3 Emotional Intelligence

In recent years, studies regarding emotions have become more prevalent as new innovative technology has made it possible to view the human brain at work (Caruso & Salovey, 2004).  We are now able to see firsthand how the brain operates while we think. This new neurobiological data allows one to see how the brain reacts when someone feels happy, sad, angry, and loved (Caruso & Salovey, 2004).  Peter Salovey and David Caruso suggest that the brain’s center of emotion is an integral part of what it means to think, reason, and be intelligent, thus making emotional intelligence a crucial component in understanding one’s own emotions and the emotions of others (Caruso & Salovey, 2004).

To have a better understanding of emotional intelligence one must first investigate its two component terms-emotion and intelligence.  Salovey, Bracket, & Mayer (2007) propose that emotions are organized responses crossing the physiological, cognitive, motivational, and experiential subsystems of the brain.  Once viewed as “disorganized interruptions of mental activity that should be controlled or acute disturbances of the individual as a whole, emotions are now seen as “motivating forces which are processes which arouse, sustain, and direct activity” (Salovey, Bracket, & Mayer, 2007, p. 2).

While the definition of intelligence varies from one theorist to the next, current conceptualizations suggest that intelligence involves the ability to learn and retain knowledge, recognize problems and put knowledge to use; and solve problems, taking the information one has learned and applying it to find solutions to problems they encounter in the world around them (Cherry, 2018).

Emotional Intelligence- Salovey and Mayer Theory

The first known academic use of the term emotional intelligence (EI) came from Wayne Leon Payne in 1986 when he wrote an unpublished doctorate dissertation titled “A Study of Emotion:  Developing Emotional Intelligence.”  It wasn’t until 1990, when Peter Salovey and John Mayer, published the first paper on EI in a scientific psychological journal, that the concept of EI became more publicly recognized (Bechtoldt, 2008).  In the article, Salovey and Mayer contemplated ways to measure the differences in areas of emotion.  They realized that when it comes to identifying their own feelings, the feelings of others, and solving problems related to emotional issues, some people managed better than others (Bechtoldt, 2008).

Salovey and Mayer defined emotional intelligence as a “subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own emotions and others’ emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s own thinking and actions” (Bechtoldt, 2008).  They went on to define EI again in 1997 as:

  • the ability to perceive accurately, appraise and express emotions;
  • the ability to access and generate feelings when they facilitate thought;
  • the ability to understand emotion and emotional knowledge;
  • and the ability to regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth. (Mayer & Salovey, 1997a, p. 10)

Salovey & Mayer Four Branch Model

Salovey and Mayer developed the Four Branch Model of Emotional Intelligence.  The four branches consist of:

  1. Emotional Perception and Expression
  2. Emotional Facilitation of Thought (Using Emotional Intelligence)
  3. Emotional Understanding
  4. Emotional Management

Emotional perception and expression relate to the ability to identify emotions in one’s physical and psychological states; the ability to identify emotion in others; the ability to express emotions accurately and to express needs related to them; and finally, the ability to discriminate between accurate/honest and inaccurate/dishonest, feelings (Salovey, et al., 2007).  According to Salovey, Brackett and Mayer (2007), without these competencies in the first branch, achieving emotional intelligence is impossible.

Emotional intelligence involves registering, attending to, and deciphering emotional messages as they are expressed in facial expressions, voice tone, or cultural artifacts.  A person who sees the fleeting expression of fear in the face of another understands much more about the other person’s emotions and thoughts than someone who misses such a signal (Salovey, et al., 2007).

The second branch of emotional intelligence concerns emotional facilitation of cognitive activities.  It involves using emotions to harness and facilitate various cognitive activities, such as thinking and problem solving (Grewal & Salovey, 2005).  Emotions prioritize thinking. In other words, something we respond to emotionally, is something that gets our attention. Having a good system of emotional input, therefore, should helped direct thinking toward matters that are truly important” (Mayer & Salovey, 1997b, p. 1)

Understanding and Analyzing Emotions is the third branch of Salovey and Mayer’s Four Brand Model.  This third branch “concerns the ability to understand emotions and to utilize emotional knowledge” (Salovey, et al., 2007, p. 38).  It involves recognizing the relationship between words and emotions themselves, and the causes of emotion; interpreting the meaning that emotions convey regarding relationships; understanding complex feelings; and recognizing transitions among emotions such as the transition from anger to satisfaction, or from anger to shame (Salovey, et al., 2007).

