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Working with Emotional Intelligence

Written by: Daniel Goleman
Published: January 4, 2000


At the heart of our professional success and personal satisfaction lies not just our cognitive intelligence, but a different kind of intelligence: Emotional Intelligence (EI). While traditional intelligence (IQ) determines our ability to handle tasks related to mathematics, comprehension, and other cognitive tasks, EI delves deeper. It governs our ability to recognize, comprehend, manage, and regulate emotions – both our own and of those around us.

Emotional intelligence plays a pivotal role in our everyday lives. From our interactions at the workplace to our relationships at home, our EI shapes and influences our responses and behaviors. In fact, studies have indicated that people with high emotional intelligence tend to have better leadership skills, manage conflicts more effectively, and foster stronger relationships.

Goleman introduces the concept of emotional competence, which extends beyond mere emotional awareness. It's about harnessing emotions to drive specific behaviors and outcomes. These competencies are not innate talents, but rather learned capabilities that must be nurtured and developed. These competencies fall under two main categories: personal and social.

Personal competencies revolve around managing one’s own emotions. They are characterized by self-awareness (recognizing one’s own emotions), self-regulation (controlling disruptive emotions), and motivation (being driven to achieve for achievement's sake). These competencies allow individuals to be in tune with their emotional state, ensuring that their emotions don't run wild and lead to destructive behaviors.

Social competencies, on the other hand, are about managing relationships. They include empathy (understanding the emotional makeup of other people) and social skills (building and managing good relationships). By mastering social competencies, individuals can navigate social complexities, lead and inspire others, and foster meaningful connections.

In the professional realm, emotional intelligence is a significant contributor to success. While technical skills are essential, they are not sufficient. For leadership positions, in particular, emotional competencies are paramount. A leader with high EI can inspire, manage conflicts, and foster team collaboration. Moreover, companies that prioritize emotional intelligence tend to have higher rates of retention, better team cohesion, and improved productivity.

Furthermore, Goleman emphasizes that emotional intelligence is not fixed. Like any other skill, it can be cultivated and refined. Through conscious effort, self-reflection, and feedback, individuals can develop their emotional competencies. By doing so, they not only enhance their professional trajectories but also enrich their personal lives.

However, the development of emotional intelligence does come with its challenges. Societal norms, particularly in the corporate world, often prioritize logic over emotion, potentially stunting the growth of EI. Moreover, individuals might face internal obstacles, such as deeply ingrained habits or beliefs, that hinder the cultivation of emotional competencies. Yet, with commitment and the right strategies, these challenges can be overcome.

One of the potent tools in nurturing emotional intelligence is mindfulness. By being present and fully engaged in the moment, individuals can better recognize and understand their emotions. This heightened awareness lays the foundation for improved self-regulation and empathy. Additionally, seeking feedback, especially from trusted colleagues or mentors, can offer valuable insights into one's emotional behaviors and areas for improvement.

Final Thoughts

Emotional intelligence is an indispensable component of our holistic intelligence. It governs our interactions, influences our decisions, and plays a significant role in our professional success and personal satisfaction. By understanding the intricacies of emotional intelligence and actively working to cultivate it, we not only set ourselves up for success but also pave the way for richer, more meaningful lives.

10 Big Ideas

1. Beyond Cognitive Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (EI) offers a deeper understanding of success than just cognitive intelligence or IQ. While IQ pertains to tasks related to mathematics, comprehension, and other cognitive tasks, EI focuses on recognizing, comprehending, managing, and regulating emotions.

2. Personal and Social Competencies

Emotional competence is divided into two categories: personal and social. While personal competencies focus on managing one's own emotions, social competencies revolve around managing relationships and understanding the emotions of others.

3. Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

For professional success, particularly in leadership roles, emotional competencies are paramount. A leader with high EI can inspire, resolve conflicts, and foster team collaboration, leading to better productivity and team cohesion.

4. The Malleability of EI

Unlike some other attributes, emotional intelligence is not fixed. Through conscious effort, self-reflection, and feedback, one can develop and refine their emotional competencies.

5. Mindfulness and EI

One potent tool in nurturing emotional intelligence is practicing mindfulness. Being present and fully engaged in the moment allows for better recognition and understanding of emotions, promoting self-regulation and empathy.

6. Societal Norms and EI

The corporate world and societal norms often prioritize logic over emotion. This can create challenges in developing emotional intelligence, but with determination, these barriers can be navigated.

7. Feedback's Role in Cultivating EI

Regular feedback, especially from trusted colleagues or mentors, is invaluable. It provides insights into emotional behaviors and highlights areas for growth and refinement.

8. The Connection Between EI and Personal Satisfaction

Emotional intelligence isn't just about professional success. It plays a significant role in personal satisfaction, enriching relationships, and overall well-being.

9. Challenges in Developing EI

Internal obstacles, like ingrained habits or beliefs, can hinder the cultivation of emotional intelligence. Recognizing these internal barriers is the first step to overcoming them.

10. The Holistic Importance of EI

Emotional intelligence is a component of our overall intelligence, governing interactions and influencing decisions. Cultivating it leads to richer, more meaningful lives both professionally and personally.

5 Exercises

1. Emotional Journaling

Objective: To enhance self-awareness and understanding of your emotions.

  • Every evening, allocate 10 minutes to reflect on the day's events.
  • Jot down three emotional experiences you had throughout the day, whether positive or negative.
  • For each emotion, describe the event that triggered it and your reaction.
  • Identify patterns or triggers that consistently evoke a specific emotion in you.
  • Over time, analyze your journal entries to understand your emotional patterns and areas that may need attention.
2. Empathy Building Conversations

Objective: To improve your ability to understand and relate to the emotions of others.

  • Choose a trusted friend or family member for a deep conversation.
  • Ask them to share a recent experience that elicited strong emotions in them.
  • Listen actively without interrupting, and try to truly feel their emotions as if they were your own.
  • After they're done, reflect their feelings back to them, validating their emotions.
  • Practice this with different individuals to enhance your empathetic listening skills.
3. Mindfulness Meditation

Objective: To boost self-regulation and presence in the moment.

  • Find a quiet space and sit comfortably, closing your eyes.
  • Focus on your breathing, taking deep and steady breaths.
  • If your mind wanders, acknowledge the thought and gently bring your focus back to your breath.
  • As you breathe, try to recognize any emotions that surface, without judgment.
  • Start with 5 minutes daily and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable.
4. The Feedback Circle

Objective: To gain insights into your emotional behaviors from an external perspective.

  • Form a group of 3-5 trusted colleagues or friends.
  • Each member takes turns sharing a recent situation where they noticed an emotional response in themselves.
  • Others in the circle provide constructive feedback on the shared emotion, offering different perspectives.
  • Take notes on the feedback received and reflect on areas of growth.
  • Meet regularly, ensuring that all members get a chance to share and receive feedback.
5. Emotional Role-Play

Objective: To develop better emotional responses in challenging situations.

  • With a partner, outline a scenario where you've previously struggled to manage your emotions.
  • Role-play the situation, with each person taking on a role.
  • Practice different emotional responses, exploring various outcomes.
  • After the role-play, discuss the emotional responses and identify the most effective strategies.
  • Repeat with various scenarios to build resilience and emotional flexibility.

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