The Science Behind Emotional Intelligence

Updated: Jul 29

Emotional intelligence is a great concept but, it does not do anybody any good. Unless you use it! And then it pays dividends in ways that you had not imagined.

It is difficult to pick up a copy of the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, Forbes, Fortune, Inc., or any other business-related magazine and not find an article about emotional intelligence, empathy, or resilience. Empathy and resilience are simply aspects of emotional intelligence applied to a relationship or an event. Management experts and sales experts are both recognizing the role that emotional intelligence plays in generating high-performance results and propelling highly performing cultures and organizations.

But emotional intelligence is something that has to be learned and applied in context. In an end, in and of itself, emotional intelligence does not do anyone any good. In the book Crucial Conversations, the authors do not specifically talk about "emotional intelligence", but they are very clear about the role emotions play in how we relate to others and specifically, the role emotions play in conversations in which the stakes are high. They define a "crucial conversation" as one in which there are opposing opinions about a subject, the stakes are high and emotions run strong. The simple fact is that our emotions run strong BECAUSE the stakes are high.

As I have mentioned in prior articles, emotions are simply data, information about our circumstances and our environment. The intensity of the emotion generated about a subject can be indicative of a couple of things. The first is an indicator of the importance of the subject to the person. The more important the subject, the greater the intensity of the emotion. The second can simply be that that individual is simply not experienced in managing their emotions (emotional intelligence) and therefore any emotion experienced can be seen as significant. For our purposes today we will focus on the first indicator, that the subject matter is important.

The intensity of emotion tells us that the subject is important. Emotional intelligence is simply using our emotions and our cognitive abilities to make better decisions and manage life better. In "crucial conversations", emotional intelligence helps us better manage conversations and our reactions. Let me give you an example. John has been working on a project for several months, one that will have a significant financial and career impact. How does he react when given some news that will hinder his ability to complete the project? Most likely the response will be anger and frustration, emotions that arise when a goal is blocked. If the anger is not managed, the response to the messenger may be damaging to the relationship and the project. In this case, the emotions "took over" the response and created more damage.

But anger and frustration can also be used to direct energy and effort in a meaningful way. By applying some consequential thinking to the situation, John is energized to look for a resolution to the problem and not to simply "shoot the messenger". By navigating his emotions, John uses them to take a potentially negative situation and convert it into a more positive outcome.

Emotional intelligence is simply another tool in our toolbox for helping us lead the most productive lives we can. We can use it to better navigate "crucial conversations" with co-workers, significant others, clients, and prospective clients. Please let me know if you would like to know more.

Ford Mosby

Vice President, Emotional Intelligence Specialist, Bond Manager