Emotional Intelligence

Sean McPheat
Ventus, 2010

(EN: This booklet skims the surface of emotional intelligence, providing a good survey of the subject without delving deeply into any given topic. It should be noted that it is authored by a consultant, and as such is likely influenced by mercenary motives: to convince the reader to hire him to consult with their own company, and to be dismissive of competing theories and practices.)


The author asserts that there are many people who are "incredibly bright" but can't cope in organization - the brilliant student who drops out of school or the skilled worker who can't get ahead in their company. We may witness specific traits and behaviors tat prevent them from succeeding, and these don't seem to have anything to do with what is commonly considered to be "standard cognitive intelligence."

This booklet proposes to cover the basics of "emotional intelligence," which covers an area that prevents such people from succeeding in the context of organizational structures.

(EN: I'm already "feeling" a sense of disagreement with the author, as it seems that he takes the popular perspective that rational thought and emotions are two very different things and that the latter exists in the nebulous subconscious mind. The theory I've come to prefer is that emotion is a pre-logical reaction, a faculty that lets people act on limited information and limited analysis that is generally in line with their intellect - we can consider emotional reactions in arrears to see how it correlates to logical conclusions that are the product of a cognitive intellectual process. Although they are often flawed in that the reaction is based on limited information and time, they can generally be correlated to "standard" intelligence rather than coming from some misty and unknown part of the brain that is entirely separate, different, and in conflict.)

Overview of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is fairly new notion, though it borrows upon research that goes back to Darwin, who expressed that emotional expression is necessary for survival - but the notion of "emotional expression" itself is rather vague.

In general, emotional intelligence (EI) pertains to awareness of emotional states, of yourself and of others, and managing the expression and interpretation of emotion to identify ways in which they can contribute to success.

People with high EI tend to be more successful in the workplace, as it enables them to understand others and interact with them more effectively. People who do not have this ability encounter "emotional obstacles" that prevent them from achieving much success.

Theories of Multiple Intelligences

The traditional understanding of intelligence relates strictly to cognitive functions: memory, learning, and problem-solving. In the twentieth century, theorists speculated that non-cognitive aspects of intelligence also exist, but the tools to assess intelligence were incapable by design of detecting or measuring them.

Reference is made to Gardner, who sought to extend the traditional measurement of intelligence to include emotions - desire, motivation, fear, and intention - both in oneself and in one's perception of the emotion of others. This was foudnational work, that was later extended by Payne and Goldman, the latter of whom coined the term "emotional intelligence" in the title of a book written in 1995.

The Importance of Emotions

Darwin's theory maintains that emotions serve a biological purpose: negative emotions signal when something is wrong, or our needs are not being met. This may be expressed as anger, fear, disappointment, depression, etc. Failure to respond to negative emotions leads us to continue behaviors that are detrimental to our wellness or avoid those that would improve it.

In general, people who are more successful experience more positive emotions than people who are not successful.

Emotions and the Brain

Neurologists trace the path of sensations through the human brain: sense-data arrives in the thalamus and sent to other parts of the brain. In humans, most of the data is sent to areas that are responsible for rational thought, but some data is routed to the amygdala, the part of the brain that is responsible for emotional response, and which works faster than the cognitive centers of the brain. In other words, any sense-data we receive triggers an emotional response before we can rationalize how to logically respond.

The author mentions the case of a man who had a brain tumor, the removal of which severed the connections between the emotional and rational parts of his mind. While his intelligence level was unchanged, he was no longer able to make decisions - which suggests that decision-making is an emotional process, rather than a congitive one.

This is not to say that we are driven entirely by emotions, though some people do seem to be overwhelmed by them at times, and it is generally to their detriment. The logical part of the brain is believed to "train" the emotional part of the brain how to respond.

Thus, our objective should not be to squelch our emotions entirely, but to understand them better, to understand them, and to train ourselves to favor emotional responses that are more in line with what we logically recognize to be in our best interest.

Why Emotional Intelligence Matters

The author suggests that individuals who have not developed EI tend to be stopped by setbacks. They are overwhelmed by a major failure, or a prolonged sequence of minor failures - in essence, they develop a negative attitude that colors the way they perceive and react to future situations, giving them a general tendency to expect the negative trend to continue.

A person who understands EI will encounter the same situations as the previous individual. But they will analyze what they are feeling, understand how those emotions affect them, and make a logical choice as to whether they will allow these emotions to impact their future behavior. Moreover, they apply the same knowledge to the way in which they work with others.

