Academic Definition and History of Emotional Intelligence

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In 1985 Wayne Leon Payne, then a graduate student at an alternative liberal arts college in the USA, wrote a doctoral dissertation which included the term "emotional intelligence" in the title. This seems to be the first academic use of the term "emotional intelligence." In next five years, no one else seems to have used the term "emotional intelligence" in any academic papers.

Then in 1990 the work of two American university professors, John Mayer and Peter Salovey, was published in two academic journal articles. Mayer, (U. of New Hampshire), and Salovey (Yale), were trying to develop a way of scientifically measuring the difference between people's ability in the area of emotions. They found that some people were better than others at things like identifying their own feelings, identifying the feelings of others, and solving problems involving emotional issues. The title of one of these papers was titled "Emotional Intelligence".

Since 1990 these professors have developed two tests to attempt to measure what they are calling our "emotional intelligence." Because nearly all of their writing has been done in the academic community, their names and their actual research findings are not widely known.

Instead, the person most commonly associated with the term emotional intelligence is actually a New York writer and consultant named Daniel Goleman. In 1995 Goleman's book came out under the title "Emotional Intelligence." The book made it to the cover of Time Magazine in the USA and Goleman began appearing on American television shows such as Oprah Winfrey and Phil Donahue. He also began a speaking tour to promote the book and the book became an international best seller. It remained on the New York Times best-seller list for approximately one year.

In the book he collected, and often dramatized, a lot of information on the brain, emotions, and behavior. On the Daniel Goleman page you can see notes and criticisms of the book. One thing Goleman has been criticized for is misrepresenting what Salovey and Mayer meant by the term "emotional intelligence". Annie Paul says Goleman "distorted their model in disturbing ways." John Mayer has been quoted as saying "Goleman has broadened the definition of emotional intelligence to such an extent that it no longer has any scientific meaning or utility and is no longer a clear predictor of outcome.

Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist, developed a framework of five elements that define emotional intelligence:

Self-Awareness: People with high emotional intelligence are usually very self-aware. They understand their emotions, and because of this, they don't let their feelings rule them. They're confident - because they trust their intuition and don't let their emotions get out of control.

They're also willing to take an honest look at themselves. They know their strengths and weaknesses, and they work on these areas so they can perform better. Many people believe that this self-awareness is the most important part of emotional intelligence.

Self-Regulation: This is the ability to control emotions and impulses. People who self-regulate typically don't allow themselves to become too angry or jealous, and they don't make impulsive, careless decisions. They think before they act. Characteristics of self-regulation are thoughtfulness, comfort with change, integrity, and the ability to say no.

Motivation: People with a high degree of emotional intelligence are usually motivated. They're willing to defer immediate results for long-term success. They're highly productive, love a challenge, and are very effective in whatever they do.

Empathy: This is perhaps the second-most important element of emotional intelligence. Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around you. People with empathy are good at recognizing the feelings of others, even when those feelings may not be obvious. As a result, empathetic people are usually excellent at managing relationships, listening, and relating to others. They avoid stereotyping and judging too quickly, and they live their lives in a very open, honest way.

Social Skills: It's usually easy to talk to and like people with good social skills, another sign of high emotional intelligence. Those with strong social skills are typically team players. Rather than focus on their own success first, they help others develop and shine. They can manage disputes, are excellent communicators, and are masters at building and maintaining relationships.

Need of emotional intelligence

It suggests that the basis for emotional intelligence is self awareness. This deals with how people perceive, appraise and express their own emotions. And how they use emotions to facilitate and prioritise thinking, employing the emotions to aid in judgement (using the information that emotions provide). In the workshop, we looked at labelling and allocating their emotions to different parts of their bodies, for example someone said they got 'butterflies in their stomach' before they did a presentation.

Other common emotions which have become associated with parts of the body include a heaviness in the chest, a lump in the throat and a weight on the shoulders. Being able to distinguish between these many different emotions and feelings is a prerequisite for the other areas of EI.

The second requirement is self management which is about how people control their emotions rather than being at their whim - using feelings as a 'resource'. And we did a short exercise using NLP's resource anchoring to show how participants could use an emotional state they had experience in one context and apply it in another where it would be more useful than the state they normally experienced here. I think I managed to convince them that this is a 'tool' not a 'trick', and like any other tools isn't intrinsically good or bad but can be useful.

The third is social awareness - being tuned into others' emotions, and the organisational climate. They key here is about being able to read other people and getting some external validation of this ability to be able to fine tune it. We used a couple of great tests which are freely available in the internet: Simon Baron Cohen's Reading the Mind in the Eyes quiz, and Paul Ekman's Subtle Expression Training Tool and Micro Expression Training Tool.

Fourth comes social skills, things like 'visionary leadership, influence, developing others, communication, change catalysis, conflict management, building bonds, teamwork and collaboration.

But actually unless people have good self awareness, self management and social awareness, these social skills are unlikely to have much impact. Perhaps the reason CEOs discount social skills is that they don't see them improving - and perhaps the reason for this is that organisations have put too much focus on social skills themselves, and not enough on the other underpinning abilities.

