Intro to Emotional Intelligence

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Apr 09, 2024

By AMA Staff

What is Emotional Intelligence?There are many types of intelligence: analytical (math and reasoning, called IQ),linguistic (verbal), musical/rhythmic, and bodily-kinesthetic (physical), among others. In 1990, Yale psychology professor Peter Solovay and the University of New Hampshire‘s John Mayer coined the phrase “emotional intelligence” to describe a set of abilities that amount to “emotional smarts.” New York Times science writer Daniel Goleman popularized the concept in 1995 with his book Emotional Intelligence.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a compelling area of business and management research. There are several definitions of emotional intelligence and several models describing the competencies of emotional intelligence. In AMA’s seminar Successfully Managing People, EI is defined as: “being smart and effective about emotions.”

*The Six Competencies of Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence includes mastery of one’s own emotions (the three items listed below under Emotional Self-Mastery) and mastery of the emotions of others (the three items listed below under Interpersonal Self-Mastery:

Understanding your own emotions

—Understanding your moods and feelings
—Noticing changes in your emotional state
—Being aware of the emotional messages your words and body language are sending.

Controlling your own destructive emotions
—Controlling your own unproductive emotions such as distrust, anger, negativity, anxiety, hatred, impatience, doubt, disgust, apathy, and shock
—Staying calm, and thinking before acting

Influencing constructive emotions in yourself
—Demonstrating productive emotions such as trust, courage, determination, confidence, optimism, patience, and compassion
—Showing resilience and persistence in the face of adversity

Understanding the emotions of others

—Sensing the moods and feelings of others
—Seeing changes in their emotional state
—Listening for and understanding the emotions behind what people are saying and doing

Handling the destructive emotions of others
—Defusing people's destructive emotions such as distrust, anger, negativity, anxiety, hatred, impatience, doubt, disgust, apathy, and shock
—Helping settle disputes and conflict

Influencing constructive emotions in others
—Evoking productive emotions in others such as trust, courage, determination, confidence, optimism, patience, and compassion
—Securing cooperation and collaboration

*© Rich St.Denis, 2004. Used with permission.

IQ Gets You Hired, But EQ Gets You Promoted and Helps You Lead Well
The higher you go in an organization, the more important your interpersonal skills become. EQ (Emotional Quotient or “emotional smarts”), not IQ or traditional or “school smarts,” is the key set of variables behind success in the world of work. In Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman estimates that more than two-thirds of the competencies shown by peak performers are related to EQ.

Stories abound of professionals who are brilliant in their fields but mismanage or neglect their working relationships with others. They place tasks over relationships at their own peril and are passed over for promotion. Conversely, almost everyone has experienced that boss who “doesn’t know as much as I do” and seems to have his or her position for incomprehensible reasons. The research suggests that, most likely, that person has a high EQ even if his or her IQ, or industry knowledge, is unremarkable.

  • Common Wisdom about Emotions and Emotional Intelligence
    There are seven basic emotions: fear, anger, disgust, sadness, happiness, love, and surprise. There are thousands of variations and shadings of these core emotions.
  • All emotions are valid. Emotions provide us important information about our situation. For example, paralyzing fear can tell us that we are unprepared to handle a new and daunting task or that we need significantly more support before proceeding.
  • An emotion can be either constructive or destructive, depending on the circumstances. For example, an outburst of hostile-aggressive anger can ruin a relationship, while a flash of righteous anger can cause others to better understand and respect our needs and concerns.
  • Most positions require some amount of emotional labor. That is, they have an emotional component and require certain emotional coping skills. For example, some positions require the ability to recognize and defuse the hostile aggressive emotions of customers. Other positions require the ability to reduce fear and anxiety in others. Still others require the ability to influence and inspire others.
  • Most leadership situations call for a significant amount of emotional labor. Leaders often deal with difficult situations. Leadership is the ability to influence and inspire others who are reluctant, resistant, or fearful to do something they would not do on their own.

How to Strengthen Your Emotional Intelligence
For Greater Emotional Self-Mastery: Become more self-aware

—Reflect on your competencies in understanding, controlling, and influencing emotions.
—Monitor yourself in the moment. Tune in to your emotions when the pressure is on.
—Ask for feedback from others about your moods and tendencies.
—Complete assessment instruments to learn more about yourself.

Practice managing your destructive emotions
—Accept responsibility for your destructive emotional responses. (“Yes, I lost control.”)
—Be aware of your emotional triggers. Practice controlling them. Ask people to help you.
—Control your harmful impulses by slowing down your response. Stop—think—then act.
—In stressful situations, ask yourself, “Is my approach right now effective?”
—Develop the courage to state your ideas and emotions assertively. “Because of…, I feel…”
—Use an “I” message to assert yourself tactfully. “Because…, I would like…”

Take action to bring out constructive emotions in yourself
—Understand how you look at failure, setbacks, and put-downs—as positives or negatives.
—Resist asking, “What’s wrong with me?” Instead ask, “What can I fix or improve?”
—Stay focused on the present conversation, situation, or problem. Don’t get dragged down worrying about the future and things you can’t control.
—Suspend judgment about negative situations. Reframe them into neutral or positive ones.

For Greater Interpersonal Mastery: Take action to understand others better and to demonstrate empathy.
—Watch people closely. Observe their actions and reactions.
—Engage people in conversation. Listen carefully to them.
—Ask questions. Get people to describe their needs and desires.
—Show people that you sense how they are feeling. I sense that you are feeling...

Build your skills in handling the destructive emotions of others
—Study and practice mediation, facilitation, and conflict resolution techniques.
—Let people vent without interrupting them. Listen more than you talk.
—Absorb what they say, acknowledge what they say, and agree with something.

Build your ability to influence constructive emotions in others
—Study and practice a variety of influence strategies such as logical reasoning, using emotions to persuade, setting the example, storytelling, peer influence, and a light bit of pressure.
—Help people gain a sense of purpose and direction. Point the way clearly.
—Help people gain a sense of pride. Praise them for accomplishments. Celebrate success.
—Help people gain a sense of security. Help them out in risky situations. Be with them.
—Help people gain a sense of belonging. Make them feel “in” on things. Build teamwork.
—Help people feel responsible. Delegate important work. Hold them accountable.
—Help people feel they are growing. Give them stretch goals, coach them, and give feedback.

Emotional intelligence can be developed, through time and effort.

© American Management Association. All rights reserved.

Learn more about Emotional Intelligence with the following AMA seminars:
Successfully Managing People
Developing Your Emotional Intelligence
Leading with Emotional Intelligence

About the Author(s)

AMA Staff American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.