The author suggests that a workplace in which all employees have developed EI would be beneficial: people show mutual respect, people cooperate with and are supportive of one another, decisions are based on values, etc.

Job Performance

At MetLife, it was found that optimism was a better predictor of sales performance than traditional job-screening tests. Optimistic salesmen outsold pessimistic ones by 37%. Furthermore, the company hired a group of people who :"failed" the normal job screening tests but scored high in optimism, and found they sold 21% more in their first year and 57% more in their second year than all salesmen who had passed the screening.

Cost Savings

Similar results were found by L'Oreal cosmetics - not only did optimistic salesmen outperform other salespeople, but those with higher EU were 63% less likely to quit the job in the first year than salesmen selected by traditional methods.

The Air Force began using an EI test in hiring recruiters, on the notion that people with EI are better able to "read" candidates. As a result it was estimated that the force saved over $3 million annually in recruiting and training by hiring the right people the first time.

Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

"Multiple studies" have shown that the most successful leaders in organizations are those that have higher levels of EI, and that managers who have had EI training are more likely to succeed when given EI training.

Safer, Happier Workplaces

At another anonymous firm, plat supervisors were trained in EI competences related to developing employees. Afterward, formal grievances fell by 80%, productivity increased, and accidents were cut in half.

Models of Emotional Intelligence

As an emerging area of research and study, a few different models have been developed to define and describe EI, but they generally fall into one of three broad categories: ability based, trait based, and mixed.

The Ability-Based Model

Solvey, Mayer, and others consider a model that is based on "abilities." Each individual possesses, to varying degrees, four main types of emotional abilities:

This model has been criticized for basing its assessment on IQ tests (traditional intelligence being dismissed by the EI crowd), measuring a person's ability against a "normal" level to derive a comparative score, and social norms to assess whether a given answer is "correct" or valid.

(EN: I was unable to find much information on this assessment online, but one reviewer noted that he was bullied into removing his analysis by the company that sells the test - though it's unclear whether his disappointment was with the model or the instrument.)

The Trait-Based Model

A younger model, developed in 2009 by Petrides, considers EI to be derivative of personality characteristics and traits. Assessment is based on the analysis of personality, which itself tends to be innate.

The weakness in this model is that personality, itself, is a nebulous subject and its measurement is based on self-assessment, which counts on the objectivity of the subject.

As such, it's regarded as an interesting notion, but has not been greatly examined or accepted by the research community at large.

Mixed Models

Goleman's "mixed" model combines abilities (the terms of the way a person approaches a task) with traits (the way a person perceives a situation)

This approach breaks EI down to four basic competencies.

Each of these will be explored in following chapters.


The first EI competency is regarded as the building block of all others. A person who is not "in touch" with his own emotions generally cannot recognize them in others, and in either case cannot effectively deal with emotions if he is unable to perceive them. The notion of self-awareness is considered in terms of three basic skills, discussed in the following sections.

Emotional Self-Awareness

Unless a person is aware of our emotions and the causes of them, it is difficult for him to be happy and productive: he is subject to external forces, and unable to make informed choices that will lead him in a positive direction. This is a simple notion, but very few people seem to be able to determine exactly what they are feeling at any given time, and do not consider the consequences of being unable to assess their own emotional states.

Unfortunately, our culture is not geared toward the acceptance and understanding of emotion - in fact, it places emphasis on ignoring emotions and coping with their negative effects. Many dysfunctional behaviors (overeating, alcohol and drug abuse, even throwing oneself excessively into work or exercise) are methods of coping with emotional imbalances that result from denying or ignoring emotions.

Back to Darwin, negative emotions are an indication that something is wrong. Avoiding and suppressing emotion exacerbates the problem.

A person who is emotionally self-aware is able to specify how they are feeling at any given moment. He can identify the source of his feelings, and recognize how his behavior is reflecting a reaction to them.

Becoming aware of your motions takes practice. At first, it will require you to force yourself to pause and take stock of your feelings, to recognize the symptoms and categorize them, to recognize that your thoughts are influenced by your emotional state.

The fist step is simply to assess your feelings - how you are feeling on a given day, and how you were feeling at a specific time in the past, and to do so as honestly and objectively as possible, accepting that you may have made mistakes due to negative emotions.

The next step is to identify what led you to have a given emotional reaction, whether positive or negative. Identify, as specifically as possible, the environmental stimuli that impacted you. Specifically, note the time when your emotional state changed, whether a complete change of state or a change in intensity, and consider the events immediately preceding this change.

