Why did I choose this tool?
I had disliked the popularized version of Emotional Intelligence; something about it seemed as if it were missing the point, putting too much emphasis on “positive” emotions. When I came across an article for Salon magazine by Annie Murphy Paul talking about how Goleman’s version differed from the original put forth by Salovey and Mayer, my jaw dropped. Upon further investigation, I learned that their original version of emotional intelligence talked a lot about how emotions and cognition worked with each other. I think so many of us only know the version put forth by Goleman, not the one originally put forth by Salovey and Mayer, and doing more research on this helped me see how there are many theories out there using the same name but talking about different things, and I think it can be useful for us to learn about the different types.
How does this apply to being a trainer?
As a trainer, we deal with the emotions of many people throughout the day: ourselves, other trainers, participants, and other people involved with the organization of the training. The ability model of emotional intelligence can help us identify the different skills we can develop to get better at perceiving emotions, facilitating thoughts with them, understanding them, and managing them, and therefore engaging with the emotions of the training in a more skillful way. What Salovey and Mayer have outlined is similar to the competence model of this Trainers Library: giving a map of discrete competences that you can improve in yourself. When we have the skills for dealing with emotions, we can respond to many situations within our trainings; when we don’t have them, we can often see our trainings spiraling out of control or going in directions in which we didn’t want them to go.
Daniel Goleman popularized the concept of Emotional Intelligence around the world. He originally found it in academic papers put forth by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer (not the musician). Annie Murphy Paul described in an article for Salon, how the concept changed as Goleman popularized it and included a nuanced look at how his version differed from the original. She discussed the reactions that Salovey and Mayer had to Goleman’s newfound focus, while also discussing the overall history of the concept:
The original theory only has a nodding acquaintance with the version presented in Goleman’s book. As a result, “The public’s definition of emotional intelligence has now become completely different from the academic definition,” says John Mayer, the University of New Hampshire psychologist who, with Yale’s Peter Salovey, first formally defined the term 10 years ago.
The article continues…
“Why would we have evolved such a complex and interesting system if it’s not adaptive, if it didn’t help us?” asks Salovey about emotions. “Why do we have to think of emotions as interfering with cognition? Why not look for ways in which people are even more rational because they have emotions?”
The original theory
Salovey and Mayer wrote a paper together in 1990 describing their new theory of emotional intelligence. For them, it was taking research on emotions and blending it with research on intelligence—the intersection of where emotions and cognition met.
Emotions reflect relationships between a person and a friend, a family, the situation, a society, or more internally, between a person and a reflection or memory. For example, joy might indicate one’s identification with a friend’s success; sadness might indicate disappointment with one’s self. Emotional intelligence refers in part to an ability to recognize the meanings of such emotional patterns and to reason and problem solve on the basis of them (Mayer & Salovey,1997; Salovey & Mayer,1990).
In a paper written in 2016, they revisit the four main branches of how they originally defined what they are now calling the ability model of emotional intelligence. They state that their concept was that the branches go from the most basic computational skills to the most advanced.
How does this relate to the indicator?
Using this model, to get better at “showing a clear understanding of feelings and emotions and their impacts on others,” we would practice the first three branches listed above. The one that most closely relates to the indicator is the third branch, understanding emotions. Different skills that we could practice include affective forecasting, differentiating between moods and emotions, labeling emotions and recognizing relations between them, etc. However, the theory suggests that to get to that level of skill, we should first practice the skills in the lower branches: 1) perceiving emotion and 2) facilitating thought using emotion. While this theory doesn’t give us the tools for how to develop those specific skills, it gives us a roadmap for knowing which skills we should practice.
- When you read the list of skills in the table above, how would you assess your overall skill level in each of the four categories: 0-10, 0 being no ability and 10 being superhuman ability?
- Do you think it’s important for a trainer to know multiple theories on emotional intelligence? Why?
- What is one emotional skill from the above table that you think you do very well?
- What is one emotional skill from the above table that you think you do very poorly?
- What are some activities you can do to practice the skills in the first branch?
- What are some activities you can do to practice the skills in the second branch?
- What are some activities you can do to practice the skills in the third branch?
- What is one time on a training when you lacked the ability to understand someone’s emotions?
- What is one time on a training when you did a very good job at understanding someone’s emotions?
How to apply it in everyday life
- List 5 activities that you could do to practice the skills listed in each of the first, second, and third branches in the table above.
- Read the original academic papers by Salovey and Mayer.
- Read papers comparing the different types of emotional intelligence theories.
- Ask a few friends what they think emotional intelligence means and compare their answers to the theory by Salovey and Mayer.
- List 3 trainers who you think are really good at showing an understanding for the feelings and emotions of others—perhaps they could serve as mentors for you in this field.