Emotion not only affects the way people think and act but also determines judgement and information processing (Gong et al 2019). When in a better place the individual is more likely to process positive rather than negative information. Conversely, when in a worse place the individual is more likely to process negative rather than positive information.
Many people misinterpret their own and other peoples’ emotional reactions, inappropriately express emotional outbursts or act negatively under various pressures. This has harmful consequences to themselves, others and to society as a whole (Drigas & Papoutsi 2018).
Anyone can become angry-that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way-this is not easy.
—Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to positively identify, understand and regulate emotions in oneself and others. It can then inform the individual how to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.
EI attempts to bridge emotion and cognition. Individuals with developed EI have the ability to understand their own feelings and that of others whilst enabling them to use their emotions to positively direct thoughts and behaviour (Drigas & Papoutsi 2018).
At a fundamental level EI provides the individual with a better inner world to cope with the outside world (Drigas & Papoutsi 2018).
Characteristic traits of Emotional Intelligence
EI consists of four skill dimensions (Gong et al 2019):
- Perception, assessment and expression of emotions.
- Facilitation of thought using emotions i.e. the ability to harness emotional information into one’s thinking.
- Understanding emotions and emotional knowledge and information.
- Regulation and management of emotions for personal and interpersonal development.
Gilar-Corbi et al (2019) found EI is characterised by:
- Emotional perception of oneself and others. This will help predict success by managing behaviors and relationships (Drigas & Papoutsi 2018).
- Emotional expression.
- Management of oneself and others.
- Self-regulation is concerned with how you control and manage yourself and your emotions, inner resources, and abilities. People with high levels of EI are more capable of regulating their emotions to reduce stress.
- Impulsiveness. EI helps to productively manage impulses.
- Social awareness.
- Stress management.
Psychological capital is the fundamental psychological element of the individual that has a positive impact on performance (Gong et al 2019). It also correlates both to EI and an individual's resistance to change. These traits are:
- Self-efficacy i.e. an individual's belief in their capacity to execute behaviors necessary to perform.
Torkoman et al (2020) defined self-esteem as an individuals’ subjective emotional response towards themselves. In order to develop self-esteem, a sense of self-worth is required, by positively embracing challenges.
Developing EI and psychological capital makes an individual aware of their actions and behaviours. This empowerment facilitates an embracement and completion of personal goals and challenges which develop self-esteem.
Given the emphasis on developing insights into one's own and others' emotions in EI, Birks and Watt (2007), offered it as a defining feature in standards of excellence in clinical care including:
- Patient-centred care.
- Quality and accuracy of history taking and diagnosis.
- Tailoring treatments and lifestyle advice to the individual patient.
Emotional Intelligence and burnout
Gong et al (2019) found employees with higher levels of EI can adjust their perception of their work environment as well as the emotional stimuli from the environment. From a broader perspective EI can be very important for both personal and social functions in life. Individuals with a high level of EI can achieve:
- Suitable solutions more smoothly at work.
- Reasonably apply emotional resources.
- Access social support via communication and interaction with other people. This reduces the possibility of failure and depersonalization which is in itself a symptom of burnout.
All of these attributes can effectively reduce the chance of burnout. Therefore optimizing EI is a key factor in preventing burnout both in the workplace and with relationships outside of work. Be it in happiness or success emotional intelligence (EQ) matters just as much as intellectual ability (IQ) (Drigas & Papoutsi 2018).
Employees with high level of EI perform well and have a higher level of satisfaction with their jobs. They are also more likely to build a good social support system. This reduces the chance of depersonalization, where an individual distances from themselves and others, which is one of the characteristic traits of burnout.
Efstathia et al (2016) found trainees in the Intensive Care Unit with lower EI had higher rates of burnout. These authors found a positive correlation with high levels of EI and high rates of job satisfaction, compassion, and communication skills.
Developing Emotional Intelligence
Gilar-Corbi et al (2019) found training interventions improved some dimensions of EI:
- Ability to positively perceive, understand and accept an individual's own and others emotions.
- Achievement of personal goals.
- Stress mangement.
- Development of a positive attitude.
- Control and management of emotions.
Drigas & Papousi et al (2018) developed the pyramid of Emotional Intelligence. Progressing through each of the seven levels in the pyramid is an attempt to develop EI through personal growth. This is achieved by developing skills in perception, evaluation and management of emotions, both within yourself and others.
