What exactly is Emotional Intelligence?

Our intelligence has been increasing for over one hundred years as a society, but what about our emotional intelligence? Daniel Goleman has written a fascinating book on the topic, which is well worth a read, and on a personal note, it was the first book I read related to psychology many moons ago. But what exactly is EI according to the author? 

Emotional Intelligence refers to how well we handle ourselves and our relationships.
— Daniel Goleman
  1. Self-awareness: knowing one's strengths weaknesses, drives, values and impact on others.
  2. Self-management: the ability to direct impulses and moods.
  3. Empathy: understanding other people's emotional makeup or what they are feeling (generally speaking).
  4. Social (skill in relationships): Rapport building to move people in desired directions. 

The four points above sound straightforward enough, except that they are hard to put into practice for many people. Imagine if you have spent your whole career to-date working on very technical and detailed projects, and being very successful at it. Then suddenly, you're asked to run a team that does the same thing. This can be very tricky as all of your skill may be technical and now you have to spend most of your time dealing with people - and you need very different skills for that (i.e. soft skills). 

So what can be done? Well, it's not a quick fix but it is fixable. It's important to acknowledge that EI is something you need to work on, then to identify how you rank on the four points above and finally, it's crucial to get practice and real-time feedback. It also an idea to work with a coach that you can get on well with and accept additional feedback from. 

A final thought on emotional intelligence is a prediction. I believe that EI is going to become more and more important as there is an increase in globalisation and technology. Globalisation means that we have to work with more people from different cultures, who speak different languages - understanding their feelings and attitudes will be crucial to building strong and lasting relationships. In terms of technology, I believe many young people with lack the same attention to emotional intelligence afforded to other generations because they will spend so much more time engaged with a screen which doesn't give them the emotional feedback (at least not yet!). So perhaps they will have to learn about their emotions in a formal setting - could be good, could be bad. Let's wait and see.