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Emotional Intelligence - what is it and can it really help?

Updated on October 10, 2009

What is emotional intelligence?

One way to look at EI is to see it is as the ability to perceive the emotional content in communication or behind communication.

By the way, as the author of this hub, I'm in no way suggesting I'm an expert and this hub is a purely personal perspective!

Moreover, I tend to think that to use emotional intelligence all the time might actually be undesireable as you will focus on the "why" rather than the "what" of conversation.

Let's consider what is NOT emotional intelligence.

If we are looking for what emotional intelligence is NOT we might suggest rational thinking where the mind is engaged but not the heart. Emotional intelligence is more about our social interaction with others - emotions, respect, entertainment, understanding why someone is saying what he or she is saying or why he or she is behaving in a particular way.

Rational thinking or reasoning is purely logical with no regard for emotions. The logical mind is engaged with the literal meaning or the "what" rather than the "why" of communication.

So how well do you understand other people's motives,feelings, desires, and fears? To what extent have you developed the ability to understand this underlying content of your communications with others?

Should we prioritize this level of consciousness and why?

Peter F. Drucker "The most important thing in communication is to hear what is not being said."

Developing this skill can be useful as you begin to look beyond the literal meaning of the words that are being expressed by those you converse with.

For example, a person at your workplace may continually answer you as if you are trying to control them. This becomes a significant response which reveals that person's history. Perhaps, in childhood the person you are trying to work with was repeatedly humiliated or felt little self-worth or had little control over what happened to them.

This has made your work colleague oversensitive to anything that has the faintest hint of not allowing that person self-determination.

"We see things not as they are but as we are" said Anais Nin, which can mean that the stage is set in someone's head and if we happen to communicate with that person we might find ourselves typecast as a figure on that stage whether wee like it or not.

This typecast may not actually conform to who we are and hence we find ourselves on the receiving end of that person's personal history.

If you develop EI you begin to discern the play of childhood and life experiences and fears others have and the need to resolve these in the communication.

Addressing these underlying emotional issues may be imperative to effective communication.

It can also have positive outcomes for your communication with others and their belief systems but it might sometimes also tie you up in situations you rationally would simply walk away from.

As with all things we need to find a balance and weigh things up without being disrespectful to ourselves or others.

It is not always going to be easy to keep your emotional radar at the forefront of your consciousness as your own needs will come into play. And so they ought otherwise you might end up fatigued and frustrated over how tied up you might get servicing the emotional needs of others.

However, by pursuing this side of the communication equation, you might be more aware of why others are behaving as they do and you might actually get more of the outcomes you desire.

You might also find you avoid a great deal of conflict in communication with others as you begin to find the clues for why a person is behaving as they do.


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    • profile image
      Author 7 years ago

      Thanks Seanorjohn, one of the nicest comments I've had.

    • seanorjohn profile image

      seanorjohn 7 years ago

      You are so Australian it is untrue. Great voice and great writer. I will read more of your hubs and comment. Glad to be a follower. Don't feel obliged to reciprocate. I have only written 5 hubs and they are mostly whimsical nonsense.

    • profile image
      Author 8 years ago

      Thanks very much Lorlie6!

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 8 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Beautifully written and oh, so true!


    • profile image
      Author 8 years ago

      No worries at all, Waren E. and thank-you for dropping by.

    • Waren E profile image

      Waren E 8 years ago from HAS LEFT THE BUILDING............

      "We see things not as they are but as we are" that's an amazing quote there,and there's so much proof of it's truth all around!

      Thanks for a well researched hub PD!

    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 8 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      Well,as a youth I was taught about about fixing aircraft engines and props and things, but as I did rather well at learning that stuff "they" took me away from it a bit after I graduated, gave me a flash hat and did the aerodynamic thing again on flying the damn' things, so I ended up navigating them for a few years, (and coordinating the tactics)

      One of our aircraft types closely resembled a Bumble Bee but I was mostly on Orions.


    • profile image
      Author 8 years ago

      @bayareagreatthing. Glad to know someone else shares my enthusiasm for that quote. I've used it again and again but in engagements with others I suspect it isn't a widely accepted philosophy. Sometimes it's quite frustrating when ,like you've stated, other people's attitudes towards us arrive before we've said or done very much! If you didn't laugh you'd cry!As for emotional experience you've hit the nail on the head and how did you guess? I was actually bitten by a dog as a child! Thanks for the comments.@the old firm. Aerodynamics, does that mean you fly planes or did you try to fly a Bumble Bee?!

    • bayareagreatthing profile image

      bayareagreatthing 8 years ago from Bay Area California

      "We see things not as they are but as we are"- very well spoken quote! As a follower of the Christian faith, I can say that I have been the recipient of harsh attitudes by people who have prejudged based on previous experiences that were negative.

      It helps me to understand "where they are coming from" emotionally. When we have been bit by a dog, we tend to fear all dogs based on that bad experience. May I never be "the biting dog"! Great hub!

    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 8 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      Not the Honeybee pd, it's big fat cousin (also known as the Humble Bee.) A bit of trivia that I picked up whilst studying aerodynamics.

      Here's a link to a very recent article on the subject

    • profile image
      Author 8 years ago

      Yes, I agree Logic is not really Logic without considering emotion and as we are social beings, we are forced to negotiate a path of logic which is ruled by emotion - the humanitarian principle of creating the greatest good for the greatest number.

      As for the Bee, didn't know that according to mathematical law it should not be able to fly. There might be a rush on honey if that got out! Thanks for your comment The Old Firm.

    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 8 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      Surely logical intelligence (as different to rational intelligence) should utilise EI as part of the overall picture on which to base an assumption.

      I've been told repeatedly that by mathematical law a Bumble-Bee should not be able to fly. As a rationalist I'd have to dismiss the sight of one flying as an illusion, or otherwise deny it - "That's not flying, it's a powered glide!" "That's not a Bumble-Bee!" Logic tells me "The damn' thing's flying, the maths' must be flawed."

      I assume EI would say "The poor thing can't read; it doesn't know any better!"

      Just an irrational thought for the sake of conversation.


    • profile image
      Author 8 years ago

      Thanks for the comment Misthaven. Yes, perhaps one can never actually avoid the emotional content completely whether that be one's own or the person we are communicating with. As it's always there and it might just be where the truth lies.

      "Just do what you feel and dont you fool yourself" - Ziggy Marley

    • MistHaven profile image

      MistHaven 8 years ago from New Jersey

      Nice spin on emotional intelligence. It's suprising how much people resonate their emotions, but I think that's a good thing. I've been told that the best decisions are made using emotions and not logit. I wholeheartedly agree.