What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability, capacity or skill to perceive, assess and manage our own emotions and the emotions of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing our emotions effectively in our relationships (Goleman 1998). EI refers to the self-awareness or understanding of one’s own emotional life (intrapersonal). It also refers to the ability to build rapport, motivate and influence others (interpersonal).
Growing your emotional intelligence
Unlike IQ, which is largely genetic changing little from childhood, the skills of emotional intelligence can be learnt at any age. However, it is not easy – growing your emotional intelligence takes practice and commitment over months and years rather than days.
Why does it take time?
The neocortex or the ‘thinking’ part of the brain that learns technical skills and purely cognitive ability gains knowledge very quickly but the emotional brain does not. To master a new behaviour the emotional centres need repetition and practice. Improving your emotional intelligence is akin to changing habits. Brain circuits that carry leadership habits have to unlearn the old ones and replace them with the new. The more often the behavioural sequence is repeated the stronger the underlying circuits become. At some point the new neural pathways become the brains default option.
For example: many of you came to University thinking that studying to become a healthcare practitioner was all about gaining technical knowledge and skills, e.g. how to be an OT or a Radiographer. You’ve found it difficult to write reflectively often because it requires honesty with yourself. So, you have been developing your emotional intelligence in various ways through your studies.
- Undertaking self-awareness questionnaires and tests such as learning styles, Belbin Self-Perception Inventory, SWOT analyses;
- Receiving feedback from sources such as personal tutors, assessment, peers, placement educators, and patients/clients/carers/families.
- Through reflective writing such as that undertaken for portfolio development
By engaging with reflective practice you are thinking critically about the many aspects of being a healthcare practitioner. It is important to grow your emotional intelligence and increase your resilience both personally and professionally to deal with the challenges that you face daily.
The resilient practitioner pages are designed to help you develop techniques to add to your emotional intelligence toolbox. Each page explores a different challenge that your likely to experience in your personal and professional life.