The fourth branch of Salovey and Mayer’s emotional intelligence model is Emotional Management.  “The ability to reflectively regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth is a critical component of being emotionally intelligent” (Freudenthaler & Neubauer, 2007, p. 36.).  The ability to manage emotions is the most advanced skill of EI.  It involves staying open to feelings, both pleasant and unpleasant, and “represents an interface of many factors including, emotional, and cognitive factors that must be recognized and balanced in order to manage and cope with feelings successfully” (Freudenthaler & Neubauer, 2007, p. 36.).

Emotional Intelligence-The Goleman Theory

While Salovey and Mayer were the first to publish an article on emotional intelligence, true popularity of the term and concept of EI didn’t take place until 1995, when Dan Goleman, published “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ” (Bechtoldt, 2008).  Goleman claimed that EI is a more important factor than Intelligent Quotient (IQ) to enjoying a successful life and maintaining fruitful and secure relationships with others (Karafyllis & Ulshofer, 2008).  Goleman proposed a new definition of intelligence which included qualities such as optimism, self-control, and moral character, and suggests that unlike general intelligence, which is viewed as stable over time, EI can be learned and increased at any time during one’s life (Karafyllis & Ulshofer, 2008).   He also proposes that EI has a moral dimension stating that “emotional literacy goes hand and hand with education for character and moral development and for citizenship” (Karafyllis & Ulshofer, 2008, p.135).

Goleman’s Four Competencies of Emotional Intelligence

Goleman defined emotional intelligence as “the ability to identify, assess, and control one’s own emotions, the emotions of others, and that of groups” (Karafyllis & Ulshofer, 2008, p.135).  For the purposes of this paper, the focus will be on Goleman’s four emotional intelligent competencies which include Goleman’s applied definitions and study of competency in self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

Self-Awareness.  Self-awareness is one of the most recognized components of emotional intelligence as it entails knowing what one is feeling at any given time and understanding the impact those moods have on others (Karafyllis & Ulshofer, 2008).  Peter Northouse indicates that self-awareness is the process in which individuals understand themselves, including their strengths and weaknesses, and the impact they have on others (Northouse, 2013).   In addition, processing self-awareness includes “reflecting on your core values, identity, emotions, motives, and goals while coming to grip with who you really are at the deepest level” (Northouse, 2013, p. 263).

Emotional intelligence specialist, Rachel Green, director of the Emotional Intelligent Institute defines self-awareness as “the skill in perceiving and understanding one’s own emotions” (Green, n.d., p. 1).  She admits there are many aspects to this including:

  • Being able to know how you feel.
  • Being able to understand the emotions that are driving your behavior, thinking or memory.
  • Being aware of the emotions behind what you are saying and how you are relating to and communicating with people.
  • Understanding what triggers emotions in you including; bias, prejudice and intolerances.
  • Understanding the reasons behind some of your emotions. Some emotions arise because of our history and not always because of our immediate situation. (Green, n.d., p.5)

Self-awareness and leadership.  Joseph Raelin, author of “Creating Leaderful Organizations” writes that leaderful practice begins with a personal awareness of your capabilities (Raelin, 2003).  He states that to achieve success, many of us have forgotten who we are.  “We need to be awakened” (Raelin, 2003, p. 60).  The process of self-discovery offers us an opportunity to appreciate the mixture of life experiences that have led us to our present ways of being.

Many of us decide that we need to find an inner purpose to guide our everyday activities, while others need to become more aware of the gaps between intention and behavior (Raelin, 2003).  Both require an ability to retrace one’s reasoning and the behavioral steps that have led to the actions that play out in one’s lives (Raelin, 2003).

Self-awareness means having a deep understanding of one’s emotions, as well as strengths and limitations and one’s values and motives (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2002).  People with strong self-awareness are realistic.  They are not overly self-critical nor naively hopeful.  They are honest with themselves and about themselves as well as honest about themselves with others (Goleman, et al., 2002). Goleman states that self-aware leaders understand their values, goals and dreams.  They know where they are headed and why, and they are attuned to what feels right to them (Goleman, 2002).    Self-aware people make time to reflect and think over things rather than reacting impulsively, thus bringing to their work life the thoughtful mode of self-reflection (Goleman, 2002).  All these traits of self-awareness enable leaders to act with the conviction and authenticity that resonance requires (Goleman et al., 2002).

When leaders know themselves and have a clear sense of who they are and what they stand for, they have a strong anchor for their decisions and actions, therefore, people often see leaders who have greater self-awareness as authentic (Northouse, 2013).  “If you don’t understand your own motivations and behaviors, it’s nearly impossible to develop an understanding of others. A lack of self-awareness can also thwart your ability to think rationally and apply technical capabilities” (Wilcox, 2016, p. 11).

