Author Daniel Goleman popularised the term “emotional intelligence” in his 1995 book of the same name, and it has since passed into common usage. He developed the argument that non-cognitive skills or a person’s  “emotional quotient” (EQ) can matter as much as his IQ, for workplace success.

Can anyone develop emotional intelligence (EI)? Yes, EI is achievable by all, provided they have the right attitude and commitment. Like all personal development skills, this is not going to occur overnight and requires focus.

The first thing you need to keep in mind about EI is that the concept embraces two levels of competency. The first level is “personal competency” and the second is “social competency”.

Personal competency

In developing your EI skills, you need to enhance your personal level of emotional competence. To do this, you have to develop three specific qualities:

* Self-awareness;

* Self-regulatation; and

* A powerful inner motivation.

Social competency

This is your ability to get along with others by building meaningful relationships with the people who mean something to you and with the people you meet.

Your level of social competency is measured by your sense of empathy and your social skills — that is, the way you communicate with people generally.

Empathy is a quality that many talk about but do not always practise. You often hear people using the phrase, “Yes, I understand”, but do they really understand the situation the person is in or are they just making sympathetic noises?

To build meaningful relationships by developing empathy and social skills, you need to develop an objective approach to appreciating life — not just from your own perspective but from the perspectives of other people as well.

Benefits of EI

Studies suggest that people who have high levels of emotional intelligence are able to cope well and even thrive when uncertainty strikes in their lives.

Research has also shown that in organisations, employees with higher EQ get promoted faster than others. A high level of EI benefits your personal life too, as good people skills allow relationships to blossom and create stronger bonds between spouses, family members and friends.  

You can equate the development of your EI to the strengthening of your body’s immune system. Getting your daily requirement of vitamins and essential minerals is vital for your overall well being. But even if you have a stronger immune system, you can still catch the flu if a bug is going around. However, if your immune system has been progressively strengthened by a balanced diet and supplementary vitamins and minerals, you are likely to recover faster than the person who has a poor diet.

This is exactly what a high level of EI does for you. In tough times, your ability to be flexible, solve problems, adapt to situations and manage your emotions and those of others, can help you not only to survive, but move forward.