By | Published On: February 16, 2020 |

What is Emotional Intelligence? 

Emotional intelligence is a relatively recent development in understanding intelligence and how it manifests in different forms. At one time, the only measure we had was academic ability. IQ (or intelligence quotient), was about your skill in relation to problem solving, mathematical, and verbal ability as well as general knowledge.

Later, we began to realise some people manage life very well without high IQ. This may be even though they left full-time school. Studies began to appreciate that being streetwise had a valuable part to play in success. . “To be street smart means you have situational awareness” according to Wikipedia. “You can assess the environment you are in, who is in it, and what the available angles are. Being on the street, or in the trenches, or whatever low to the ground metaphor you prefer, requires you learn to trust your own judgement about people and what matters”.

Typically, people who are streetwise know how others tick, what they like and what they don’t like. They use their common sense to problem solve situations and these decisions are invariably about practical judgement. People with this form of common sense look at a situation and decide what to do based on what is needed right now. They don’t take a long time to make decisions.  The advantage of this type of awareness, is that they have practical experience and aim for a quick, or ready solution.

As psychologists began to explore the subject, we identified a third type, that of EI. Emotional intelligence is a skill and it’s about being able to recognise your own emotions. It’s also to do with how others are feeling, and ‘reading’ the emotion in another person. It’s an important skill and has many layers. It’s about identification of emotions. What does the emotion mean? You have to select the right response and express what you want to say so that you build rapport as opposed to risking offence.

Joel Davitz and Michael Beldoch first identified this in 1964. It was Daniel Goleman in his book of 1995, who brought it to our attention. Goleman popularised the concept of EI and introduced four elements of it: –
1. Identification: the recognition of which mood you are feeling
2. Expression: the process of working out what to say and how
3. Interpretation: reading someone else’s emotion and knowing what they mean
4. Response: what to say to that person in an appropriate and timely manner

What are the main characteristics:

You can find the main characteristics depicted in this image here: –








Goleman also began the work into recognising how emotional intelligence creates an advantage for people in business. You can find the test here:

His belief is that enhanced EI is a great strategy for improving work- life balance, and the environment in which your employees work.

How it helps in business:

1. In general, the reason why higher IQ has an impact on business success is because you can make better decisions and solve problems. You can resolve conflicts better which increases team performance and happiness and you are likely to have greater empathy. This helps decrease the stress of the individuals you support. You’re also going to make better decisions because you can read a situation well

2. This is likely to reduce staff turnover overall and help problem solve staff issues and difficulties. That’s because so many of these issues revolve around interpersonal relationships with other members of staff in the team.

3. According to one survey of hiring managers, 75% said they rated EI more than IQ amongst employees they hired.

4. Managers or leaders who have low EI can be overtly critical.  Not only of an individual’s performance but of the individual themselves. They may lack the ability to hold back criticism.  They may make it plain in management meetings and in front of other team members. When an individual has low EI in the workplace, they are much more likely to be passive-aggressive. They may be autocratic and that type of style is known for creating defensive behaviour in employees. It has an impact on motivation and unhappiness. Staff tend to walk on egg shells to avoid an individual manager’s anger or their disapproval.

5. This can create heated debate, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  The tendency to override the opinion of others means the Leader decides something they feel is correct. It may be correct, but without enough input they can undervalue what their peers offer.This devalues the roles those members hold. It then creates team meetings where people passively take part to avoid debate. Or,it creates the tendency to agree in the room and say something different outside of the room. This lack of trust  is regarded as one of the five dysfunctions Patrick Lencioni identified in his work. He wrote about it in the ‘The 5 Dysfunctions of a team’.

6. The biggest advantage to high EI is the ability to listen rather than do all the talking. Enthusiastic and passionate leaders are often very driven by their own viewpoint. They can proffer that at the detriment of listening to the opinion of the person they are talking to. I have spotted this on many occasions. I have personally experienced the need to keep my points very short so as to maintain the attention of the person I’m talking to.

Having said that, it’s never very easy if you are a driven individual, to listen to someone who takes a long time to get to the point. We all have personal preferences in our communication style. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to prefer direct, factual, or evidence-based delivery. That might be the best way to get a good response from a driven, busy, leader.

7. I have also seen many leaders who may seem inpatient still make exceptionally good decisions when it comes to people. They have empathy for the situation that is being explored. They may have personal experience of the depth of stress. Or, they understand it makes common sense to problem solve the situation, and it reduces the cost on their bottom line. If a team member doesn’t go off sick, take time out for stress, or suffer, this is a positive thing for the individual, the leader, and the business.

In turn, team members and employees experience a sense that the culture of the business cares about their feelings. That it cares about their happiness and therefore their motivation. Often this type of leader invests in soft skills training and workshops, and which cover topics of interest to in their personal lives rather than just in their work.

Recommendations to Improve EI:

There are a number of recommendations for how to improve EI and you can find these here:

Goleman’s book itself is available on the Internet now in pod casts and short videos on YouTube.

Something which has given me food for thought in writing this blog, is an observation I have made about the different types of intelligence. I feel I have seen evidence of another type I cannot quite find listed here. It has elements of being street smart, characteristics of EI and situational Intelligence. Successful people who are not always high in IQ and who are not high in EI, can still do exceptionally well. This seems to be because they can walk into almost any situation in life and helicopter above. They have an almost uncanny ability to work out how that system or process could be improved. This includes walking into a doctor’s surgery and planning how it could be organised better. They can be in an hotel and know how it could be better managed. Or, visit an airport and be certain how that could run better.  I have identified six different features of this form of intelligence. I’ve called it ‘Systems Intelligence’ for now, and it will become the subject of my next blog.

Meanwhile, if you have any comments on this blog or any others, do let me know and I will happily respond.

Best wishes,