Eventually, you can extend this ability to perceive and analyze past events in order to "be in the moment" and better recognize your emotional responses as they occur: at the moment of stimulus, you can sense your immediate reaction and predict what this reaction might lead you to do, and determine what your emotions are "trying to tell you" at the time.

Finally (for this step), get to the root of the emotion: what has caused you to feel a certain way? In part, it is an environmental stimulus, but this stimulus collides with your internal attitudes and beliefs to create an emotional reaction. Different people respond to things in different ways due to their internal frame of reference.

It's also noted that we do not always feel one emotion at a time. There can be a blend of emotions that either complement or conflict with one another, and ultimately, you will benefit from appreciating the complexity rather than oversimplifying your analysis.

Accurate Self-Assessment

The ability to assess your emotional state is not fully valid, and may be misleading, if your analysis is not accurate. People have a strong tendency to justify or sanctify their own motive - hey want to see themselves as "good" people - and this interferes with being objective about, and taking a valuable lesson from, their actual emotional responses.

The author presents a brief "quiz" that presents a situation and a list of positive reactions. Such quizzes encourage a person to accurately indicate how they would react - but in many instances, a person is likely to choose the option that indicates how they should react, regardless of whether they actually make that choice in the situation described. Unless and until a person answers honestly, such instrument swill not facilitate progress.

As such, it is more useful to reflect on real-life situations, and examine real-life reactions, and ask more probing questions to get to the root of your actual emotions in a given situations, rather than what you think might be the correct response in a test situation.

The author also suggests getting input from acquaintances about their observations of your behavior - to accept what is said without defending, explaining, or rebutting what is said. Ask questions to gather more detailed information, but do not attempt to persuade them to change their mind. This requires a high level of trust, and it also requires you to maintain that trust by being appreciative of their candor and not holding it against them.

From such an exercise, you will begin to be able to identify the external triggers and internal reactions, and the ability to more accurately predict hoe you are likely to react in future situations. This in turn gives you a sense of how you can manage your emotions, which is discussed in the next "chapter."


Where there is a lack of information, there is uncertainty and self-doubt, which describes the discomfort most people feel when dealing with the topic of emotions. Through the act of analysis, a person gains more information about their own emotions, recognizes their causes and effects, and gains a level of self-confidence.

But again, this requires accuracy. The difference between confidence and arrogance is that the latter ignores rather than acknowledges areas of weakness.

A person of self-confident has a reasonable level of certainty about his own emotions, has a noticeable level of integrity, is more willing to take appropriate risks, is better able to make decisions, and has more control over the direction of his own life.

A few other tips on building self-confidence: use a journal to gather information, make a list of strengths and weaknesses based on the information you gather, see failure as a learning experience.


Self-Management or self-regulation refers to taking responsibility for our emotions - to recognize that our internal process of reacting to an external stimulus is of greater importance than the stimulus in choosing a positive course of action. Self-management helps us to identify our goals and the behaviors that will help us to achieve them, and to avoid the negative behaviors that will further frustrate our efforts.


Self-control is the ability to refrain from knee-jerk reactions to emotions - to stop and think before acting, to ensure that your reaction is the most likely to achieve your desired result. The hackneyed advice to "count to ten" when you are upset is meant to give yourself time to react in a rational manner.

A person who feels "out of control" would benefit from first considering why they feel they lack control. Generally, it is a choice to react quickly to a stimulus is driven by fear that even a moment's pause will negate their ability to react effectively.

The sense of urgency is primal: in a life-threatening event, a split-second reaction is necessary to avoid injury. But this is too often extended to situations where split-second reactions are not necessary - we may fear offending others, we may fear looking foolish, or we may even fear losing an opportunity for failure to "act now" - and this leads us to choose a fast response rather than a logical one, even in instances where speed is not of the essence.

This can be difficult to overcome. First, recognize that most situations in life do not pose an immediate threat and should not be treated as such. Second, consider whether you have all that you need to make a reliable decision - more information, more time to think about it, the ability to return to the question when you are in a better state of mind. Then, consider what the best reaction would be and act on the decision.

The author also mentions the practice of reframing - to take a negative statement (I made a stupid mistake and have to deal with the consequences) and translate it to a positive one (I made an honest mistake, but I can certainly fix it.)

There is also the notion of rehearsal: after making a decision of how to act, think through the possible consequences of the action to validate the decision. This also enable you to understand what the possible outcomes might be, and how you can react of the situation seems to go off the rails.


Trustworthiness is often defined as a quality of doing the things that you have promised to do. However, in the current environment, people are overcommitted, and prevented from following through on commitments not out a desire to avoid them, but for a lack of time.

