Dealing with emotions

To be successful in the professional fields, it is not merely enough to be intelligent, smart and competent at the work place; an ability to be able to understand, deal and manage emotions has become equally important.


The term 'emotional intelligence' shot to prominence in the public consciousness with Daniel Goleman's book, Emotional Intelligence in 1995. But this term was actually first used in 1985, when a graduate student in a liberal arts college in the US wrote a doctoral dissertation and used this term. Then in 1990, two university professors in the US, John Mayer and Peter Salovey published two journal articles on emotional intelligence for the academic circle. They were trying to develop a scientific tool to measure people's ability in the area of emotions - some people are good at identifying their own emotions and even others' feelings, while some others are blunt when it comes to emotions, either their own or that of others'.


So, what is emotional intelligence?


Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage, access and make use of our feelings. Mayer and Salovey define emotional intelligence by saying that it is "a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own and others' emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one's thinking and actions". According to Salovey & Mayer (1990), EI involves abilities that may be categorized into five domains:


Self-awareness: Observing yourself and recognizing a feeling as it happens.


Managing emotions: Handling feelings so that they are appropriate; realizing what is behind a feeling; finding ways to handle fears and anxieties, anger, and sadness.


Motivating oneself: Channeling emotions in the service of a goal; emotional self- control; delaying gratification and stifling impulses.


Empathy: Sensitivity to others feelings and concerns and taking their perspective; appreciating the differences in how people feel about things.


Handling relationships: Managing emotions in others; social competence and social skills.


Why is emotional intelligence important?


Societal interaction and gregariousness is what makes us humans, but many of us do not know how to deal with emotions be it our own or that of others. Knowing, managing and dealing with emotions has become increasingly important to lead a balanced and happy life. Emotional intelligence has its roots in the concept of "social intelligence", first defined by E L Thorndike in 1920. Thorndike defined social intelligence as "the ability to understand and manage men and women, boys and girls - to act wisely in human relations."


Now researchers are trying to investigate dimensions of emotional intelligence (EI) by measuring related concepts, such as social skills, interpersonal competence, psychological maturity and emotional awareness. Social scientists are now beginning to uncover the relationship of EI to other phenomenon, like leadership, group performance, individual performance, interpersonal skills, social exchange, managing change and conducting performance evaluations. According to Goleman, "Emotional intelligence, the skills that help people harmonize, should become increasingly valued as a workplace asset in the years to come."


Goleman's Emotional Intelligence


Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman was on The New York Times bestseller list for a year-and-a-half, with more than 5,000,000 copies in print worldwide. It has been a best seller throughout Europe, Asia and Latin America and was translated into nearly 30 languages.


In this book Goleman argues that human competencies like self-awareness, self-discipline, persistence and empathy are of greater consequence than IQ in much of life, that we ignore the decline in these competencies at our peril, and that children can-and should-be taught these abilities.


In the book, he defines EI in terms of self-awareness, altruism, personal motivation, empathy, and the ability to love and be loved by friends and others. He says that people with high emotional intelligence are the ones who succeed in work as well as play, building flourishing careers and lasting, meaningful relationships. But EI is not something pre-defined at birth, it is something that can be taught and learned; Goleman then outlines how adults as well as parents and teachers can inculcate the ability to manage emotions in young children.


Goleman has since written several books including Working with Emotional Intelligence; Emotionally Intelligent Workplace; Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence.