How easily do you handle stress and can you keep yourself going when times are tough? How do you view people who lose control under pressure? How well do you feel you express emotions and can you recognise and influence those of others?

These are just some of the questions that we ask when trying to understand more about a person’s emotional intelligence. But why do we need to know?

Managing relationships

In the last few decades, the concept of emotional intelligence (EI) has become very popular in both interpersonal and business contexts. The suggestion that people might possess something other than cognitive intelligence prompted countless academic studies into the theory of emotional competence, but also saw a wave of amateur EI tests appearing in lifestyle magazines attempting to calculate it in real time for the layperson.

Why has the concept of emotional intelligence captured the public imagination so strongly? By its very nature, social interaction is a human activity reliant on effective relationships, so a person’s ability to manage those relationships should make a considerable difference to their social impact.

If you can recognise your own emotions and those of others, then find a way to manage them effectively, then you are well positioned to adapt to a huge range of social situations. This is ever more critical as the world gets faster, busier and – with the proliferation of digital platforms – smaller.

EI in the workplace

Emotional intelligence really comes to the fore in the business world. Emotionally intelligent people are self-aware, excellent communicators and can adapt their behaviour to a variety of situations. They also to be adept at handling stress, change, low colleague morale and team conflict. As a result, they are more likely to have the edge they need to lead, manage and perform in today’s competitive and complex marketplace.

From a management point of view, harnessing EI can make a huge difference to the performance and engagement of your people. As one of our clients says, “Talent management is about the whole person; it’s not just about skills” (Alison Sercombe, People Services Partner at Thames Valley Police)

Alison continues, “It’s not always to do with what happens between 9 and 5. Sometimes work is emotional and people bring what is happening [outside] into the workplace. If you can address that supportively, gently and offer some kind of support network, then you [are more likely to] get an engaged employee, with a good development plan.”

What is it anyway?

So we know the EI is important for interpersonal effectiveness both in and out of work, but what actually is emotional intelligence and how can we begin to measure it? Is it even quantifiable? With all those academic studies and dubious magazine quizzes, can we arrive at an agreed definition and common language upon which to harness EI for ourselves and our colleagues?

To help demystify the topic, we have prepared a short factsheet with definitions, practical applications and an introduction to one of the world’s best-researched and most credible EI assessments.

Download “EI 101: an introduction to trait emotional intelligence” today!

By Amir Qureshi, COO, Thomas International