What is emotional intelligence (EQ) and why is it important?

Posted on: January 7, 2014

What is emotional intelligence? I will try to provide a brief answer to a big question.

Those in the professions value intellectual capability highly. In the past, psychologists focused on producing tests to measure intelligence (IQ – Intelligence Quotient). People often mistakenly think that all decisions in business (particularly sales) are rational – but emotion (often irrational) plays a huge role and cannot be ignored.

Increasingly, success is related to your emotional intelligence or EQ. Sometimes these skills are referred to as soft or interpersonal or communication skills. There is a huge amount of material in psychology (especially NLP – Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and business about emotional intelligence.

The term “emotional Intelligence” was conceived by Dr Peter Salovey and John Mayer in 1990 as an identifier for the human capacity to understand and engage in meaningful social interactions. Emotional intelligence is “the ability to perceive, integrate, understand and reflectively manage one’s own feelings and other people’s feelings”. There are five elements of emotional intelligence:

  1. Know one’s emotions (self-awareness)
  2. Manage one’s emotions (handle feelings)
  3. Motivate oneself
  4. Recognise emotions in others (empathy)
  5. Handle relationships

Emotions are evident in all human behaviour – driven by chemical reactions (hormones) in our bodies and brains that are a reaction to real, imagined or perceived threats and treats. But people have different abilities in recognising and managing their emotions – and those of others. Some psychometric tests will provide measures of emotional stability or fluency and expressiveness. There are significant differences in the ways that various nationalities express their emotions. Non-Verbal Communication (NVC) is important when conveying your emotions or “reading” the emotions of others.

Empathy is perhaps one of the most important of these skills whether you are focused on marketing, selling, leadership, team building, teaching, persuading, negotiating or resolving conflict. Empathy is “The power of identifying oneself mentally with (and so fully comprehending) a person or object of contemplation”. It’s like taking a walk in the other person’s shoes – and seeing and feeling things from their perspective.

There were some early books about emotional intelligence that were influential:

“Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman in 1995

“NLP – the new art and science of getting what you want” by Dr Harry Alder in 1994

and “NLP – The new technology of achievement” by Steve Andreas and Charles Faulkner (of Accelerated Learning fame) in 1996.

I also really liked a 1992 book called “Empathy selling” by Christopher C Golis.

But there are many newer books about emotional intelligence and empathy incorporating the latest findings from scientific research into the area. For example “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves (2009) or “Introducing Emotional Intelligence: A Practical Guide” by David Walton (2013).

It is possible to undertake an assessment of your emotional intelligence – some are basic and free (e.g. http://www.queendom.com/tests/access_page/index.htm?idRegTest=3037) whereas others are more sophisticated and require the use of an accredited tester (e.g. http://www.psysoft.com/emotional_intelligence.html).

Those with Asperger’s Syndrome and other forms of autism often have impaired abilities in the area of emotional intelligence.

There are other FAQs and blogs about motivation on this web site.

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