EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE : An Essential Consideration in Education Policy and Curriculum Development in Sri Lanka
Posted on January 9th, 2020

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

In 1990, psychologists John Mayer (University of New Hampshire) and Peter Salovey        (Yale University) coined the term, Emotional Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence means the ability to recognize, understand and manage one’s own emotions and to recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others. In practical terms, this means being aware that emotions can drive our behavior and impact people, positively and negatively, and learning how to manage those emotions – both our own and others – especially when we are under pressure. In other words, emotional intelligence involves recognizing, understanding and managing your own emotions and influencing  the emotions of others. It means the capacity to be aware of, express and control one’s emotions, thereby being able to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. When emotions run high, they change the way our brains function, diminishing our cognitive abilities, decision-making powers, and even interpersonal skills. Emotional Intelligence is the key to both personal and professional success.

Daniel Goleman  

 In 1995, in his renowned book titled “Emotional Intelligence” Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist, developed a framework of five elements that define emotional intelligence. He argued that intellect alone was no guarantee of adeptness or proficiency in identifying one’s own emotions or the emotional expressions of others.  Goleman said that It took a special kind of intelligence to process emotional information and utilize it effectively — whether to facilitate good personal decisions, to resolve conflicts or to motivate oneself and others. Goleman broadened Mayer’s and Salovey’s four-branch system to incorporate five essential elements of emotional intelligence.

1.    Emotional self-awareness — knowing what one is feeling at any given time and understanding the impact those moods have on others. People with high emotional intelligence are usually very self-aware. They understand their emotions, and because of this, they don’t let their feelings rule them. They are confident because they trust their intuition and do not let their emotions get out of control. They are willing to take an honest look at themselves. They know their strengths and weaknesses, and they work on these areas so they can perform better. Many people believe that this self-awareness is the most important part of emotional intelligence. You understand your own strengths and limitations; you operate from competence and know when to rely on someone else on the team. You understand your feelings and being aware of what makes you angry, for instance, can help you manage that anger.

2.    Self-Regulation — controlling or redirecting one’s emotions; anticipating consequences before acting on impulse. This is the ability to control emotions  and impulses. People who self-regulate typically do not allow themselves to become too angry or jealous, and they do not make impulsive, careless decisions. They think before they act. Characteristics of self-regulation are thoughtfulness, comfort with change, integrity, and the ability to say no. Resilience or you stay calm under pressure and recover quickly from upsets. You don’t brood or panic. In a crisis, people look to the leader for reassurance; if the leader is calm, they can be, too. Emotional balance or you keep any distressful feelings in check — instead of blowing up at people, you let them know what’s wrong and what the solution is.  Self-motivation or you keep moving toward distant goals despite setbacks.

3.    Motivation — utilizing emotional factors to achieve goals, enjoy the learning process and persevere in the face of obstacles. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence are usually  motivated. They are willing to defer immediate results for long-term success. They are highly productive, love a challenge, and are very effective in whatever they do.

4.    Empathy — sensing the emotions of others. This is perhaps the second-most important element of emotional intelligence. Empathy  is the ability to identify with and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around you. People with empathy are good at recognizing the feelings of others, even when those feelings may not be obvious. As a result, empathetic people are usually excellent at managing relationshipslistening, and relating to others. They avoid stereotyping and judging too quickly, and they live their lives in a very open, honest way. Because you understand other perspectives, you can put things in ways colleagues comprehend. And you welcome their questions, just to be sure. Cognitive empathy, along with reading another person’s feelings accurately, makes for effective communication.

5.    Social skills — managing relationships, inspiring others and inducing desired responses from them. It is usually easy to talk to and like people with good social skills, another sign of high emotional intelligence. Those with strong social skills are typically team players. Rather than focus on their own success first, they help others develop and shine. They can manage disputes, are excellent communicators, and are masters at building and maintaining relationships. Good listening is a social skill. You pay full attention to the other person and take time to understand what they are saying, without talking over them or hijacking the agenda. You put your points in persuasive, clear ways so that people feel relaxed working with you, they laugh easily around you, and most importantly, are motivated and are aware about expectations.                                                                                                                                              

Emotional Intelligence Can Be Learned and Developed

Observe how you react to people. Do you rush to judgment before you know all the facts? Do you stereotype? Look honestly at how you think and interact with other people. Try to put yourself in their place, and be more open and accepting of their perspectives and needs. Look at your work environment. Do you seek attention for your accomplishments? Humility can be a wonderful quality, and it does not mean that you are shy or lack self-confidence. When you practice humility, you say that you know what you did, and you can be quietly confident about it. Give others a chance to shine – put the focus on them, and do not worry too much about getting praise for yourself. Do a self-evaluation. What are your weaknesses? Are you willing to accept that you are not perfect and that you could work on some areas to make yourself a better person? Have the courage to look at yourself honestly – it can change your life.

