Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to feel others’ emotions as well as recognize our own emotions and understand their effects on our lives. As technology evolves and tasks become more automated, the importance of emotions is gaining more attention. Not only does it serve as a way to connect with other people, but it can also be a tool to become more successful in our personal and professional lives.
Understanding our emotions and the emotions of others can give us a great advantage over people with low emotional intelligence, as it has been proved that high EI gets along better with others and are more likely to be successful.
You have probably heard about IQ before, Intelligence Quotient. This is a score that derives from standard tests designed to assess intelligence but is solely focused on logical intelligence. As we now know, there are multiple intelligences that include spatial, linguistics, logical-mathematical, Bodily-kinesthetic, and even musical, so it’s fair to say that IQ tests by themselves are not enough to determine a person’s performance.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
As stated before, EI is the ability to recognize feelings and motivations in oneself and others. Unlike IQ, EI skills can be learned and improved, which is great news given the important role emotions play in mental and physical health, well being, and professional performance. Since 1997 studies have suggested that people with higher EI performed better in life than those with low EI.
A good way to know whether you have developed skills related to emotional intelligence is to ask yourself if you recognize the emotions you’re feeling right now. Are you able to understand that emotion can motivate yourself to get a job done? Are you able to understand the emotions of others and know how to respond to them?
Being able to answer these questions positively means that you have developed some level of emotional intelligence and have more control over your behavioral traits than other people. The benefits of developing these skills go from personal happiness and feelings of fulfillment to an elevated professional success.
The term has been criticized many times, but it has also been widely accepted by individuals and different organizations alike. Before getting into why it is important, we should understand a bit of its short history.
History of Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is a relatively new term. Although Howard Gardner introduced the idea of multiple intelligences in 1983, he did not use the term EI but instead focused on both “Interpersonal” and “Intrapersonal” intelligences which are defined as the capacity to understand feelings, fears, and motivations of other people and ourselves. The term Emotional Intelligence was then coined by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer in 1990, they described it as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action”.
Eventually, Salovey and Mayer’s work led Daniel Goleman to publish the book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.” in 1995, which is when the term was popularized. Researchers were becoming concerned about how little cognitive intelligence tests told us about business success and performance in other areas of life.
In recent years, EI tests have not been able to replace IQ tests. To date, tests measuring EI have not replaced IQ tests as a standard metric of intelligence. Emotional Intelligence has also received criticism on its role in leadership and business success.
Emotional Intelligence and Job Performance
More organizations are recognizing the value of employees with skills to cope with change. In the working environment, EI is highly important in both the individual level as well as a group level as it’s a skill that helps entire teams manage conflicts and cope with certain situations that might arise.
Developing these skills helps you stay calm and think logically as well as establishing relationships with co-workers and partners. In fact, you’ll notice that some of the best senior executives tend to manage employees in a way that reflects their EI level. This undeniable relationship is what helps them recognize stress in themselves and the employees, thus creating opportunities to increase job performance.
Effects in Physical Health
Being able to recognize and manage emotions not only leads to better performance in social environments and psychological benefits, in fact, but it’s also thanks to its psychological benefits that emotional intelligence can have an impact on our health.
Prolonged periods of stress, depression, and other conditions will deteriorate health in the long run, making us more susceptible to certain diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. Being able to assess emotions will make it much easier to deal with stressful situations in a much effective manner, thus reducing its effects on our health and performance.
Besides serving as a tool to manage people and to help us navigate the complexities of social interactions, understanding emotions and being able to look at them objectively is of great importance in our decision making process. If we’re not able to do so, we are bound to let complex emotions guide us and push us to make decisions that can harm us in the long run.
Preventing emotional biases and recognizing when to disregard superfluous emotions allows us to make more rational decisions, which is a trait that something holds obvious benefits both in our personal as well as our professional lives.
So, Is Emotional Intelligence Important?
Definitely. Being able to understand emotions and keep them in control has some undeniable benefits that ultimately improve our overall lives in the short and long terms. Superior emotional intelligence can be even more important than IQ in certain situations, especially those that involve dealing with groups of people or stress-inducing situations.
Handling frustration, stress and even being able to control the positive emotions will not only make you feel more comfortable with yourself and around others, but it has a direct impact on how you perform in the different areas of your life.