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Monday, 20 February 2017

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Intelligence is a thorny topic. What is it exactly?

Most of us believe we know it when we see it, but measuring or quantifying it has proved a challenge to say the least. IQ scores can be affected by culture, up-bringing, thinking styles (are you creative or analytical, for example) and many other factors. And now we have 'emotional intelligence' in the news. So what is it and can it help us work with our clients?

What is 'emotional intelligence'?

"Emotional Intelligence is the capacity for
recognising our own feelings and those of others,
for motivating ourselves, and
for managing emotions well,
in ourselves and others."
Daniel Goleman, author of 'Emotional Intelligence'

This includes being aware of non-verbal communication as well as verbal when communicating with other people, but also being able to understand the emotions projected by works of art, music and other abstracts.

The study of EI arose from work on cognition and affect; in other words, it's very much to do with how our emotions and thoughts interact, which is a familiar concept to many therapists. It has some studies which support it, though research in the area of EI is still fairly new.

There are several models and I'm going to outline just one. Mayer and Salovey (1997) say that EI is 'a cognitive ability which is separate but also associated to, general intelligence'. They consider at four main factors, called branches;

  • perception of emotion (i.e. recognising emotions as they arise in yourself and others)
  • emotional facilitation (i.e. recognising how emotions interact with thinking, for example by changing your mood or indicating environmental change)
  • understanding emotions (i.e. being able to express how you are feeling and knowing how different emotions interact)
  • management of emotions (i.e. being able to deal with your own emotions and those of other people, and use them in a positive way) 

Why do we need EI?

A number of studies indicate that EI is linked with mental health.

Low EI has been linked with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, poor impulse control and interpersonal relationships, along with higher levels of stress, and alcohol/drug abuse.

High EI scores have been associated with increased well-being, greater satisfaction with life and higher levels of reported happiness.


Using EI in the therapy room

You can see from the above that many of the issues linked with low EI are those that people bring to the therapy room. Luckily, and arguably unlike IQ, EI is something we can learn and improve. Exploring ways in which your client can become more empathetic, and working through the four branches one by one, can be a big part of your therapy. (Although exactly how you do that, of course, will depend on your skill set and general approach.)

There are various EI assessment questionnaires available free of charge on the Net, just carry out a search. This will give you a baseline, and the questionnaire can be repeated at the end of the therapy to demonstrate clearly to the client how far they have come.

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Author: is an experienced hypnotherapist and hypnotherapy trainer. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words and has co-written the Hypnotherapy Handbook, both of which are available from Amazon.
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