As such, the notion of trustworthiness should be revisited as being honest about the things we are not capable of doing. In that way, trustworthiness is derived from integrity.


In terms of EI, conscientiousness means that you are committed to self-management, and take responsibility for your own emotions. In effect, you refrain from blaming your emotional responses on the actions of others ("he made me angry") and accept that your emotional responses are under your own control ("I am angry, because I chose to be angry.")


Adaptability is the recognition that you can change your behavior to achieve a better resolution. Given the previous example of "I chose to be angry," an adaptable person recognizes "I could have chosen a different emotional response" or "I could have chosen to react to my anger in a less destructive way."

Being adaptable means recognizing that changes in the environment are beyond your control, but that you are in a position to control the way in which you will act in response to change: when your neighbor leaves, you may fear that you won't get along as well with the person who moves into their home, but you realize there are things you can do to have a positive influence on the relationship with your new neighbor.

Achievement Orientation

From adaptability, you develop an outlook that focuses on achievement: you are not focused on what will happen to you, with the fear it might be bad, but are focused on what you will do to achieve your desired outcome.

An achiever expects success, and becomes skilled at dealing with obstacles that arise, rather than allowing the obstacles to discourage him from taking action.


Initiative is similar to achievement, but pertains more toward focus on the beginning of the process rather than the end of it. That is, in order to achieve a desired outcome, you must initiate action toward that end.

Taking the initiative means overcoming a sense of helplessness and doubt that prevent people from doing the things they know they need to do to achieve their goals.

Social Awareness

The first two competencies were personal - they pertained to an individual being aware of his own emotions and reacting to them. This competency and the following one switch to others in a social environment: understanding and dealing with the emotions of other people.

Dealing with the emotions of others is critical because we live in a social environment: a person does very few things, and accomplishes very little acting in isolation. Success in the context of an organization and culture depend upon interactions with others, who are motivated by their own emotions.


Empathy involves not only recognizing the emotions of others, but in understanding the way in these emotions influence their behaviors. The ability to understand and speak to the motivation of another person is critical to gaining influence over them, to encourage their obedience and cooperation in undertaking actions that benefit you.

Empathy also implies a common understanding. This comes easily to a person who has been in the same situation that another person is presently facing: a person who has undergone a surgery understands the anxiety of a person who is faced with the prospect of the exact same procedure.

A person who does not have life experience in a given situation can draw upon their experience of similar situations. It will not be exactly the same, but it will be similar enough to glean a basic understanding.

As with self-awareness, the skill of empathy improves with practice. The more you attempt to identify with the emotions of others, the more adept you will become at doing so.

One obstacle in developing empathy is that, in our culture, people hide their negative emotions. The typical greeting ritual of "how are you?' draws the response of "Fine" regardless of how the person really is feeling. Likewise, a person will deny any negative emotion - few people will ever admit to being envious. They will project positive emotions, but there are even instances when a person will hide them if they fear it will lead to a negative perception - being happy that an annoying coworker was fired.

As such you will need to rely on other methods of reading peoples' emotional states - body language, facial expressions, word choices, tone of voice. While none of these methods is entirely accurate, they are far less inaccurate than trusting in what a person claims about their emotional state.

It is likewise offensive to some individuals to suggest that you detect their emotions. To say "I know how you feel" is not only condescending, but it calls their attention to the fact that you can detect an emotional response that they may desire to keep hidden. AS such, expressions of empathy are couched in vague and conditional language: I understand how a person might be upset by that (this does not accuse the person of being upset), I haven't been in this situation, but I imagine it might be difficult (acknowledges a lack of personal experience and does not accuse), I'm glad you shared your feelings with me (an indication you are receiving emotional information but not being specific about what conclusion you have drawn).

Especially in terms of emotions, it's important not to judge, reject, or invalidate an expression - to suggest a person doesn't understand a situation, or to tell them flat-out that their emotional reaction is wrong, is deeply offensive. Should you feel that a person is misguided, ask questions that will lead them to come to the conclusion on their own. Ask "Why do you think you feel that way?" leads them to examine their own motives.

Organizational Awareness

Organization awareness pertains to the consideration of a culture in which emotions operate. The difference in the ways people react to one another in separate nations is fairly obvious, as is the difference in the ways a given person will react at home or at the office. And even among different organizations of the same kind (different offices), there are differences in culture.

A company, or even a small division of a single firm, has very specific culture, based on its mission, its values, and the expectations of those who participate in a group. In one group, speaking candidly may be discouraged while in another it may be admired; one boss may be more open to his people while another is more closed-off and impersonal.

