What Is Emotional Intelligence?

“85 percent of your financial success is due to skills in ‘human engineering’, your personality, ability to communicate and lead. Shockingly, only 15% is due to technical knowledge”. [1]

Emotional Intelligence

“We define emotional intelligence as the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” [2]

There are numerous theoretical models relating to emotional intelligence.[3] Colin Fenn, a consultant to major corporations across the globe, has extensively employed many of these models and their associated measurement instruments, including Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT™) and the Goleman endorsed Emotional Competence Inventory and Emotional and Social Competence Inventory. From his experience, Fenn has synthesised the various approaches into 7 key dimensions.

As you read through, try to evaluate yourself on each dimension. This is perhaps harder than for the other intelligences since our emotions recruit our rational mind to their cause; when we are angry we tend to find reasons to vindicate it. Are you necessarily the best person to ask about your emotional control? Perhaps speaking with others and gaining a variety of perspectives will help you to be objective. The aim is not to justify but to learn about oneself.

Intrapersonal Intelligence

The first 4 of Fenn’s dimensions fall under Gardner’s Intrapersonal Intelligence.

Positive Self-Esteem

The ability to be aware of, understand, accept and respect oneself.

People with a high positive self-esteem tend to have a strong sense of their personal worth and capabilities. This feeds through into a sense of self-confidence and a belief that they are likely to succeed, yet does not descend into arrogance.

Those who score lower are more inclined to doubt themselves and lack confidence in their own judgement, especially when challenged. They are also more likely to ignore or refuse opportunities that stretch them, hampered by a belief that they will not be successful and as a result their performance descends to the level of their self-imposed limits.

Emotional Self-Awareness

The ability to be aware of one’s own emotions and feelings, and to be aware of how these affect performance.

People with a high degree of emotional self-awareness are able to recognise their emotions as they occur, picking up small internal signals and thought processes; they are able to articulate those feelings and express them where it is appropriate. Their emotions increase the richness of information but do not dominate and hijack decision-making

Those with lower emotional self-awareness have little consciousness of how their own moods and emotions are taking hold, until an outburst or highly charged event draws their attention. Such reactions will often come as surprise to the individual and they are unlikely to be aware of how their feelings affect those around them.


The ability to regulate and manage one’s feelings and emotions, even in times of provocation and pressure.

People with a high degree of self-regulation are able to experience strong emotions such as anger, without succumbing to expressing them in an unhelpful and ‘toxic’ way. They tend to avoid attacking others or expressing their emotions on uninvolved third parties, and are often seen as ‘cool and calming’ influences. They may feel the strength of emotion like any other person, however they are able to maintain control over how they express that emotion. They do not always suppress their emotions – they consciously choose when and how to express their emotions.

Those with lower scores in self-regulation tend to be more of a victim to their emotions, which then drive their behaviour. They may well react impulsively, or in an emotional way which they later regret (if only internally). They may also have volatile relationships and sometimes have difficulty building trust as others try to anticipate their swings in temperament.


The ability to cope with obstacles and setbacks and maintain a positive, yet realistic mindset.

If you have high resilience you tend to view setbacks as what they really are – setbacks, without becoming paralysed by catastrophising or magnifying events in your mind. You will maintain a sense of perspective and determination, enabling you to keep going, to persevere and try again.

On the other hand, if you score low on resilience you will find that your performances and effort deteriorates in the face of criticism. This can lead to evasive action when the possibility of challenge arises.

Interpersonal Intelligence


The ability to be aware of, to understand and appreciate the feelings of others.

People with a high degree of empathy are able to understand the unspoken or partly mentioned thoughts feelings and concerns of others. They ‘read’ others, understanding their differing perspectives, and by demonstrating their awareness of how others think and feel, build strong, enduring relationships.

At the other end of the scale, unexpected conflict is a feature as there is little anticipation of how others may think, feel and behave.


The ability to persuade and convince others.

People who have a high degree of influence are able to gain results through a combination of their personal credibility and their ability to bring others with them, regardless of whether they have any formal authority to do so. They are able to frame initiatives and events in a way, which encourages commitment and contributions, and gain acceptance of their viewpoint, or a common viewpoint.

People who score lower on influence tend to flounder in convincing others to a certain direction, or beyond limited agendas. They are inflexible and rely on winning compliance, rather than commitment, through the use of either their own power or that of significant authority figures. If others comply it is because they have to, not because they want to.

Interpersonal sensitivity/relationships

The ability to build good relationships with a variety of people and to maintain these relationships over time for mutual gain.

People with a high degree of interpersonal sensitivity are able to build warm, effective relationships with diverse groups of people. Honest and often candid discussions  lead to deep and enduring relationships.

Conversely, people without this sensitivity deal with people in short term, transactional ways, satisfying their own needs and often alienating others. Their competitive approach precludes collaboration. Typically blunt – and proud of it – they are often isolated.

What have you learned about yourself from reflecting on your intelligences? Do you feel that there is a good fit between your intelligences and your current role or future aspirations? Are there any that would provide you with significant benefits if they were developed? 

In the next topic, we look at ways in which you can develop your EI.

“People say that they are not gifted/talented/smart enough to play the trumpet/learn to code/write a book. That’s crazy. Sure, it may be that they don’t possess world-class talent, the sort of stuff that is one in a million. But too stupid to do something that millions and millions of people can do?

I’m not buying it. Call it as it is and live with it (or not). I’m just not willing to believe we’re as stupid as we pretend to be.” [4]

[1] Quoted in Forbes article: http://goo.gl/V2igR

[2] Salovey & Mayer, Emotional Intelligence

[3] List of empirically validated tests here: http://goo.gl/j3zldN

[4] From blog of Seth Godin: http://goo.gl/Nkgof