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My mother, who trained mid-career as a chaplain, had a phrase she would often use to help others clarify their emotions. “What’s going on with you that you are so angry (upset, frustrated, etc.) about this” became a phrase that taught me so much about the importance of identifying and understanding my own emotional reactions. It taught me to see that my emotions are just as connected to my own internal thinking and past experiences as they are to present external stimuli. What my mother was doing all those years ago was helping me to build emotional intelligence.
The term emotional intelligence (EI) was coined by John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey, two Yale psychologists in 1990. As they described it, emotional intelligence is the capacity to perceive, control and evaluate emotions in oneself and others. Their research showed that emotional intelligence enables people to solve emotion-related problems quickly and accurately. People with high EI understand the meanings that emotions convey and are able to connect emotional output to analytical thinking. They are able to effectively manage their own emotions, and can more easily empathize with other people.
For the engineering community it may seem that EI is irrelevant to careers that are based in analytical and logical thinking. But I have yet to meet an engineer that does not have to interact with other people in some capacity. EI matters at work for several reasons. It helps us develop better interpersonal relationships and improves our ability to communicate and manage ourselves when emotions run high. EI helps improve our thinking skills by giving us new perspectives as we increase our ability to identify, interpret and predict emotional responses from other people.
Those who are interested in increasing their leadership capabilities would do well to work at increasing their EI. This vital intelligence will help you develop empathy and understanding — two crucial elements to a leader’s ability to inspire, influence, motivate and persuade others.
If you are interested in increasing your emotional intelligence, check out this blog by Norman Rosenthal, MD: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-mind-your-body/201201/10-ways-enhance-your-emotional-intelligence