It's also noted that few organizations attempt to encourage a given culture. In many instances, it seems to "happen" on its own. Newcomers are generally expected to adapt to the culture of their organization. And once a culture has taken root, it is difficult to change.

Service Orientation

The final skill of the social awareness competency is service orientation: a person seeks to provide assistance to others, merely to serve only his own goals, but expects assistance from them in return.

Service to others is not (necessarily) a form of self-sacrifice, but achieves a mutual benefit. A supervisor who "serves" a despondent employee helps the employee to become more productive. Providing support for a coworker usually means you can count on their support in return.

Social Skills

Social skills are also referred to as "people skills," and deal with controlling the behavior of others through leveraging their emotions. This is done in a gentle manner, such that the subject of control has a positive impression. A person with poor social skills might be seen as "nosy" and "manipulative," whereas a person with good skills who uses the same methods of exerting control might be considered "compassionate" and "helpful."


Influence is the most basic level of social skill: it involves being able to give motivation to other people to act in a way that benefits you without their being able to recognize that you are using their emotions to control them.

Of importance in influence is reciprocity: the subject should not have the sense that you are trying to gain at their expense, but to believe you are helping them gain something for themselves, and any benefit to you is a side-effect.


Communication is another basic skill in a social environment: it deals with sending a message to another person, through whatever channel, in a way in which they will understand and be receptive to it.

An effective communicator recognizes that other people have different values and motivations to himself, and that in order to get them to accept new ideas, they must be phrased in terms of the listener's values rather than his own.

Essentially, the goal of communication is not to transmit data, but to arrive at a mutual agreement and acceptance of certain information as factual or "right" in a broader sense.


Leadership derives from influence, but is a more comprehensive form of it. When you influence a person, it is in a specific incident, and something that you initiate. When you have achieved leadership of a person, they will seek to "gain" your influence of their own will.

Leadership is a matter of trust: while a person may be installed in a leadership position and given formal authority, he will not have much success in leading others until he gains their confidence and trust. That is, his subordinates will obey him out of fear of his authority and the harm he can do to them, not out of a genuine trust in his leadership abilities.

Developing Others

Returning to the notion of influence, people yield to the will of another person when they believe that they stand to gain from doing so. Developing others is a quality of leaders, ion which they genuinely seek to benefit others in order to establish a pattern of behavior, leading others to accept that the person is consistently looking out for their best interest.

In an organization, development is generally consider as the training that a leader provides to his subordinates, but peers can even empower one another, or a person in a lower position can develop someone who outranks them, through the use of their personal influence and social network.

Change Catalysis

A person who acts as a change catalyst is applying influence in a specific way: to convince people that the "old ways" of doing things were bad in some way, and that the "new way" is in some way better.

People cling to tradition - there is comfort in doing the same things in the same ways - even when traditional methods are inefficient or ineffective. The challenge is in persuading them to overcome their innate fear of the unknown to adopt new ways of doing things.

Convincing a person of that a "new way" is an improvement is a fairly simple matter when you rely on cognitive intelligence, but overcoming the negative emotions surrounding change requires emotional intelligence.

Conflict Management

Conflict management pertains to dealing with differences in values and motivations, either between yourself and another person, or in mediating conflict between two separate people.

The first task in managing conflict is to discover the root cause. Again, EI focuses on the emotional aspects rather than the practical ones - understanding why people "feel" the way they do about the other party rather than the objective reasons for what they think about them.

It then requires speaking to the values of each party, understanding their separate perspectives, to help define common interests and dispel misconceptions.

The skill of conflict management is especially important in leadership positions: to understand the conflicts among people who work on the same team, as well as understanding the conflicts among groups of people who are needed to achieve a common goal.

Building Bonds

A "bond" is a single connection in a social network, and the basis of a relationship. Bonding is a development of mutual trust - such that two people value their connection to one another and assume of one another the best of intentions rather than the worst. This facilitates cooperation by enabling people to begin collaborating from the very start, rather than having to go through the exercise of considering one another's motivations at every encounter.

Teamwork and Collaboration

Teamwork can be seen as a social bond and service-orientation among a group of people: each person assumes the goodwill of the others, develops a common goal and shared values.

To create a sense of "team," a leader must understand each member's individual emotional state, and leverage this knowledge to create a sense of mutual goodwill that will enable people to work together harmoniously rather than contentiously, with an emphasis on cooperation to achieve common goals rather than conflict to achieve personal agendas.