Self-Management.  Self-Management refers to managing ones’ internal states, impulses, and resource (Goleman, 2015). According to Goleman, there are six competencies related to self-management including:

  • Emotional Self-Control: Keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check.
  • Transparency: Maintaining integrity.
  • Adaptability: Flexibility in handling change.
  • Achievement: Striving to improve or meeting a standard of excellence.
  • Initiative: Readiness to act on opportunities.
  • Optimism: Persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks. (Goleman, 2015, p. 5)

Other noted definitions of self-management refer to:

the developmental (or anomic, when poorly executed) process of relating internal/individual (intention) to external/individual (behavior). It relates to all that we have evolved as a species about learning, growing and developing as human beings, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually–education, training, therapy, counseling and consulting, human potential activities, physical development and coaching. (Volckmann, 2002, p. 3).

Self-management and leadership.  Self-management is a component of emotional intelligence as it resembles an ongoing inner conversation, freeing us from being a prisoner of our feelings (Goleman, et al., 2002).  “It’s what allows the mental clarity and concentrated energy that leadership demands, and what keeps disruptive emotions from throwing us off track” (Goleman, et al., 2002, p. 46).  Leaders must first be able to handle their own emotions to be capable of managing those of others and “given the reality of emotional leakage, a leader’s emotions have public consequences” (Goleman, et al., 2002, p. 46).

Self-management enables transparency, not only a leadership virtue, but a strength to any organization (Goleman, et al., 2002).  Transparency conveys “an authentic openness to others about one’s feelings, beliefs, and actions” (Goleman, et al., 2002, p. 47).  It allows integrity and a sense that a leader can be trusted.  Self-management at a primal level, hinges on impulse control, keeping us from acting in ways we won’t regret (Goleman, et al., 2002).  “The most meaningful act of responsibility that a leader can do is to control their own state of mind” (Goleman, et al., 2002, p. 47).

Social-Awareness and Interpersonal Skills.  Social Intelligence (SI) is the ability to get along well with others (Albrecht, 2004). Often referred to as “people skills,” SI embraces an awareness of situations and the social dynamics that govern them, and a knowledge of interaction styles and strategies that can help a person achieve his or her objectives in dealing with others. “It also involves a certain amount of self-insight and a consciousness of one’s own perceptions and reaction patterns” (Albrecht, 2004, p. 1).

Karl Albrecht classifies behavior toward others as falling somewhere on a spectrum between “toxic” effect and “nourishing” effect (Albrecht, 2004). Toxic behavior makes people feel devalued, angry, frustrated, guilty or otherwise inadequate (Albrecht, 2004). Nourishing behavior makes people feel valued, respected, affirmed, encouraged or competent (Albrecht, 2004).

A continued pattern of toxic behavior indicates a low level of social intelligence – the inability to connect with people and influence them effectively. A continued pattern of nourishing behavior tends to make a person much more effective in dealing with others; nourishing behaviors are the indicators of high social intelligence. (Albrecht, 2004, p. 2)

Daniel Goleman contends that the main component of social awareness is empathy, having the ability to perceive the feelings of other people and how they see the world (Goleman, 2016).

Empathy is our social radar. It requires being able to read another’s emotions; at a higher level, it entails sensing and responding to a person’s unspoken concerns or feelings. At the highest levels, empathy is understanding the issues or concerns that lie behind another’s feelings.” (Goleman, 1998, p. 4)

Often issues around diversity and inclusion occur because people are lacking in exposure to people from other cultures or backgrounds.  This lack of exposure can narrow our experiences and takes on the world which can impede diversity and inclusion (El-Attrash, 2017).  If you see somebody similar to you, there’s little to no effect. However, if you see someone different than you, it triggers implicit bias (El-Attrash, 2017). But while instinctual biases can be linked to the science of the brain, so can practicing empathy” (El-Attrash, 2017, p. 6).

