Why Emotional Intelligence is Needed More Than Ever
College students are often very adept at “being social” through technological means such as social networking websites and other virtual communities. However, once they enter the classroom and students no longer have electronic communication to rely upon for their interactions, it may be challenging at first for them to develop interpersonal and productive relationships with other classmates through non-digital or face-to-face communication. That’s when emotional intelligence is needed because it strengthens the skills required to interact effectively with others, which are often under-utilized with electronic communication.
Daniel Goleman is a thought-leader in the field of emotional intelligence and in his article, The Value of Emotional Intelligence, identified the “four components that will turn struggling students into more successful ones.” Goleman described emotional self-awareness, emotional self-management, social awareness, and relationship management as the most important aspects of becoming emotionally intelligent. In the following video presentation Goleman shares more about this topic.
Goleman indicated that the four components are learned abilities that build upon our fundamental skills. For example, remaining calm under pressure, listening, and empathy are all critical skills required to be emotionally intelligent. He also emphasized that as adults we must change our habitual ways of reacting to people and situations and how this can be accomplished by repeatedly practicing new habits. Goleman also talked about motivation and in order to develop genuine self-motivation we must learn to align our desire to improve with our values and sense of purpose. The following chart provides a composite overview of the four components of emotional intelligence and their interrelationship.
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By becoming self-aware, students learn to recognize how they are feeling and the impact of those feelings on decisions made or actions taken. This is the first step in transforming reactive and emotional responses into informed and logical decisions. The Wisconsin Relationship Education (WiRE) project for college students suggests that it would be “helpful to work on developing a better understanding of the signals you give off when you experience various emotions” as a means of learning self-awareness. For example, if feedback is received for an assignment and the final grade was not what you expected, do you react emotionally and get upset or do you review the feedback and identify how you can improve your performance? Emotional self-awareness helps identify internal reactions to external circumstances.
Once students become aware of their emotions the next step to developing emotional intelligence is managing those feelings so that the best course of action is taken or the most effective decision is made. Goleman (2001) co-authored Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence and described self-management as an “ability to keep negative emotions and impulsive behavior under control, stay calm and unflappable even under stressful situations, maintain a clear and focused mind directed on accomplishing a task.” Some of the strategies students can use to manage their emotions are to develop a positive mindset, focus on achievements, and develop adaptability to situations. As an example, every new class you take is going to present an opportunity for new interactions and learning experiences. If you manage how you feel you will find it easier to adjust to new situations and starting the class will not be as stressful.
As students recognize and control their emotions they find that they are likely to develop social competence. This includes social awareness and relationship management, which are the remaining two components in Goleman’s model. Social awareness is defined as an “ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what is really going on.” When you are no longer focused on your own emotions (a reactive state of mind) you can tune into the feelings of other classmates and demonstrate effective listening skills and empathy. This will ultimately lead to stronger working relationships because you will not be viewed as “highly emotional” and as a result, other students will be more likely to interact with you.
Relationship management is an “ability to use awareness of your emotions and the others’ emotions to manage interactions successfully.” When you are not reactive to your emotions or the emotions of others, you can maintain a positive disposition and better resolve any communication conflicts that arise. Joyce G. Walsh-Portillo of Florida International University authored The Role of Emotional Intelligence in College Students' Success and noted that “a student who is able to relate on an interpersonal basis with faculty, peers, and the college community at large will be better prepared to initiate and maintain vital interpersonal relationships while in college, and in the future, in a professional environment (Cherniss & Goleman, 2001).” Students have multiple relationships to manage and emotional intelligence is the key to developing effective interactions. One of the most important relationships is with the instructor and a well-developed emotional intelligence allows students to receive feedback and coaching without becoming defensive.
Relevance to Performance
The development of emotional intelligence is a skill that is transferrable to the workplace and will improve your classwork. TalentSmart is a provider of emotional intelligence resources and services to over 75 percent of the Fortune 500 companies. They conducted a test of skills that are important for the workplace and found that “emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs.” The reason for this success is that, through control of our emotions, the rational part of our mind is allowed to be involved in the communication and decision-making process. This is directly relevant to students’ performance in class as they need to balance emotions and rational thought to perform well. For example, an emotional response during a class discussion will likely discourage conversations with other students, whereas, a balance of logic and controlled emotion will result in a response that encourages connections with others.
The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations has identified four necessary qualities for developing emotional intelligence. This can be used as a checklist the next time you are interacting with others or working in class:
• Know which emotions are felt and why. If you experience an emotional reaction to a situation or conversation, try to recognize what you are feeling.
• Realize the links between your feelings and resulting thoughts or actions. Consider how you would normally respond to this situation before you take action.
• Recognize how feelings affect your performance. This is very important for class performance. If you are “in a bad mood” this negativity may prevent you from doing your best, maintaining motivation, and sustaining self-confidence.
• Have a guiding awareness of your values and goals. As an example, most students want to perform well in class so use this as a goal or purpose for recognizing and managing your emotions.
Are You Emotionally Intelligent?
After reviewing the four components of emotional intelligence, can you identify your areas of strengths and aspects that need further work? There are many online quizzes available to test your EI, including an EI quiz developed by The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. The development of EI requires thoughtful self-evaluation. As Goleman noted, it is a learned skill that can be developed over time and strengthened through practice. For college students, this is a skill that can enhance your school work, improve your relationships with others, and it is also transferrable to the workplace. If you want to maintain or improve your performance in the classroom, or on the job, becoming emotionally intelligent will likely help you meet that goal.
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