The phrase “Emotional Intelligence” (EI), coined in 1990 by two academics (Salovey and Mayer), describes the ability to perceive, assess and manage feelings in self and others. The concept of EI also encompasses the impact of feelings on decision-making. In Working With Emotional Intelligence, the author John Mayer shows that individuals with high EI are more likely to experience professional success (Mayer 1998). Mayer’s groundbreaking claim is that technical skills, education, or a high IQ, are all secondary to EI in explaining success. In sum, EI indicates how well our emotional governor is operating. It highlights the degree to which we are emotionally aware, tracking closely the impact and influence of feelings on all aspects of our lives.
Not only is EI key in achieving professional success, it is also an essential ingredient for meaningful relationships. Recognizing how emotions play out in our life is vital to understanding the degree of satisfaction existing in our relationships. Peter, a former client of mine, continued to have unfulfilling romantic relations because of his over-commitment issue. He was unable to explain why the same dynamics played out over and over, until he received his EQ-I results. The results of 3 of his 15 competencies measured in the EI quotient test showed the source of his struggles: his Emotional Independence, Impulsivity and Emotional Self-Awareness were dramatically low, explaining his tendency to over-commit. As he worked on these three competencies, his ability to appropriately pace romantic relationships came increasingly into focus. Learning how to repair our sense of self is the most essential first step in living the life we want and deserve.
Finally, an essential and hopeful dimension of EI is that it can be developed and strengthened. Though we acquired EI over time through social, familial and cultural interactions, it can be worked on and improved, primarily because EI competencies are learned behaviors. With work and dedication, each one of us can redefine our way of dealing with feelings, both our own and the feelings of those around us. Developing one’s EI can reduce anxiety and depression and secure our first step towards emotional freedom.