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The Significance of Emotional Intelligence

(The following article was first published in Metro India, an English daily newspaper from Hyderabad, on March 24, 2014, and is being reproduced here with their kind permission)

These days there is talk of emotional intelligence being more important for success in life than mere IQ. In fact, some studies show that among the ingredients for success, IQ counts for only 10–25%. Also, there is considerable body of evidence that a person’s ability to perceive, identify and manage emotions allows him to develop the kinds of social and emotional competencies that are important for success in almost any job. Such competencies are becoming more important nowadays because of the greater burdens being placed on one’s cognitive and emotional resources by today’s work environment.
The Harvard Business Review called emotional intelligence as “a ground-breaking, paradigm-shattering idea”. Emotional intelligence is a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to identify and evaluate them, and use this information to guide one’s thinking and action. Although the concept of emotional intelligence has been around for some time now, it got popularized only with the publication of Daniel Goleman’s book “Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ” in 1995.
Goleman got acquainted with the concept in 1990. He was then working as a science reporter for The New York Times and happened to read a research article on it by two psychologists, John Mayer and Peter Salovey. He then brought together the various strands of research on it in fields like social psychology, personality development, and neuropsychology in writing his book on it.
According to Goleman, there are five dimensions to emotional intelligence: (1) Self-awareness – this is the ability to know one’s emotions, feelings, strengths, weaknesses, values, drives and goals along with recognition of their impact on others, (2) Self-regulation – this is the ability to control and regulate emotions and impulses in response to changing circumstances, (3) Motivation – this is the ability to delay gratification in pursuit of goals, (4) Empathy – this is the ability to understand and identify with the wants, needs, and viewpoints of others around you, and (5) Social skills – these are skills like being good team player, motivating and helping others, building and maintaining relationships, communicating well with others and managing disputes diplomatically.
Goleman writes on his blog that he receives email queries on emotional intelligence from a wide variety of individuals – from doctoral students and school teachers to business consultants and religious scholars. Companies worldwide are using the concept of emotional intelligence in hiring, promoting, and developing their employees. For example, Johnson and Johnson found that in their divisions worldwide the more successful executives had stronger emotional intelligence competencies than their less-promising colleagues.
The concept has been adopted by educators, who have introduced it in the form of “social and emotional learning (SEL)” programs in several countries. UNESCO got into the act by recommending SEL programs to the ministries of education in 140 countries. SEL programs have been proven to improve grades and test results, decrease bullying and violence, promote discipline, and decrease drug abuse among schoolchildren.
So, what can you do to develop your emotional intelligence? Here are a few tips:
·         Become more self-aware – become aware of your bodily and mental reactions; maintain a journal to record your feelings; practice mindfulness techniques and meditation.
·         Express your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs – do not bottle up your feelings and emotions; express them in a calm and diplomatic manner to the concerned people in the appropriate circumstances.
·         Discover your inner passions and follow them, either as your profession or as your hobby.
·         Know your strengths and weaknesses.
·         Put yourself in others’ shoes – listen to others carefully and understand their viewpoints and concerns; pay attention to body language and nonverbal communication.
·         Manage your own impulses – try analysis, motivational self-talk and distraction to ward off an impulse.
·         Do not be rigid – know that you have to make compromises along the way, so try to be flexible in your attitude.
·         Be humble and use humour to deal with challenging situations.