EI – Emotional Intelligence

Written by: Alan Rodway - Your Coach Online

Emotional intelligence (EI) is an important aspect in productive interactions with other people, an important part of leadership and crucial to overall success for organisations.  Below is a summary of researched content to help better understand, develop and use EI.

  • “EI is the capability of individuals to recognize their own and other people’s emotions, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s)”.   Wikipedia
  • “EI is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people”.  Psychology Today
  • “Successful intelligence also involves having EI … which is being able to read people’s feelings and your own.  Having greater emotional intelligence can help you in almost any interpersonal situation where it’s important to read others and plan your actions accordingly”.   Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph. D

Therefore, EI is the way you perceive, understand, express, and manage emotions.

Susan Krauss Whitbourne outlines the following test’ to help measure EI, covering 4 dimensions.  Rate yourself on a 7 point scale, with 7 being most like you and 1 being least like you.  Also get someone who knows you well to rate you.

Understand and express your own emotions.  People with this ability know how they’re feeling before other people do.

  1. I have a good sense of why I have certain feelings most of the time.
  2. I have a good understanding of my own emotions.
  3. I really understand what I feel.
  4. I always know whether or not I am happy.

Perceive and understand the emotions of others around youThis ability means that you are sensitive to how others are feeling.

  1. I always know my friends’ emotions from their behaviour.
  2. I am a good observer of others’ emotions.
  3. I am sensitive to the feelings and emotions of others.
  4. I have a good understanding of the emotions of people around me.

Regulate your own emotion. Regulating your emotions means that you are able to keep them under control, especially when you’re feeling distressed.

  1. I always set goals for myself and then try my best to achieve them.
  2. I always tell myself I am a competent person.
  3. I am a self-motivated person.
  4. I would always encourage myself to try my best.

Use emotion to maximize performance. Directing your emotions toward constructive activities allows you to use them to use them to optimal advantage.

  1. I am able to control my temper and handle difficulties rationally.
  2. I am quite capable of controlling my own emotions.
  3. I can always calm down quickly when I am very angry.
  4. I have good control of my own emotions.

Reflect on your scores in terms of what they tell you about of your EI strengths and weaknesses.

Professor Jose Mestre & Associate Professor Kimberly Barchard suggest that emotional intelligence can be checked on four fronts:

  1. You think about your reactions:  causing the difference between a good and bad reaction.
  2. You see situations as a challenge:  by recognizing negative emotions in yourself and then focusing on the positives.
  3. You can modify your emotions:  to cause better behavioural reactions.
  4. You can put yourself in other people’s shoes:  allowing higher empathy and sympathy.

Maetrix (maetrix.com.au) suggests that EI has four components:


Self-awareness is comprised of three competencies:

  1. emotional self-awareness, where you are able to read and understand your emotions as well as recognise their impact on work performance and relationships;
  2. accurate self-assessment, where you are able to give a realistic evaluation of your strengths and limitations;
  3. self-confidence, where you have a positive and strong sense of one’s self-worth.


Self-management is comprised of five competencies:

  1. self-control, which is keeping disruptive emotions and impulses under control;
  2. transparency, which is maintaining standards of honesty and integrity, managing yourself and responsibilities;
  3. adaptability, which is the flexibility in adapting to changing situations and overcoming obstacles;
  4. achievement orientation, which is the guiding drive to meet an internal standard of excellence;
  5. an initiative, which is the readiness to seize opportunities and act.

Social Awareness:

Social awareness is comprised of three competencies:

  1. empathy, which is understanding others and taking an active interest in their concerns;
  2. organisational awareness, which is the ability to read the currents of organisational life, build decision networks and navigate politics;
  3. service orientation, which is recognising and meeting customers needs.

Relationship Management:

The social cluster of relationship management is comprised of seven competencies:

  1. visionary leadership, which is inspiring and guiding groups and individuals;
  2. developing others, which is the propensity to strengthen and support the abilities of others through feedback and guidance;
  3. influence, which is the ability to exercise a wide range of persuasive strategies with integrity, and also includes listening and sending clear, convincing and well-tuned messages;
  4. change catalyst, which is the proficiency in initiating new ideas and leading people in a new direction;
  5. conflict management, which is resolving disagreements and collaboratively developing resolutions;
  6. building bonds, which is building and maintaining relationships with others;
  7. teamwork and collaboration, which is the promotion of cooperation and building of teams.

The diagram below is a powerful expression of the four components as well as surrounding aspects:

PERSONAL COMPETENCESelf AwarenessSelf Management
SOCIAL COMPETENCESocial AwarenessRelationship Management

The Emotionally Intelligent Organisation:

An organisation with a high number of emotionally intelligent leaders, managers and critical professionals stands to be at the forefront of organisational practice and performance and is more likely to be an employer of choice.  Research also supports the view that competence in EI accounts for over 90% of the difference between ineffective leaders and effective leadership performance.  Effective leadership improves business performance and provides organisations with a competitive advantage.

An article on news.com.au suggests that any of the following ten signs can indicate you may need to work on your EI:

  1. You’re easily stressed or irritated.
  2. You treat people rashly and unfairly.
  3. You are wrapped up in your own world.
  4. You are over confident.
  5. You fear change.
  6. You take failure badly.
  7. You get into conflicts easily.
  8. You interrupt and don’t listen.
  9. You find fault with others easily.
  10. Your relationships break down.

Author, Warren Bennis states “Emotional intelligence, more than any other factor, more than I.Q. or expertise, accounts for 85% to 90% of success at work.  I.Q. is a competence threshold. You need it, but it doesn’t make you a star.  EI can.”

Talentsmart suggests that EI can be developed, as part of the actual physical functioning of our brains.  The communication between your emotional and rational “brains” is the physical source of emotional intelligence. The pathway for emotional intelligence starts in the brain, at the spinal cord. Your primary senses enter here and must travel to the front of your brain before you can think rationally about your experience. However, first, they travel through the limbic system, the place where emotions are generated. So, we have an emotional reaction to events before our rational mind is able to engage. EI requires effective communication between the rational and emotional centres of the brain.

“Plasticity” is the term neurologists use to describe the brain’s ability to change. Your brain grows new connections as you learn new skills. The change is gradual, as your brain cells develop new connections to speed the efficiency of new skills acquired.

Using strategies to increase your EI allows the billions of microscopic neurons lining the road between the rational and emotional centres of your brain to branch off small “arms” (much like a tree) to reach out to the other cells. A single cell can grow 15,000 connections with its neighbours. This chain reaction of growth ensures it’s easier to kick this new behaviour into action in the future. Once you train your brain by repeatedly using new EI strategies, emotionally intelligent behaviours become habits.

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