Examine how you react to stressful situations. Do you become upset every time there is a delay or something does not happen the way you want? Do you blame others or become angry at them, even when it is not their fault? The ability to stay calm and in control in difficult situations is highly valued – in the business world and outside it. Keep your emotions under control when things go wrong. If you hurt someone’s feelings, apologize directly – do not ignore what you did or avoid the person. People are usually more willing to forgive and forget if you make an honest attempt to make things right. Examine how your actions will affect others – before you take those actions. If your decision will impact others, put yourself in their place. How will they feel if you do this? Would you want that experience? If you must take the action, how can you help others deal with the effects?

A Key to Success in Life

We know people, either at work or in our personal lives, who are good listeners. No matter what kind of situation we are in, they always seem to know just what to say – and how to say it – so that we are not offended or upset. They are caring and considerate, and even if we do not find a solution to our problem, we usually leave, feeling more hopeful and optimistic. We also know people who are masters at managing their emotions. They do not get angry in stressful situations. Instead, they have the ability to look at a problem and calmly find a solution. They are excellent decision makers, and they know when to trust their intuition. Regardless of their strengths, however, they are usually willing to look at themselves honestly. They take criticism well, and they know when to use it to improve their performance. People like these, have a high degree of emotional intelligence. They know themselves very well, and they are also able to sense the emotional needs of others. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize your emotions, understand what they are telling you, and realize how your emotions affect people around you. It also involves your perception of others: when you understand how they feel, this allows you to manage relationships more effectively. Emotional intelligence is an awareness of your actions and feelings – and how they affect those around you. It also means that you value others, listen to their wants and needs, and can empathize or identify with them on many different levels.

Applications for Educators

The Emotional Intelligence of children starts developing long before they ever enter a classroom. But Emotional Intelligence levels will vary widely, depending on each child’s home environment. Thus, teachers must be able to recognize those children whose emotional literacy needs a boost. Teachers should be ready to talk about feelings in the classroom. The message is that no emotion is wrong,” but certain ways of expressing those emotions or acting on them are indeed inappropriate. In 2002, UNESCO launched an international campaign to promote emotional learning in the classroom. The U.N. body sent a statement of 10 basic Emotional Intelligence  principles to education ministries throughout the world. Those principles drew heavily from Goleman’s exposition of emotional intelligence. There are very practical reasons to promote social and emotional learning in schools, from kindergarten through college. According to Goleman, bullying, disciplinary problems, violence and drug abuse are reduced in schools with a high Emotional Intelligence. With a solid basis in emotional intelligence, academic performance — as well as behavior — improves. There is an obvious connection to Goleman’s third, motivational component: learning stimulates curiosity and promotes feelings of satisfaction, even joy, when students immerse themselves in the process of assimilating new information.

Although “regular” intelligence is important to success in life, emotional intelligence is key to relating well to others and achieving your goals. Many people believe that it is at least as important as regular intelligence, and many companies in the west, now use emotional intelligence testing to hire new staff. Also, Professional Organizations in the western world are increasingly accepting that emotional intelligence is important to professional success as much as technical ability and other skills and are using it when hiring and promoting employees. People with high emotional intelligence are usually successful in most things they do. Why? Because they are the ones that others want on their team. When people with high emotional intelligence send an email, it gets answered. When they need help, they get it. Because they make others feel good, they go through life much more easily than people who are easily angered or upset. For decades, researchers have studied the reasons why a high IQ (IQ is the intelligence quotient, or the total score derived from several standardized tests designed to assess human intelligence) does not necessarily guarantee success in the boardroom or the classroom. By the 1980s, psychologists and biologists, among others, were focusing on the important role other skill sets — needed to process emotional information — played in promoting worldly success, leadership, personal fulfillment and happy relationships.

Emotional intelligence can be a key to success in your life – especially in one’s career. The ability to manage people and relationships is very important in all leaders, so developing and using your emotional intelligence can be a good way to show others the leader inside of you. Thanks to Goleman, educators now recognize that emotional intelligence is every bit as important to learning as intellectual prowess or the standard IQ or intelligence quotient. As a result, tens of thousands of schools throughout the world currently incorporate social and emotional learning” in their curricula. In some schools, courses geared toward developing emotional intelligence are mandatory. Daniel Goleman, in his book Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence,” (2013), underscored that the ability to identify and monitor emotions — your own and others’ — and to manage relationships distinguish the best leaders in the corporate world, thereby highlighting that role emotional intelligence plays in excellence.

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

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