Emotional Intelligence

What is emotional intelligence (EQ)?

The topic of emotional intelligence has grown in popularity in the business world. But exactly what is it?  We all have
encountered someone who is extremely smart but is unsuccessful due to poor relationship skills. At times most of us
have engaged in behavior that we later regretted. Such behavior often reflects a lack of emotional intelligence (EQ).  
Emotional intelligence, like many psychological terms has multiple definitions.  According to psychologist John Mayer
who helped coin title in 1990, the scientific definition of emotional intelligence is, “the ability to accurately perceive
your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage
your own and others’ emotions.” Simmons and Simmons defined it as, “the emotional needs, drives, and true values of
a person and guides all overt behavior” (p. 11).  Author Daniel Goleman who popularized emotional intelligence with
his book of the same title described EQ as the abilities to recognize and regulate emotions in ourselves and in others,
which entails:

    1. Knowing what you are feeling and being able to handle those feelings without having them swamp you,
    2. Being able to motivate yourself to get jobs done, be creative and perform at your peak, and
    3. Sensing what others are feeling, and handling relationships effectively.  

Goleman acknowledged that EQ's roots date back to 1920 and the work of E. L. Thorndike, a professor of educational
psychology at Columbia University teachers College, who referred to it as “social intelligence.” A pioneer in the study
of IQ, Thorndike concluded from his research that the ability to maintain effective relations with others was an aspect
of EQ. In the 40s psychologist David Wechsler opined that intelligence comprises “non-intellective” and “intellective”
elements.  According to Cherniss much of the early work was dismissed until the early 1980s when Howard Gardner
claimed the equal importance of interpersonal and intra personal intelligence with general intelligence. However,
Goleman’s work builds on that of psychologist Salovey whose concept of EQ comprised the following five

    1. Knowing one’s emotions (self awareness)
    2. Managing emotions
    3. Motivating oneself
    4. Recognizing emotions in others (empathy)
    5. Handling relationships

Simmons and Simmons posited that deficiencies in these competencies could hinder effective relationships in all
aspects of life. Hence, they see EQ as synonymous with character. Similarly, Schutte, Malouff, Bobik, Coston,
Greeson, Jedlicka, Rhodes, and Wendorf (2001) postulated a relationship between EQ, relationship building and
relationship quality.  

Goleman maintained that EQ is an ability as well as a trait, which is a separate though not competing aspect of
intelligence. An individual’s level of EQ is a result of both genetics and learning according to Simmons and Simmons.
Hence, unlike one’s IQ, which is considered stable and fixed, writers generally agree that individuals can increase their

IQ vs. EQ for Determining Success

Lam and Kirby described IQ as “the ability to acquire basic knowledge and use it in novel situations.” Goleman
elucidated that IQ at its best contributes about 20 percent of the factors that determine life success. Much of the EQ
literature has been written since Goleman published his seminal work on the topic, which focuses on EQ in the
workplace.  A keyword search on three databases produced articles on EQ in the fields such as accounting, nursing,
insurance, and leadership in general. Chernis and Goleman wrote that there is a high concentration of EQ in
developmental, educational, clinical and counseling, social, and industrial and organizational psychology. However, is
Goleman’s assertion of the influence of EQ on workplace success credible? Several studies suggest, yes.  

Cherniss avowed the inadequacy of IQ alone to predict job performance based on research by Hunter & Hunter and
Sternberg.  Based on their findings the researchers estimate that IQ accounts for 25 to 10 percent of the variance,
respectively.  Sternberg maintained that it could even be as low as 4 percent.  Lam and Kirby found that overall
emotional intelligence, emotional perception and emotional regulations uniquely explained individual cognitive-based
performance over and beyond the level attributable to general intelligence.  Further, Dulewicz and Higgs’ findings
suggest that EQ and IQ combined more effectively predict success than either measure alone.

Research conducted by Schutte, Malouff, Bobik, Coston, Greeson, Jedlicka, Rhodes, and Wendorf produced similar
results in seven studies they conducted to examine the link between EQ and interpersonal, non-work relations. They
found that participants with higher scores for emotional intelligence: (a) had higher scores in the areas of empathic
perspective taking, self-monitoring in social situations, and social skills; (b) displayed more cooperative responses
toward partners; (c) had higher scores for close and affectionate relationships; (d) had higher scores for marital
satisfaction; and (e) were expected by their partners to enable a more satisfying relationship.


As Cooper and Sawaf elucidated, emotional intelligence is about acknowledging, understanding, and valuing feelings
and then responding appropriately. They acknowledged that many individuals are uncomfortable with discussions
about emotions – their own or those of others - and either ignore them or discount their importance.  However, failing
to appreciate emotions as, a source of human energy, information, connection, and influence will likely thwart  
personal and professional effectiveness.  


Cherniss, C. (2000, April). Emotional intelligence: What it is and why it matters. Paper presented at the Annual
Meeting of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, New Orleans, LA.

Goleman, D. (2001). Emotional Intelligence: Issues in Paradigm Building, In Cary Chernis & Daniel Goleman (Eds.),
The emotionally intelligent workplace. Retrieved February 13, 2004 from www.eiconsortium.org.

Dulewicz, V. & Higgs, M. (2000). Emotional intelligence – A review and evaluation study. Journal of Managerial
Psychology, v, p 341. Retrieved February, 2004 from Proquest.  

Goleman, D. (1995).
Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.

Goleman, D. (1997, October). Beyond IQ: developing the leadership competencies of emotional intelligence. Paper
presented at the 2nd International Competency Conference, London.

Lynn, A. B. (2002).
The emotional intelligence activity book: 50 activities for developing EQ at work. New York:
AMACOM American Management Association.

Lam, L. T., Kirby, S. L. (2002). Is Emotional Intelligence an Advantage? An exploration of the impact of emotional and
general intelligence on individual performance.
The Journal of Social Psychology, 142, 133-142.

Mayer, J. D. (2004 January). Be realistic.
Harvard Business Review, 82. 28.

Simmons, S. & Simmons, J.C. (1997).
Measuring emotional intelligence. Arlington, TX: The Summit Publishing Group.

Schutte, N. S; Maloufe, J. M., Bobik, C., Coston, T. D., Greeson, C., Jedlicka, C., Rhodes, E., Wendorf, G. (2001).
Emotional intelligence and interpersonal relations.
Journal of Social Psychology, 14, 523-536.

Tucker, M. I., Sojka, J. Z., Barone, F. J., & McCarthy, A. M. (2000, July/August). Training tomorrow’s leaders:
Enhancing the emotional intelligence of business graduates.
Journal of Education for Business, 75, 331-337.

Weisinger, H. (1998).
Emotional intelligence at work. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Workplace wisdom