Why my definition of emotional intelligence is different

If you’re learning EQ, then, by all means, a definition of emotional intelligence should be clarified.

As a background, the term emotional intelligence was popularized by Daniel Goldman in his 1996 book of the same name, and according to Goleman’s book, EQ is:

the ability to identify, assess, and control one’s own emotions, the emotions of others, and that of groups

Frankly, that definition bothered me.  I don’t think it’s morally correct to control the emotions of others and/or groups. I wanted a better definition.

Turned out there were other definitions out there. And so, after much thought, my company came up with one of our own about 20 years ago, and we still use it. Here it is:

an intelligence and skill that enables you to perceive and assess your own and other people’s emotions, desires, and tendencies, and then choose the best course of action based on that perception to obtain the best result for everyone
Unpacking this definition:

The first two words we’ll examine are perceive and assess.

Perceive means to become aware or conscious of something. It’s what you notice.

means evaluate or estimate the nature, ability, or quality of something. It’s a processing function.

What do we perceive and assess?

our own and other people’s emotions desires and tendencies

Okay — let’s unpack a little more.

Emotions are defined as an instinctive state of mind,  derived from our circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.

Emotions just happen.  We run into somebody we like, and we feel happiness. Somebody steals something from us and we feel violated.

Desires are strong feelings of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.

These are our wants, and they are commonly linked to our motivations. For example, if I’m motivated to achieve financial security, I desire a large return on investment in any deal.

Tendencies are an inclination toward a particular type of behavior or way of doing things.

I may tend toward solving problems as soon as I see them, or I may tend to take my time and think things through. Tendencies are affiliated with behavioral styles and cognitive styles.

Perceiving and Assessing in the moment

Because emotions, desires and tendencies can change throughout the day, we must learn to perceive and assess in the moment. Why? Because what you hear is true: we can’t put ourselves or others in a box.

Here’s an example of how emotions, desires, and tendencies can shift in short order. Let’s say you’re at work, and for the entire morning things are operating like a well-oiled machine. Workflow is running smoothly and everyone is in a great mood. But in the afternoon, your largest client calls with an urgent need to have you put together a large report and overnight it via FED EX to five different locations.  Everyone jumps into action, but then the Internet goes down and your computer’s hard drive crashes. Arrgh!!!

Putting our definition of emotional intelligence into action, you perceive and assess the emotions, desires, and tendencies of yourself and those around you, and then you:

choose the best course of action based on the perception to obtain the best result for everyone.

By the way, notice that in this definition, EQ operates within a win-win mindset. If we use EQ simply for our own needs, we run the risk of manipulating others. Not good! Therefore, I think it’s imperative that true emotional intelligence be used to obtain the best result for everyone.

And that’s my definition of emotional intelligence.

If you’d like to learn more, I invite you to download a free copy of my latest book:

Get your free book on emotional intelligence

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