Emotional Intelligence – What Is it?

Emotional Intelligence – What Is it?


In 1995, Daniel Goleman’s book, “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ” garnered worldwide interest and attention about the role that emotional intelligence plays in our lives at work, at home and socially. Goleman elegantly put together his thoughts together on years of scientific research on the ’soft’ skills of humans, bringing feelings and emotions into the limelight.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) isn’t a fad nor a trend. For many years, behavioural and organizational scientists have relied heavily only on the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) as a predictor of success in life. Now, the aspects of feelings and emotions are increasingly recognized as crucial in the formulation of attitudes and skills in the workplace and in our personal lives. Good relationships, coping strategies, good self-management, high drive in ambition and various other elements are the key to our success in every area of human activity, and this can be seen in the initial bonding between parent and child and the way that managers work with their staff.

Behavioural scientists have always wondered what is the relationship between physical, mental, and emotional health? Why do some people possess a higher level of emotional well-being? Why are some people better able to achieve success in life? Why do some people with high IQ’s seem to fail in life, while others lower in IQ seem to do better in life?

The answers to these questions and more seem to lie in what the researchers have found. For example, Drs Peter Salovey and Mayer (1999) define Emotional Intelligence as, “The ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions, and to regulate emotions to promote personal growth”. Daniel Goleman defines EI as, “The capacity for recognising our own & others’ feelings, for motivating ourselves, & for managing emotions well in ourselves & in relationships.”

This concept of emotional intelligence explains why two people of the same Intelligence Quotient (IQ) can achieve vastly different levels of success. EI taps into a totally different element of human behaviour that is very different from your intellect.

There are many interpretations of EI, as there are many behavioural scientists who prefer to add their own viewpoint. The viewpoint that Dr Daniel Goleman and several other renowned scientists have proposed includes five major competencies of human behaviour. The concept of intelligence is hard to grasp and to judge, but when behaviour is broken down into its most easy form to assess, that is, what people do, then we’re able to measure one against the other. Personal competency is the result of self-awareness and self-management (or self-regulation) skills. Social competence is the way that you are socially aware of others and how you demonstrate good relationship skills.

The 5 major emotional competencies are:

  1. Self-Awareness – an awareness of one’s feelings and emotions.
  2. Self-Management – self-control, to self-manage.
  3. Self-Motivation – a high achievement drive.
  4. Social Awareness – empathy – the ability to empathise with others to form understanding and therefore good relationships.
  5. Relationship Management – the ability to bond with others, to become a change catalyst, ability to develop others and to influence others.

Let me explain briefly what these competencies are, based mainly upon what Daniel Goleman has adapted from the best of the other behavioural scientists:

1. Self-awareness

Self-Awareness is knowing how you’re feeling in the moment. For example when your boss charges into your office and confronts you, her face red as a beetroot with anger and uttering a whole lot of blaming words. What feelings are going through you? How do you feel when she does this to you? Do you freeze? Are you frightened? Are you angry? These feelings are only natural, but if we allow ourselves to lose our temper and to burst out in retaliation to her anger, this may only make things worse. Or we may just shut our systems down and become totally submissive and timid – not a good position to take either. We need to be aware when we are angry, or frightened, or feeling ashamed, and to calm ourselves. We also need to be able to make a realistic assessment of our own abilities and feelings, and to have a good sense of being grounded.

2. Self-Management

Self-regulation means that we are in control of our emotions and that we do not act out of anger or spite. Self-control is important to us especially when we are around others to make sense of the situation. When our emotional brain takes over because it’s out of control, we may act in ways that we may later regret. Being conscientious, that is, having the ability to stay focused and get things done as required in our plan and never wavering from that plan, is a positive habit to have. Delaying gratification is another good habit, for example, we work first, then play later, pays off big dividends in the long haul. If we wait until we “feel” like doing something, that moment may never come! That’s why procrastinators (and I’m constantly battling this myself!) is such a killer of ideas and dreams.

Self-management also means that we can recover well after emotional distress, and to be able to put the past behind us and to get on with life.

3. Self-motivation

Self-motivation means that whatever you have aimed for, you will not rest until you get it. Once you have planned and thought carefully about reaching a goal, you will not rest until it has been attained. No matter what obstacles come your way, no matter how hard it gets, no matter what others say. Obviously, if you do glean new information about how getting your goal may turn out to be dangerous to you, then you would need to stop and examine whether that is true, and if so, to make adjustments to your goal so that you can still end up with what you want. You take the initiative, striving always to improve, and to persevere even when meeting severe setback, disappointment and frustration.

4. Social-Awareness

This is the behaviour of putting yourself into someone’s shoes. Social awareness is awareness of what others are feeling, being able to sense their perspective, their fears, their anxieties and understanding them. It doesn’t mean that you agree with them all the time, but it does mean that you accept their model of the world and strive to work on a win-win basis. Another word for this is empathy, and it is the ability to cultivate and encourage rapport and the ability to be able to get along with others. The organisation has needs, and the person who has a high social awareness respects this and works hard to fulfill his or her obligation to the organisation’s needs. Employees additionally need to recognise that the giving of service both to their internal people and also to customers and clients is paramount.

5. Relationship Management

The ability to be socially intelligent is a great asset to have, and handling emotions well in relationships has a big payoff in building and creating trust in social situations and networks. Using these competencies, you would be able to interact pleasantly with others, be able to influence, to lead, to be able to collaborate sincerely with others, to be able to teach and develop others. Another important competency in relationship management is conflict resolution, the ability to deal with conflict assertively, and to arrive at collaboration or compromise as the case may be. The truly competent person will also be able to build great teamwork and cooperation by establishing mutual trust, mutual respect and have a willingness to work well with others.


In summary, Emotional Intelligence or EI involves being able to monitor and control one’s own and others’ feelings, and to use feelings to guide thoughts and actions. These are talents that are most useful and matter greatly in work life, and unless you work hard at acquiring a fair degree of competency in these five basic areas of EI, then you will find it hard to go up the organisational ladder, and you might even find that your subordinates, peers and your boss give you the cold shoulder because of your lack of Emotional Intelligence.

I recommend that you immerse yourself in serious study of this subject. Knowing isn’t enough, you must learn and practice. Further study can include the reading of the following books:

Working with Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman
Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman
Social Intelligence, Daniel Goleman
Social Intelligence, Karl Albrecht
The Emotionally Intelligent Manager, David Caruso & Peter Salovey
Emotional Intelligence in Action, Hughes, Patterson & Terrell
The EQ Difference, Adele Lynn
The Emotional Intelligence Quickbook, Bradberry and Greaves
The EQ Edge, Stein & Book
Executive EQ, Cooper & Sawaff
Emotional Intelligence At Work, Hendrie Weisinger

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