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What is emotional intelligence or EQ?

The originators of emotional intelligence defined it as: “the ability to monitor feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action…”   and “…to perceive, express and assimilate emotion, understand and reason with emotion and regulate emotion in the self and others.”

Over time the definition of EQ has developed to incorporate specific applications in work and social contexts.  A helpful framework is used in the EQ-i assessment instrument:

Here, the five distinct aspects that make up emotional intelligence are: self-perception, self-expression, interpersonal, decision-making, and stress management.

Within each of element there are three sub-factors, each of which has a direct impact on one’s overall level of emotional intelligence. For

example, the factors that predict a person’s ability to make effective decisions are:

  • Problem-solving ability
  • Reality testing—i.e. ability to question one’s interpretation of the situation.
  • Impulse control—i.e. ability to entertain ideas beyond the first one that comes to mind.

Understanding these layers helps us to appreciate why high level problem-solving may not be a sufficient skillset for effective decision-making, especially under conditions where pressure and emotion are heightened. 

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