You have probably wondered how certain people manage to have a blooming professional and personal life. It seems that they always know what to say and what to do in various occasions and they seem unfamiliar with the word `stress`. In case that you are lucky enough to recognize yourself in this description – congratulations, your EI (emotional intelligence) is definitely above average! But what does `emotional intelligence` mean? And isn`t it an oxymoron, regarding that most people consider intelligence and emotions to be in opposition to each other? Well, if we say that individuals with higher EI make approximately 29.000$ per year more than people with EI level below average (Schmidt, 2012), you will realize why it is definitely worth to learn more on the subject.
WHAT IS SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE?
Social intelligence represents our ability to understand psychological functioning of others as well as our own (Thorndike & Stein, 1937; Gardner, 1983). In other words, just like we have verbal, numerical or spatial abilities, we are also given a social ability that allows us to create and keep up good relationships with others and to get to know ourselves more profoundly. Peter Salovey and John Mayer (1990) defined emotional intelligence as a subset of social intelligence, responsible for recognizing feelings and emotions of others as well as our own and acting in accordance with them. It means that it’s not only important how we perceive feelings of others, but also whether our decisions and actions are compatible with it. EQ is a popular abbreviation for labelling Emotional Intelligence, though actually it is not the same.
According to Bar-On`s combined model of emotional — social intelligence (2006), EI is extremely important in dealing with stress effectively. By using our EI potential we can cope with different demands of our daily lives in a way that produces optimal results.
WHY IS EI SO IMPORTANT IN OUR LIVES?
Various aspects of our lives depend on EI: work performance, emotional relationships (with friends or significant others) and our health. Statistics show that 90% of top performers have high EI (Schmidt, 2012); EI explains 28% of total factors underlying marital happiness (Eslami, Hasanzadeh, & Jamshidi, 2014) and 36% of those affecting our overall mental health (Shabani, Hassan, Ahmad, & Baba, 2010).
The famous Marshmallow experiment of Walter Mischel (1972) is the best example of how emotional intelligence impacts our lives in a long-term way. Every child in a laboratory group got a marshmallow along with the instruction: if they did not eat their marshmallow immediately, they wouldl be rewarded with another one sometime later. 14 years later results indicated higher levels of self-empowerment, stress coping and self-esteem within the group of children who were able to resist the temptation, delay gratification and wait for the second marshmallow. The key was in their successful emotional management: these children were able to manage their emotions and drives because they were more focused on long-term goals than on getting short-term gratification. Also, they were able to synchronize their actions with their goals. In case of emotionally intelligent people there is no discrepancy between thoughts, feelings and behavior: all three work together in order to achieve optimal results.
WHO IS AN EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT PERSON?
Even if you have no particular knowledge about psychology and EI, you will notice that some people are more socially competent than others.
Emotionally intelligent people are deeply emphatic, willing not only to hear the problems of others, but actually to listen and involve themselves in resolving them. They have a capacity for genuine compassion, avoiding any kind of affectation or false sympathy. Still individuals with high EI do not allow themselves to become a target for other people`s frustrations. Contrary the same way as they are considerate and thoughtful in relation to other people`s needs and struggles, they are introspective about their own desires and are fully aware of their own limits and boundaries, which they strongly protect. Their actions are based on these insights, so they use their social capacities to empower close others as well as themselves. Finally, they do not pretend that `every person is an island`. They understand that human nature is social and respect our desire for interaction which fulfills our social needs that are as important as any of our other basic needs.
Conclusion: each and every one of us has a potential to develop those admired `people skills`. What is important is to nurture your relationships with close others and to never give up on exploring your own feelings and needs.
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By Marina Musatova, Psy.D. and Katarina Mijatovic, MS.
Bar-On, R. (2006). The Bar-On model of emotional-social intelligence (ESI). Psicothema, 18, supl., 13-25. .
Eslami, A., Hasanzadeh, A., & Jamshidi, F. (2014). The relationship between emotional intelligence health and marital satisfaction: A comparative study. Journal of Education and Health Promotion, 3, p.24.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of Mind. NY: Basic Books.
Mayer, John D., Salovey, P., Caruso, David R. (2008), Emotional Intelligence. New Ability or Eclectic Traits? American Psychologist Vol. 63, No. 6, 503–517.
Mischel, W., Ebbesen, E. B., & Raskoff Zeiss, A. (1972). Cognitive and attentional mechanisms in delay of gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 21 (2), 204–218.
Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 9, 185-211.
Schmidt, M. (2012). Emotional intelligence (EQ) stats. Retrieved from: link
Shabani, J., Hassan, S., Ahmad, A., & Baba, M. (2010). Exploring the Relationship of Emotional Intelligence with Mental Health among Early Adolescents. International Journal of Psychological Studies, 2, 2, 209-216.
Thorndike, R., & Stein, S. (1937). An Evaluation of the Attempts to Measure Social Intelligence. Psychological Bulletin, 34, 275-284.