Decoding EI – Definition and Concept

We all are already familiar with cognitive intelligence given the emphasis placed on Intelligence Quotient (IQ) in academic and professional contexts but emotional intelligence is a relatively new concept. EI is receiving so much attention across domains due to insufficiency of IQ in ensuring success in today’s world.

EI can be broken down into two concepts- Emotions and Intelligence. Generally, emotions are understood to be inherently restrictive that make us inefficient.

However, modern neuroscience has highlighted several important functions that emotions serve. It provides vital feedback and information about our world, spark creativity, aid decision making, enhance reasoning etc. which are crucial to thrive as human beings.

EI leverages and expands on these ideas by proposing that thinking and emotions go together. It has been found that emotions assist thinking and thinking can be used to analyse and regulate emotions.

According to Daniel GolemanEmotional intelligence is the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating and managing emotions in ourselves and in our relationships”.

Salovey & Mayer defined Emotional intelligence as the capacity to reason about emotions to enhance thinking. This perspective emphasises the synthesis of emotions and intelligence.

Simply speaking, Emotional intelligence is a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.

Thus, emotional intelligence refers to the non-cognitive abilities of a person that includes the ability to be aware of the emotions of oneself and others and also to be able to manage these emotions.

As Aristotle has put it, “Anyone can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy”.

Hence, getting aware of the emotions and knowing proper ways to express emotions are crucial for success in life. Let’s understand some of basic principles about emotions that are relevant to emotional intelligence which are as follows;

  • Emotions are information and present useful data about our world.
  • Decisions must incorporate emotions in order to be effective and to achieve intended outcomes.
  • Ignoring emotions doesn’t work over a long period of time since it takes up valuable mental energy and also highly stressful when continued for long.
  • Dismissing or ignoring emotions is not a realistic goal instead we should use emotions intelligently that will help us to thrive.


Emotion and intelligence

Traditionally, emotions and intelligence were considered two contradictory concepts since Emotions are often referred as disorganized interruptions of mental activity. People who expressed emotions were viewed negatively and considered mentally ill.

Over the years, some researchers accepted that emotions may guide one’s thinking and actions and may direct one’s attention towards solving problems. 

Goleman stated that the concepts of “emotion” and “intelligence” are congruous and act in harmony with one another.

Mandler suggested that instead of interfering with rational thought, intense emotional situations actually stimulate intelligence by helping individuals prioritize thought processes.

Mayer and Salovey asserted that emotions link logical thought processes rather than disrupting them. For instance, when one understands one’s own emotions correctly, interprets the emotions of others accurately and uses this information to enhance one’s thinking, he will be more intelligent.