Emotional intelligence

“Emotional intelligence” is a term introduced in 1990 by John D. Mayer (University of New Hampshire) and Peter Salovey (Yale University). It describes the ability to (correctly) perceive, understand and influence your own feelings and those of others. The concept of emotional intelligence is based on the theory of multiple intelligences by Howard Gardner, whose key ideas had already been described by Edward Lee Thorndike and David Wechsler as “social intelligence”.

This was already illustrated in 1920 by Thorndike with an example, where the best ‘professional’ mechanic will fail as a foreman if he lacks in social intelligence. [1] As such, the subject of “emotional intelligence” contributes to discussing the question of success in life and career. In particular, the American journalist Daniel Goleman contributed to making it popular with his book >EQ. Emotional Intelligence< (1995).” [2]

wi0l0324-ii-klAnyone wanting to be successful in life must be able to handle their feelings cleverly and master the “emotional alphabet”. “EQ instead of IQ” is the new catchphrase for success with which Daniel Goleman strikes a cord: “What use is a high IQ if you are an emotional wreck?” In 1995, his international best-seller “Emotional Intelligence” made the concept acceptable and created the academic principles for a subject that affects us all: The reunification of heart and understanding. His message: Without an intact emotional life, the best intellect is no good as both systems, the emotional and the rational, are in constant, highly complex interaction, whose research offers new exciting perspectives for us all.

Emotional intelligence covers five criteria: [3]

  • Recognising your own emotions
  • The ability to handle emotions
  • The ability to turn emotions into action and use them for a goal
  • Empathy and understanding for the emotions of others (empathy = sympathy)
  • Social skill, i.e. the ability to handle the emotions of others

Recognising your own emotions

Emotionally intelligent people are able to perceive, identify and accurately name their emotions, feelings and sensations. They do not feel “vaguely good” or “somehow bad”. No, they are able to perceive themselves as well sophisticated. This means emotionally intelligent people stand out for being able to get right to the heart of those sensations they perceive and feel: Joy, happiness, harmony, love, respect, warm-heartedness, comfort, inspiration etc.
Identification may be easy with apparently “positively” harboured feelings. With more unpleasantly harboured feelings, it may appear challenging to find an exact description as the intention to look and identify is initially an important requirement. The important thing here is that I do not necessarily need to find a feeling “good”, but I can still perceive and recognise it.

What is required “here” and “now”?

Building on this, emotionally intelligent people may handle the perceived/recognised emotions in a sensible manner. Love, joy and happiness appear to be easier to handle by most of us. It may seem challenging to meaningfully shape your actions in a state of sensory overload in the face of anger, hatred, rage, massive bias, sadness, doubt, and anguish. It is often the case that attraction-reaction mechanisms pass in the blink of an eye and the milli-leap second between attraction and reaction seems too short to pause. Emotions appear too large to be able to maintain distance and, as such, room to manoeuvre, for example the overbearing boss with the potentially quick-tempered leadership style triggering trepidation.

The good news is the milli-leap second, even if it may still seem so tiny or brief to us. It is that brief moment between attraction and reaction. Emotionally intelligent people manage to exploit this moment as an opportunity and have their ‘free’ will determined about their own behaviour. You are able to ask a decisive question in good time before the flight reaction or, as may apply, emotional outburst kicks in: “What is required here and now?” The very first reaction to this question is valuable. This first impulsive reaction is ‘intuitive’ – it is always life-affirming, diplomatic, reconciliatory, emotionally intelligent and even brilliant – any further reaction stems more so from attraction-reaction templates triggered by a certain attraction and driven by emotion. Anyone ‘missing’ the ‘first’ reaction ideally asks themselves again here and now: “What is required here and now?”, and is followed up by putting a brave face on the situation. “Intuition is intelligence with excessive speed.”[4]

Reaching objectives in cooperation with your environment

Objectives are the ‘corner posts’ of emotional intelligence. Emotionally intelligent people have the ability to turn emotion into fact, in other words be of benefit. They manage to conscientiously put their emotions to use for worthwhile objectives that match their personality. Although appearing challenging or impossible with unpleasantly harboured emotions, this is not the case. It is important to create a certain distance with unpleasantly harboured feelings. It is also important to pause and stay away as far as possible from sensory overload. Different ‘techniques’ can help with this. Emotionally intelligent people are always good at reaching their objectives, but by cooperating and with regard for their environment and “not at any cost”. The “environment” may be other people, and also (depending on the context), your own body or health.

Empathy = sympathy

Emotionally intelligent people have empathy. They not only understand their own emotions, but also those of others. In this respect, empathy is also called sympathy. It is also the case that anyone able to manage and ‘lead’ (internal leadership) themselves well is also able to lead others (“eternal leadership”).

Social skills

We can now talk about someone’s “social skills” following on from the first four criteria of emotional intelligence. Emotionally intelligent people are not only able to deal well, positively and supportively with their emotions and feelings, but also with the emotions of others in the context of ‘socially competent’ relationships. And the better we shape the quality of our relationships, the better our quality of life.

Training emotionaler Intelligenz und Führungskräfte Coaching
Peter Mertingk in D-64546 Mörfelden-Walldorf (Flughafen Frankfurt 10 km)
Telefon: +49 (0)6105 999677

eMail: dialog(at)petermertingk.de



[1] D. G. Myers: Psychology. New York 2010

[2] http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotionale_Intelligenz

[3] Daniel Goleman: Emotional intelligence

[4] Italian saying


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