“The key to embracing diversity with empathy is to better understand ourselves.” We can’t connect and be real with others if we can’t be honest with ourselves” (El-Attrash, 2017, p. 9).  Frieda Edgette, Certified Executive Coach and Organizational Strategist suggest five ways to reset your empathy:

  1. Be authentic. Seek a better understanding of who you are. Develop self-awareness by exploring your identity, background, principles and life experiences.
  2. Self-manage. What is your natural response when presented with difference or conflict? Do you fight, flee or freeze up? Take note of your default response. Develop an “in the moment” strategy to practice self-control like taking a deep breath, going for a run or just assuming a power pose.
  3. Practice active listening. When interacting with others, watch verbal and non-verbal cues. Make sure you turn your inner voice off for a moment and focus entirely on the other person.
  4. Get curious. Ask open-ended questions that start with “what” or “how.” What experiences shaped the other person’s life? Where do they get their information? What’s most important to them? Your only mission is to understand.
  5. Respect, connect. By being more open and more respectful of one another, we can improve communications and better connect, resulting in enhanced communications and productivity (El-Attrash, 2017).

Social awareness and leadership.  Being aware of how others are feeling requires the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of others and to understand what another person is experiencing (Gassam, 2018). “Leaders that are more empathetic may be more effective at fostering diverse and inclusive workplaces” (Gassam, 2018, p. 1).

 “At the most fundamental level, leadership requires an interaction between at least two individuals, where one individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal” (Northouse, 2013, p. 5).  Therefore, social awareness entails being aware of others, their feelings, moods and motivations.  According to the Center of Creative Leadership, leaders who are socially aware and who have empathy not only perform better but “are better able to keep employees engaged, while employees with empathy provide customers with the very best experience” (Goleman, 2016, p. 7).  Leaders who have high social awareness skills will have an easier time navigating and managing people from a range of backgrounds.  “Being an empathic leader means respecting and relating to people from varied backgrounds and perspectives. This will help create a workplace environment where diverse people can thrive, leading to organizational learning and consummate success” (University of Florida Training and Organizational Development, n.d., p. 2).

Several researchers have indicated that one of the primary responsibilities of a leader is to provide support to their followers (Carter, Lamm & Lamm, n.d.).  In their research, Yukl, Gordon, and Taber (2002), defined supporting as, “showing consideration, acceptance, and concern for the needs and feelings of other people” (Carter, et al., n.d., p. 20).   Leaders who support their followers are more accountable with higher levels of obligation (Carter, et al., n.d).  They are more effective in helping those followers solve problems and through the process provide developmental opportunities (Carter, et al., n.d.).  However, researchers have also cautioned against the overuse of support for followers. “In cases where follower responsibility is deferred to the leader, the leader has been seen as a scapegoat or surrogate for individual responsibility” (Carter, et al., n.d., p. 187).

Relationship Management.  Relationship management is especially important when it comes to fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace.  People who are skilled in managing relationships are better equipped to handle conflict drawing out all parties, helping others understand differing perspectives and common ideals that everyone can endorse (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2002).  Individuals skilled in relationship management value teamwork and encourage an atmosphere that is friendly and safe, modeling respect, helpfulness and cooperation (Goleman, et al., 2002).  “These competencies are critical for leading in a diverse organization effectively” (Morton, 2012, p. 11).

Relationship management & leadership.  Relationship management has been identified as facilitating cooperation and team work.  People skilled in managing relationships “build spirit and identity and spend time forging and cementing close relationships beyond mere work obligations (Goleman, et al., 2002, p. 256). “Leaders have been found to achieve group cohesiveness by knowing followers, actively maintaining interpersonal relationships, and encouraging group preservation activities” (Carter, et al., n.d., p. 187).

All relationships take work, time, effort, and know-how.  The know-how is emotional intelligence.  Some approaches to help keep diverse and inclusive workplace relationships healthy and thriving include:

  • Continuously build trust
    •  Be consistent in your words and actions
  • Tackle tough conversations
    •  Look for agreement or common ground
    •  Make sure people feel “heard”
    •  Remain open and non-defensive
  • Be open and curious
    •  Share information about yourself
    •  Show genuine interest and curiosity in others
  • Always work on your communication style
    •  Pay attention to times where your style has created confusion or troubled reactions
  • Don’t avoid the inevitable
    •  Face reality
    •  Use empathy and common purpose
  • Align your intention with your impact
    •  Think before you speak or act
    •  Make careful observations (University of Florida Training and Organizational Development, n.d.).

Leaders who master personal competence by building their skills in self-awareness and self-management are the ones who excel at social competence and relationship management (University of Florida Training and Organizational Development, n.d.). “Their social radar is soundly padded in empathy and people skills. Leveraging those, they build enduring relationships within the workplace environment and employ strategies to keep them strong and vitally connected” (University of Florida Training and Organizational Development, n.d., p. 3).


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“How does Emotional Intelligence Create a Culture that Promotes Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace?” Jaimee Hanscome (March 2019). CC BY 4.0


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