Success Builders Inc. Article of The Month
December 1999

Using Your Emotional Intelligence to Get Ahead
By Barbara Poole

Those of us who came of age during the workplace of the 1980's remember the prevailing wisdom about how to be successful in business: hide your feelings, don't get emotional, be shrewd, calculating and smart. While millions of career climbers were busy trying to get ahead with this strictly-business protocol, an interesting phenomenon was becoming more and more evident. Those people who were truly the most effective in business were not necessarily the smartest, and they often seemed to be as interested in what was happening with people, as they were in what was happening with the balance sheet.

In an environment where IQ, college pedigree, class rank and SAT scores have dominated thinking about who is likely to succeed, it has now become clear that good people skills are a critical ingredient to stellar performance and the bottom line. The sole focus on IQ has been enhanced by an emphasis on something called "EQ" which is the theoretical measure of a concept known as "emotional intelligence."

Researchers Peter Salovey and John Mayer coined the term emotional intelligence in 1990. They defined emotional intelligence, or "EI", as the ability to monitor and regulate one's own and other's feelings, and to use feelings to guide thought and action. Simply put, EI is about having social intelligence – knowing yourself, understanding others, and having a knack for putting the two together.

The notion of different kinds of intelligence actually preceded Salovey and Mayer's work. In the early 1980's, Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner published a book called Frames of Mind, which exploded the idea of there being a single dimension to intelligence. Gardner proposed that there is actually a wide spectrum of types of intelligence that contribute to success. He identified several key varieties, only two of which reflect the standard verbal and mathematical concepts of intelligence. The others, he said, consist of things like musical giftedness, as seen in concert pianists and composers; kinesthetic, or physical agility, demonstrated by Olympic athletes and prima ballerinas; and spatial abilities, as seen in the work of master architects and sculptors. The two remaining types of intelligence Gardner isolated are what he called the "personal intelligences," consisting of interpersonal skills, such as those displayed by a seasoned diplomat, and intrapsychic capacity, or the ability to know oneself and live a life in keeping with inner feelings, needs and values.

These last two varieties described by Gardner, the "personal intelligences," are what form the framework for what we now describe as emotional intelligence. Much of the groundbreaking work on EI has been conducted by author and researcher Daniel Goleman, who describes the following five dimensions of emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-Awareness – Observing oneself and recognizing feelings as they happen.

  2. Managing Emotions – Handling feelings in ways that are appropriate; finding constructive ways to manage negative emotions such as fears, anger and sadness
  3. Motivating Oneself – Channeling emotional energy toward the pursuit of goals; using emotional information to make good decisions.

  4. Empathy – Being sensitive to others' feelings and concerns

  5. Relationship Management – Using the above information to be in effective relationships with others; demonstrating social competence and interpersonal skills.

So why does this business of emotional intelligence matter? The bottom line is, it's the key to effective living in a world that becomes more interdependent every day. While it's important to teach our children traditional academics, it's also important to teach them how to listen to their hearts, to develop their intuition, to be sensitive to others, and to build strong, collaborative relationships. As they grow into adulthood, they will discover that it's not only what they know, but also how they are, that enables them to get ahead. It's often said that people ascend in organizations on the basis of their knowledge and technical skills, and they derail based on lack of ability to effectively relate to others. Regardless of whether you work in a business, a school, a hospital or a department store, you've probably seen this pattern played out time and time again.
Emotions matter. And our ability to use them effectively matters. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said in The Little Prince, "It is with the heart that one sees rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

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