judge one’s emotional abilities. While tests like the Myers-Briggs and personality surveys many commercial stores use to aid in their hiring processes attempt to highlight traits exist, there is no true measure of a mother’s ability to love, father’s ability to forgive, or a business professional’s ability to woo clients and seal deals.
When you meet someone for the first time, what do you think about? Do you form an opinion of your new acquaintance solely by his intelligence? What about job hunting? Would you ever leave an interview on the basis of intellectual prowess, or lack thereof?
The idea of greeting someone, shaking his or her hand, and immediately demanding an IQ score is a silly one. Unless you’re meeting a very strange and socially immature person, you’re unlikely to get an IQ score with your handshake without a very awkward and off-putting request. In essence, the skills we use on a daily basis, like meeting new people, working at the office, eating meals, and interacting with family and friends, are far more dependent on emotional intelligence.
Decades ago, success was entirely dependent on a traditional model of intelligence. Smart children succeed in school. Smart young adults graduate from college. Successful adults work a nine to five job in an office. The ability to thrive on an emotional playing field was all but ignored.
Today, there has been much progress in the right direction. Children are pushed to be creative. College students no longer sit behind desks in tiny classrooms – they have classes outdoors, take art courses, and are encouraged to join causes they believe in. Companies are no longer looking for the Harvard grad with a 4.0; they want the movers and shakers of the world that use the power of positive expectations to make a difference (although a perfect GPA from an Ivy League school certainly won’t hurt!).
But wait, I can hear you thinking. Aren’t highly intelligent people able to learn the skills they need to succeed rather than relying on the strength of emotional intelligence? To a point, yes. Someone mentally gifted can usually find a solution to a problem. However, that does not mean a decision or reaction made solely based on intellectual intelligence is the best one.
The same is true for emotional intelligence in some instances, but a high level of emotional acuity is becoming more and more valued. Businesses want leaders with the emotional intelligence to make wise business decisions. Schools want teachers who know how to coax positive results out of children.
Emotional awareness and a high IQ do not necessarily go hand in hand, but they are not rivals. When you have the power to express, control, and regulate your emotions, it is almost like illuminating a room with a new, brighter light bulb. When used together, a new world comes to life, allowing you to use your intellectual intelligence to get ahead, and your emotional intelligence to stay there.
Do Women Have a Greater Emotional Intelligence Than Men?
If you were shown a picture of a man in a dapper business suit behind a desk and a mother rocking her newborn and were asked with individual likely has more empathy for others, who would you choose? Probably the woman, right?
In modern culture, women are often stereotyped as being nurturing, empathetic, and compassionate, while men are portrayed as being the aggressive enforcers. The coupling of maternal instincts and the ideals of femininity clearly paint women as the gender more in tune with their emotions.
However, as we all know, just because a stereotype exists does not mean it is true. The role of woman as caretaker existed long before the scientific study of EQ, after all. Are women truly the more emotionally intelligent gender?
As it turns out, the answer is partially yes, partially no, and can vary widely based on the numerous factors that affect emotional intelligence. Components like regulation and internal motivation are often self-derived. Some people may be innately more internally motivated or have an inherent ability to regulate their emotions, but these skills aren’t more representative of one gender over another. Empathy, however, is a trait that women are more likely to dominate, or at least in part.
As your introductory psychology classes may have covered, there are three types of empathy. These are empathetic concern, cognitive empathy, and emotional empathy.
Empathetic concern is the ability to sense out a person in distress in order to provide aid. Women generally have the upper hand in this area and evolution can tell us why, as they are serving as the primary caretaker of an infant, knowing when a child needs food, water, or assistance that is vital to the child’s survival.
Cognitive empathy is the ability to see the world in the same way as another person. Both men and women can have the capacity for cognitive empathy in a similar way, giving neither gender an advantage.
Emotional empathy, or the ability to feel as another feels, however, is a trait more characteristic in women. Schoolteachers, counselors, and nurses (female-dominated professions) are best suited for people with high levels of emotional empathy. This ability, as neuroscience has demonstrated to us, takes place in a part of the brain called the insula or insular cortex, which is located in the cerebral cortex. The way the insula behaves in men and women is in part responsible for this difference between the genders.
Have you ever heard a man say a woman he knows, or all women in general, are too emotional? Or have you heard a woman say her husband is too emotionally closed? It turns out that these are not stereotypes but are in fact brain functions, notably in the insula, which contribute to these thought patterns.
When a woman encounters someone hurt or in pain, her brain stays active no matter how traumatic the experience, keeping emotional feelings fresh. A man in the same situation will feel empathy at first, but his insula will not continue to perpetuate these feelings. Instead, he will disregard the feelings themselves and look for a solution to make the feelings of pain or sadness go away.
So, is the mother with her child in the picture more empathetic than the man in the suit? Maybe, but don’t underestimate either one. Their true emotional intelligence levels are impossible to gauge from a picture.
Utilizing Emotional Intelligence and Expectations to Get Results
When was the last time you wanted something? Probably recently since humans spend a good part of their waking hours desiring things, from a cup of coffee, to a good meal, to attention and affection. Most of these things are simple; if you want a cup of coffee, you can make one. If you want a specific food, it is usually not our of arm’s reach. The more ambitious desires, of course, are the ones that take the effort.
Do you have a specific way of approaching a situation when you want something? Do you set goals, create a game plan, or find support in friends and family? Most importantly, do you worry about your goals and drives until you accomplish them or fail trying?
Expectation therapy explains that when you have positive expectations for yourself, anything is possible. From getting through a challenging project to getting the raise you’ve been fighting for, expecting success and succeeding at your goals work hand in hand.
You now know about the powers of emotions, and the ways in which our behavior can directly affect our successes and failures. You have learned about the components that make up emotional intelligence and the factors that support or hinder your ability to shine as a socially intelligent individual. And most importantly, you’ve learned that positive thinking brings about positive changes.
When you have positive expectations, you have the power to use your emotional intelligence for the better. Your positive expectations can help you regulate your emotions with a clear end goal in mind. They can keep you focused on your internal motivation, help you understand the feelings and actions of the people around you, and use your social skills in an affirming way. At the core of your success lies your positive expectation.
Several chapters ago, we walked through an example about being passed up for a job promotion. With what you have now learned about the power of emotional intelligence and the capabilities that come with positive expectations, do you think our example situation could have ended a little differently?
At the center of desiring a job promotion is the positive expectation that you deserve a promotion, and a promotion will come to you because you display the best possible traits for the job. When you believe you are worthy, you become worthy. When you believe you can achieve any goal you set your mind to, it becomes a true part of who you are on the inside. From letting your creativity flow to focusing on a tough task, the knowledge that you do not expect to fail will keep you on the fast path to success.
The way humans’ view the world is critical to the lives we will lead and the successes we will experience. If you don’t truly believe at your deepest depths that you can be better, you will never rise above your challenges and overcome your obstacles.
With the power of emotional intelligence to make you into the skillful and bright person you have always been meant to be, your goals are even closer than ever. When you use the ability to understand, control, and express your emotions in appropriate and logical ways, you can get the results you want, each and every time.
I know you have goals and dreams right now, whether you hope to accomplish the next week or in ten years. Expect the best from yourself and with the right focus, motivation, and drive, you can build the perfect framework for success. I believe in you. Do you?