emotional intelligence (EI)

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the area of cognitive ability involving traits and social skills that facilitate interpersonal behavior. Intelligence can be broadly defined as the capacity for goal-oriented adaptive behavior; emotional intelligence focuses on the aspects of intelligence that govern self-knowledge and social adaptation.

The term first appeared in 1985, in Wayne Payne's doctoral thesis, A study of emotion: Developing emotional intelligence. Payne's thesis centered on the idea that society's historical repression of emotion is the source of wide-scale problems such as addiction, depression, illness, religious conflict, violence and war. Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and behavioral science journalist, later popularized the term and developed related concepts in his influential book, Emotional Intelligence (1995). In Working with Emotional Intelligence (1998), Goleman explored the function of EI on the job. According to Goleman, emotional intelligence is the largest single predictor of success in the workplace.

Goleman and others have developed the concept of a testable EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) counterpart to the IQ (intelligence quotient). In contrast to the focus on academically-oriented skills, such as mathematical ability, that are evaluated in an IQ test, an EQ test focuses more on the individual's capacity to deal effectively with others. To that end, it evaluates traits and abilities such as self-awareness and empathy, which are sometimes referred to as soft skills.

Goleman describes emotional intelligence as "managing feelings so that they are expressed appropriately and effectively, enabling people to work together smoothly toward their common goals." According to Goleman, the four major skills that make up emotional intelligence are:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Management.

Although Goleman's theories have been influential, they have not gone without criticism. Several critics have claimed, among other things, that Goleman's research was not sufficiently rigorous. Most critics agree that the concept of emotional intelligence is a valid one but that much more work in the area would be required to give scientific weight to the associated theories.

This was first published in November 2010

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