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What is Emotional Intelligence?

Recent discussions of Emotional Intelligence are on the increase from the cover of Time Magazine to an episode of the Oprah Winfrey show to a best selling book by Daniel Goleman. But Emotional Intelligence should not be dismissed because it does have its roots in the concept of "social intelligence," which was first identified by E. L. Thorndike in 1920.

Psychologists have been uncovering other types of intelligence for quite some time and have classified them into three main groups: abstract intelligence (the ability to understand and manipulate with verbal and mathematic symbols); concrete intelligence (the ability to understand and manipulate with objects); and, social intelligence (the ability to understand and relate to people).

Thorndike defined social intelligence as "the ability to understand and manage men and women, boys and girls - to act wisely in human relations." Thorndike includes interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence in his theory of multiple intelligences. These two types of intelligence comprise social intelligence. He defines them as follows:

Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to understand other people: what motivates them, how they work, how to work cooperatively with them. Successful salespeople, politicians, teachers, and religious leaders are likely to be individuals with high degrees of interpersonal intelligence.

Intrapersonal intelligence is a correlative ability, turned inward. It is the capacity to form an accurate, veridical model of oneself and to be able to use that model to operate effectively in life.

Emotional intelligence is a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own emotions as well as other people's emotions, and to differentiate among them, using the information to guide one's thinking and actions. According to Salovey & Mayer (1990), Emotional Intelligence includes interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences, and 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: Channelling 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?

Researchers examined the dimensions of emotional intelligence by measuring related concepts, such as social skills, interpersonal competence, psychological maturity and emotional awareness, long before the term "emotional intelligence" came into use. Teachers have been teaching the fundamentals of emotional intelligence since 1978, aimed at raising the level of social and emotional competence. Social scientists are just beginning to uncover the relationship of Emotional Intelligence to other phenomenon, (e.g., leadership, group performance, individual performance, interpersonal/social exchange, managing change, and conducting performance evaluations). According to Goleman, in his book, Emotional Intelligence provides the skills that help people harmonize, and should become increasingly valued as a workplace benefit in the years to come.

Tests of Emotional Intelligence

Although no validated paper-and-pencil tests of emotional intelligence exist, two "fun" versions of emotional intelligence assessments have been developed. One test is from "USA Weekend" and another test is from "Utne Reader".



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