EQ at work

Bosses and leaders, in particular, need high EQ because they represent the organization to the public, they interact with the highest number of people within and outside the organization and they set the tone for employee morale, says Goleman. Leaders with empathy are able to understand their employees? needs and provide them with constructive feedback, he says.

Different jobs also call for different types of emotional intelligence, Goleman says. For example, success in sales requires the empathic ability to gauge a customer?s mood and the interpersonal skill to decide when to pitch a product and when to keep quiet. By comparison, success in painting or professional tennis requires a more individual form of self-discipline and motivation.

And there are gender differences in emotional intelligence as well, says Stein. After administering EQ assessments to 4,500 men and 3,200 women, his organization found that women score higher than men on measures of empathy and social responsibility, but men outperform women on stress tolerance and self-confidence measures. In other words, says Stein, women and men are equally as intelligent emotionally, but they?re strong in different areas.

Importance of Emotional Intelligence

Whether we like it or not, our emotions are part of what makes us human and they follow and influence us wherever we go - and that means they follow us to work. Effective management of emotional intelligence is a strong predictor of success in both our personal life and in the office. Research shows that the measure of one's emotional intelligence, often referred to as emotional quotient (EQ), is twice as important as traditional leadership skills for job performance in management positions.

Those with high emotional intelligence are much more likely to deliver superior performance as compared to the average players, regardless of industry. It is, perhaps, somewhat intuitive to understand that competencies in EI matter for salespeople who depend on their ability to relate with and successfully connect and influence with others, but interestingly the data for scientists and similar technical professions also points to EI as necessary for excellent performance - even more so than analytical thinking. Goleman points out that the more complex the job, the more EI matters. In complex roles, having a high level of analytical and technical skills are just the threshold requirement for people to perform competently, meaning these skills are simply the entry point. A deficiency of EI hinders the use of whatever threshold skills a person may have. Goleman adds, "In short, out-of-control emotions can make smart people stupid."

Emotional intelligence impacts many areas under the umbrella of organizational effectiveness, such as in the areas of retention and leadership. Turnover rates can be very costly to organizations and can deeply affect the bottom line. The upside is that employees are more likely to stay with bosses who manage emotional intelligence. In other words, people don't leave jobs - they leave managers. People with good bosses are four times less likely to leave than are those with poor bosses. EI is very important in leadership roles, as leaders need everyone to do their jobs as effectively as possible and this requires a high degree of interpersonal effectiveness. Studies show that high EQ differentiates average from superior performers, which can be critical for leadership positions.

The good news is, unlike IQ, research studies prove that emotional intelligence skills can be taught and developed over time. "Instead of being stuck with the hand they'd been dealt, people can take steps to enhance their emotional intelligence and make themselves more effective in their work and personal lives." More good news is that most people's EI increases with age and maturity. For anyone who wants to further understand their emotional intelligence, EQ can be measured by a variety of assessments and development plans can be created to effectively help improve emotional intelligence and results.

How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

The good news is that emotional intelligence CAN be taught and developed. Many books and tests are available to help you determine your current EI, and identify where you may need to do some work. You can also use these tips:

Observe how you react to people. Do you rush to judgment before you know all of the facts? Do you stereotype? Look honestly at how you think and interact with other people. Try to put yourself in their place, and be more open and accepting of their perspectives and needs.

Look at your work environment. Do you seek attention for your accomplishments? Humility can be a wonderful quality, and it doesn't mean that you're shy or lack self-confidence. When you practice humility, you say that you know what you did, and you can be quietly confident about it. Give others a chance to shine - put the focus on them, and don't worry too much about getting praise for yourself.

Do a self-evaluation. What are your weaknesses? Are you willing to accept that you're not perfect and that you could work on some areas to make yourself a better person? Have the courage to look at yourself honestly - it can change your life.

Examine how you react to stressful situations. Do you become upset every time there's a delay or something doesn't happen the way you want? Do you blame others or become angry at them, even when it's not their fault? The ability to stay calm and in control in difficult situations is highly valued - in the business world and outside it. Keep your emotions under control when things go wrong.

Take responsibility for your actions. If you hurt someone's feelings, apologize directly - don't ignore what you did or avoid the person. People are usually more willing to forgive and forget if you make an honest attempt to make things right.

Examine how your actions will affect others - before you take those actions. If your decision will impact others, put yourself in their place. How will they feel if you do this? Would you want that experience? If you must take the action, how can you help others deal with the effects


The common denominator that all businesses share is people, and helping people work together better is an intuitively easy concept to understand. Since organizations are complex systems, emotional intelligence is not going to be the single intervention to solve all problems. That being said, those companies that make emotional intelligence a priority and cascade this down to the group and individual level will have a strategic advantage over those companies who ignore the human factor.

A good first step for a company interested in exploring emotional intelligence further may be to commit to creating and sustaining an atmosphere that values emotional intelligence, and to learning more about defining an emotionally healthy organization. Another positive step is to foster truth telling by explicitly and implicitly rewarding authentic communication, and conversely by making it inappropriate for others who are not authentic and candid. Further, you may consider increasing your group's self-awareness by a variety of assessment options. These could include a current state assessment involving leadership, stakeholder and team members, a measurement of morale using the Organization Culture Surveyâ„¢, or an assessment of individual emotional intelligence