From the bottom of the pyramid up these seven stages, that are to continually reflect and improve upon, rather than 'master' are:
- Self awareness.
- Self management.
- Social awareness; empathy; discrimination of emotions.
- Social skills.
- Self actualization.
- Emotional unity.
Self awareness is knowing yourself so you can accurately self-assess your own strengths and weaknesses. It shows you possess a clear perception of your personality, including your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motives and feelings.
A lack of self awareness is not knowing yourself. It is characterised by understanding yourself in a way that impedes your ability to self-manage and makes it difficult, if not impossible, to know and respond to other peoples feelings.
Self awareness has its roots in an individual’s personal values and ego identity. It is the reflection of these qualities that determines the perspective or view point from which an individual perceives and evaluates themselves and their emotions. Therefore developing self awareness involves removing this facade to allow a fundamental shift in perspective.
As developing self awareness involves developing the ability to change the thoughts and perceptions the individual has of their personality this will lead to a change of emotions which will eventually lead to a change in action.
Self management involves the individual taking responsibility for their own behaviour and well-being.
When feelings through self awareness have been recognized and accepted, self management enables you to manage them better.
This in turn leads to greater flexibility, becoming more extroverted and receptive whilst at the same time being less defensively critical of situations and less reactionary to other people’s attitudes.
Social awareness; empathy; discrimination of emotions
Once an awareness has been cultivated of the ability to understand and positively control ones own emotions, the next step in the pyramid is to recognise and understand the emotions of the people around you.
Social awareness refers to the way people handle relationships and awareness of others feelings, needs, and concerns. Empathy enables the understanding of feelings and thoughts of others from their own perspective.
Being socially aware means that you understand how you react to different social situations and effectively modify your interactions with other people so that you achieve the best results. This leads to a continual improvement of social skills and personal development.
Once empathy and social awareness has been achieved so the individual can tune into another person’s feelings and understand how they feel and think about things social skills can be developed.
Social skills are skills needed to handle and influence other people’s emotions. This effectively helps manage interactions successfully.
Self actualization is the realization of personal potential, self-fulfilment, pursuing personal development and fulfilling experiences.
This is a continual process of ‘becoming’, rather than reaching a state of ‘perfection’.
Self actualization is a measure of personal commitment to life by contributing to it the individuals most important personal gifts and qualities.
People who have reached self-actualization will sometimes experience a state referred to as “transcendence”. In the level of Transcendence, one helps others to self actualize, find self-fulfilment, and realize their potential. Quite a lot of these individuals are middle age who skip the first few steps of the pyramid and spend a lot of time philosophising on Facebook.
Self-transcendence is the experience of seeing yourself and the world in a way that is not impeded by the limits of an individual’s ego identity. These people have since reluctantly deleted their Facebook account. It involves an increased sense of meaning and relevance to others and to the world.
Emotional unity is the final level of the pyramid of EI.
In a symbiotic world, what you do for yourself, you ultimately do for another. All it takes is to see the spark of life, the miracle in everything and to be more optimistic.
Developing EI using the pyramid of emotional intelligence: metacognition
Cognitive processes uses existing knowledge and generates new knowledge.
Metacognition is more self reflective. It is the ability to monitor and reflect upon one’s own performance, learning processes and capabilities.
Metacognition in Emotional Intelligence means that an individual perceives and self reflects on their own emotional skills. Metacognition includes a variety of elements and skills such as metamemory*, self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-monitoring.
*metamemory: knowing how good your memory is and in what ways you best remember information.
Gilar-Corbi R, Pozo-Rico T, Sánchez B, Castejón J (2019). Can emotional intelligence be improved? A randomized experimental study of a business-oriented EI training program for senior managers
Drigas A, and Papoutsi C. (2018). New Layered Model on Emotional Intelligence
Birks Y and Watt I. (2007). Emotional intelligence and patient-centred care
Efstathia M. Vlachou E, Damigos D, Lyrakos G, Chanopoulos K, Kosmidis G and Karavis M (2016). The Relationship between Burnout Syndrome and Emotional Intelligence in Healthcare Professionals
Gong Z, Chen Y, and Wang Y (2019). The Influence of Emotional Intelligence on Job Burnout and Job Performance: Mediating Effect of Psychological Capital
Torkaman M, Farokhzadian J, Miri S & Pouraboli B (2020).The effect of transactional analysis on the self-esteem of imprisoned women: a clinical trial.