Emotional intelligence consists of some basic skills. It is an awareness that emotions can drive our behavior and impact us positively and negatively. But it’s also coupled with an ability to manage emotions—our own and other people’s—which is particularly important when under pressure.
Characteristics of a Successful Person
Various elements of emotional intelligence had long been studied separately, using concepts such as low neuroticism, agreeableness, compassion, assertiveness, low impulsivity, stress management, self-confidence, and social competence. However, the idea of aggregating various emotional and social factors, predicting success under a single concept, really took off in 1995. It was when science writer, Daniel Goleman, published a book titled Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ.
In one of the most powerful demonstrations of the benefits of emotional intelligence, researchers studied employees at 188 companies to determine the characteristics of who was most successful. And here’s how Daniel Goleman summarized the key finding:
To be sure, intellect was a driver of outstanding performance. Cognitive skills such as big-picture thinking and long-term vision were particularly important. But when I calculated the ratio of technical skills, IQ, and emotional intelligence as ingredients of excellent performance, emotional intelligence proved to be twice as important as the others for jobs at all levels.
Emotional Intelligence: A Predictor of Performance
Thus, the higher the person’s rank in the company, the more important emotional intelligence was as a predictor of his or her performance. As Goleman writes in his book, “CEOs are hired for their intellect and business expertise and fired for a lack of emotional intelligence.”
Many of us know people who are clearly very intelligent in a traditional way but seem to lack basic common sense and an ability to get along with people. These weaknesses interfere with their ability to achieve at the highest levels.
As is sometimes thought to be the case for IQ, emotional intelligence actually consists of several distinct components. In the version popularized by Goleman, and often referred to as EI or EQ, there are five components.
The components of emotional intelligence firstly include self-awareness. It is an ability to recognize and understand our own emotions. People with high emotional intelligence understand what they are feeling, and how their emotions influence themselves and people around them. They also understand how their own response to professional disappointments can affect how their colleagues will react.
People who are self-aware also have a good sense of their own strengths and weaknesses; they know what they are good at, and they also know where there aren’t so strong. This insight helps them be more effective at work; in part because they can hire or collaborate with people who help compensate for their relative weaknesses, and that lets them produce better results.
They also tend to have a good sense of humor. They have a more playful attitude about themselves and this probably makes them far more pleasant to work with and for.
This article comes directly from content in the video series Introduction to Psychology. Watch it now, on Wondrium.
Regulating Emotions and Intrinsic Motivation
Emotional intelligence also includes having the ability to self-regulate, meaning an ability to understand and regulate emotions. People with this ability can identify the emotions they are feeling and why; such as whether their feelings of anger are actually driven by tiredness or hunger or anxiety. People who are high in emotional intelligence are also good at managing their emotions, even under conditions of high stress.
One study published in 2018 found that a runner’s emotional intelligence was the best predictor of their finish time during a half marathon; meaning it was more important than their physical training. Why? The researchers believe that runners who are better able to control their emotions during the race are more effective at managing fatigue and arousal and that led to faster times.
The third component of emotional intelligence is intrinsic motivation. People who are internally motivated to pursue their goals work on things they find enjoyable, interesting, and challenging. This intrinsic drive that comes from within helps them stay focused, even when facing obstacles and setbacks. They aren’t driven primarily by external factors—money, recognition, obligation—which can actually undermine intrinsic motivation.
Empathy and Social Skills
Another component is empathy. It is the ability to easily imagine the world from someone else’s perspective. These are people who are good at understanding how other people are feeling, and can pick up on subtle cues, including nonverbal ones.
This ability helps them understand and manage the emotions of people around them. It also helps them work well with other people, build and maintain relationships, and resolve conflicts in constructive ways.
The final component of emotional intelligence is social skills. People who are high in emotional intelligence listen well and communicate well. They basically get along with other people. They can build good relationships and connect with those around them, including in their work lives but also in their personal lives. They also take responsibility when things don’t go well, instead of blaming it on others, and give credit to those around them when things go well.
A Highly Emotionally Intelligent Response
A great example of a highly emotionally intelligent response is that given by Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, Nick Foles. He was asked about the factors leading to his team’s win in the Super Bowl; a game in which Foles was named MPV. Here’s what he said: “I think the big thing that helped me was knowing that I didn’t have to be Superman. I have amazing teammates, amazing coaches around me. And all I had to do was just go play as hard as I could, and play for one another, and play for those guys.”
Hence, if we put together the totality of all of these components, it’s pretty easy to see why people who are high in EQ would be more successful in their careers.
Many jobs involve some periods of stress in which people have to work under pressure and while facing deadlines. It is in this context, that an ability to understand and regulate your emotions, becomes really important. Thus, people, who are emotionally intelligent, are positive and calm, even in stressful situations.
Common Questions about Emotional Intelligence
Self-awareness is an ability to recognize and understand our own emotions.
Empathy helps them understand and manage the emotions of people around them. It also helps them work well with other people, build and maintain relationships, and resolve conflicts in constructive ways.
People who are emotionally intelligent are positive and calm, even in stressful situations.