Applied Emotional Intelligence

  • Background

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has been with us since the mid-1960s. Michael Beldoch (1964) is given the credit for coining the term; while Peter Salavoy and John Mayer (1997) went on to formulate a coherent theoretical framework of Emotional Intelligence and Daniel Goleman (1997) popularized Emotional Intelligence in leadership and the world of work.

Peter Savaloy and John Mayer (1997) initially defined Emotional Intelligence as “The ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, to understand emotions and to regulate emotions to promote personal growth.” They later revised the definition twice firstly as “The capacity to reason about emotions and of emotions to enhance thinking. It includes the ability to accurately perceive emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth.” Finally, they revised it to “The ability to monitor one’s own emotions and other people’s emotions, to discriminate and label them appropriately and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior”

For our purposes here, we will use Neil Nedley’s definition. Neil Nedley (2001) in his book, Depression: The Way Out defines Emotional Intelligence as, “Knowing and understanding your emotions and the emotions of others, and responding to these emotions in a healthy way.” In terms of theoretical framework, we will draw upon Peter Savaloy and John Mayer’s Four Emotional Intelligence Abilities Model and Daniel Goleman’s Five Emotional Intelligence Concepts.

Peter Savaloy and John Mayer’s Four EQ Abilities are:

  • Perceiving Emotions
  • Understanding Emotions
  • Using Emotions
  • Managing Emotions

They define the Four EQ Abilities as follows:

  1. Perceive Emotions

The ability to perceive emotions in faces, pictures, voices, artifacts, in self and in others. This ability is a primal ability of EQ upon which all other EQ abilities build upon. In other words, one needs to be able to perceive emotions before they can understand emotions, use emotions and manage them.

  1. Understanding Emotions

The ability to understand emotions of self and of others involves distinguish the varying emotions and accurately labeling the emotions.

  1. Using Emotions

The ability to use emotions involves the ability to view emotions as informational resources to be employed to make sense of social environment, navigate it and develop appropriate adaptive behaviors.

  1. Managing Emotions

Managing emotions involves harnessing both positive and negative emotions, without allowing the emotions to drive one’s behavior.

Daniel Goleman’s Five EQ Concepts are:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Social Skills
  • Empathy
  • Motivation

Let us try to align Salavoy and Mayer’s Model to Daniel Goleman’s Model.

Daniel Goleman’s Model Salavoy and Mayer’s Model
Self-Awareness Perceive Emotions
Self-Regulation Managing Emotions
Social Skills Understanding Emotions

Using Emotions

Managing Emotions

Empathy Understanding Emotions
Motivation Using Emotions

 

We will use the following five key EQ competencies drawn out of the above EQ Models in our application of EQ below.

  • Understanding own emotions
  • Managing own emotions
  • Understanding the emotions of others
  • Managing relationships with others
  • Motivating self for performance and success

Application of EQ is based on research studies that established correlation between EQ and the following attributes:

(Positive correlation)

  • High self-perception
  • High personal satisfaction
  • High social skills
  • Pleasant personality
  • Negotiation skills
  • Empathy
  • High performance
  • High achievement
  • Success

(Negative correlation)

  • Anti-social tendencies
  • Deviant behavior
  • Aggression
  • Violence
  • Poor lifestyle choices
  • Depression
  • Low performance
  • Low achievement
  • Failure

The research studies have helped make a business case for applied EQ, which has in turn driven interest of EQ in Learning and Development as well as in Wellness and Mental Health Education.

  • Application of Emotional Intelligence

The EQ competence of understanding own emotions can be applied in various situations for personal effectiveness. In understanding own emotions it is pertinent to acknowledge that thoughts affect emotions in a very profound way, which has a knock on effect on motivation and behavior. If we analyze our thought patterns we thus will be able to perceive our own emotions to increase self-awareness, and use the increased self-awareness for effective management of own emotions and relationship with others. For example if we perceive negative emotions in ourselves, we can manage them to avoid the negative impacts of such negative emotions on our motivation and drive; and harness perceived positive emotions to drive motivation for performance.

Let us look at a practical work situation and apply EQ competencies in handling the situation.

Case 1: An employee has key performance indicators with pressing targets and deadlines for end of term review. His response to the situation is shown in the chart below.

In response to the imminent of end of term reviews, the employee can choose to view this as a practical problem or a challenging situation. If he takes the view of that the situation presents a practical problem, he will most likely proceed on the negative pathway, whereas if he views it as a challenge he will proceed on the positive trajectory.

The positive trajectory will view the approaching end of term review as a challenge and an opportunity to prove skills and competence, and achieve performance targets and goals, thus a positive stressor. Such a view is energizing and hence fires up employee with motivation to perform. The motivation to perform will lead to adoption of effective coping strategies like problem solving approaches, development of action plans, strategy development, monitoring of performance, and the cooperation with others for task execution. All the responses chosen by the employee employ critical thinking skills, which further enhance frontal lobe functions, a critical requisite for successful task execution and achievement.

The negative pathway will take the approaching end of term review as a practical problem, and respond with worry, stress, anxiety and even resentment and anger, thus a negative stressor. To cope with the negative emotional responses the employee may adopt ineffective coping strategies, which compound the situation by creating secondary problems. Typical ineffective coping strategies are cognitive distortions, faulty emotional reasoning, and use of mental stimulants. All above strategies have a depressing effect on frontal lobe functions, which arrest critical thinking and motivational capacity. In this case, the employee made the end of term review into a problem, and created secondary problems by poor emotional responses and further compounded the situation by adopting ineffective coping mechanisms to handle poor emotional responses. The situation continues to snowball from one layer of problems to another layer of problems, creating a situation for performance failure.

The employee is confronted with pressure to deliver on his key result areas and performance indicators. This is indeed a stressor, but in the first instance, the employee took it as a positive stressor, whereas in the second instance the employee took it as a negative stressor. A positive stressor energizes and motivates, while a negative stressor arrests task accomplishment.

An emotionally intelligent way to respond to a practical situation is to harness the stress and pressure as motivators to drive towards performance and success, without engaging in cognitive distortions of labeling the situation a practical problem when it is not one, and responding emotionally to the self-created problem with a secondary set of problems.

In the case were the practical situation presents a practical problem, an emotionally intelligent way to respond would entail acknowledging the problem without creating secondary problems by cognitive distortions and faulty emotional reasoning.

About the author

Joiline Gorlova is a Training Consultant at Rock Lilly with a BSc Sociology, postgrad Diploma in Personnel Management, IPM professional member & an Accredited Assessor/Moderator with Services SETA, LGSETA & ETDP SETA

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