Over decades of study, psychologists have discovered that human beings have many types of intelligence. In 1983 psychologist Howard Gardner proposed eight, but conceded that there might be as many as ten.* One of these intelligences is emotional intelligence. Emotions, of course, are central to human existence. As the famous Roman writer Publilius Syrus (85-43 BC) advised in the Sententiae, “Rule your feelings, lest your feelings rule you.” The concept of emotional intelligence (EI) was introduced as early as 1964 by Michael Beldoch in his paper “Sensitivity to expression of emotional meaning in three modes of communication.” However, the term was popularized by psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer in their influential paper, “Emotional Intelligence” (1990) as well as science journalist’s Daniel Gorman’s best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence (1995). Salovey and Mayer define emotional intelligence this way: “[Emotional intelligence is] a set of skills hypothesized to contribute to the accurate appraisal and expression of emotion in oneself and in others, the effective regulation of emotion in self and others, and the use of feelings to motivate, plan, and achieve in one’s life.”
As popular as the term is, there are some disagreements about exactly which components make up emotional intelligence (EI). In his concise, but informative book 50 Ideas You Really Need to Know: Psychology, Adrian Furnham elaborates: “There is no agreement about what features, factors, abilities, or skills form part of EI. As more and more tests of, and books about, EI appear on the market, the situation gets worse rather than better… A central unresolved question is what are the facets or components of EI?” To that end, Furnham provides a very helpful table of the 15 common components found in salient models of emotional intelligence.
Adaptability: flexible and willing to adapt to new conditions
Assertiveness: forthright and willing to stand up for your rights
Emotion expression: capable of communicating your feelings to others
Emotion management: capable of influencing the feelings of others
Emotion perception: clear and your own and other people’s feelings
Emotion regulation: capable of controlling your emotions
Low Impulsiveness: reflective and less likely to give into your urges
Relationship skills: capable of having personal relationships that are fulfilling
Self-esteem: feeling successful and self-confident
Self-motivation: Being driven and unlikely to give up in the ace of adversity
Social competence: having good networking and social skills
Stress management: capable of withstanding and managing stress
Trait empathy: capable of taking the perspective of another person
Trait happiness: being cheerful and feeling satisfied with your life
Trait optimism: being likely to look at the positive aspects of life
So now that we understand the many facets of emotional intelligence, we can discuss the next issue: emotional intelligence in the workplace; more specifically, how do different generations differ in terms of emotional intelligence? The research-minded folks at Talentsmart shed some light in a fascinating article titled Great Divide: The Generational Gap in Emotional Intelligence. The researchers observe what many have experienced in the business world: “For the first time in history, organizations find their offices occupied by employees spanning four generations — Generation Y (18-29), Generation X, Baby Boomers (42-60), and Traditionalists. While the generational gap can create a healthy marriage of fresh perspective and deep wisdom, we’ve all seen it give way to significant culture clash.” Baby boomers, for example, are used to planned face-to-face meetings, overtime, and occasional work on the weekends. However, Generation Y are used to interacting with others via text and email and are very protective of their personal time. Not surprisingly, the researchers found a huge difference between Generation Y and Baby Boomers, particularly with the facet of self-management: specifically, Generation Y are not good at self management.
So why do Generation Y employees lag in self-management skills? The researchers conclude: “It could be that coming of age with too many video games, instantaneous Internet gratification, and adoring parents have created a generation of self-indulgent young workers who can’t help but wear their emotions on their sleeves in tense situations. However, a deeper look reveals another explanation. Even within the same generation, older people have better EQ skills than younger — despite sharing the same generational influences. Self-management appears to increase with age. Experience and maturity facilitate the mastery of one’s emotions. Generation Years just haven’t had as much time to practice and perfect their skill at managing their emotions.” This opens the door to an important opportunity: to have HR experts help improve the EI of Generation Y employees. The researchers echo what many CEOs and management experts have been promulgating for several years now: “They not only can do it; they must do it.”
*Gardiner proposed these ten intelligences: musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic, existential, and moral. On the other hand, in his book, Practical Intelligence: the Art and Science of Common Sense, Karl Albrecht, a management consultant, introduces “practical” or commons sense intelligence; he believes that there are six intelligences: abstract, social, practical, emotional, aesthetic, and kinesthetic.
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For further reading: Social Encounters edited by Michael Argyle
Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner
50 Ideas You Really Need to Know: Psychology by Adrian Furnham