We hear a lot about the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ) in organizational settings. Although it is an incredibly popular concept, there are three common questions about emotional intelligence that, if addressed, can help move the field of organizational behavior forward. First, can you accurately assess emotional intelligence? Second, what are the dimensions of the equivalent? And finally, can EQ be improved?
KEY POINTS 1. Ability-based emotional intelligence can be assessed using objective tests. 2. The four dimensions of ability-based EQ are similar to, but different from, the four emotional intelligence skills. 3. Emotional intelligence skills can be improved, but whether we can improve ability-based emotional intelligence is to be determined.
emotional intelligence assessment
Emotional intelligence entails the ability to carry out accurate thinking about emotions and the ability to use emotions and emotional knowledge to enhance thinking. This is a difficult construct, as it connects the emotional and cognitive systems.
People who are higher in emotional intelligence are not only self-aware of their emotions but are also able to self-regulate so that they use that emotion-laden information to make behavioral adjustments. This multi-step cognitive process is an ability, which in turn is called a form of intelligence.
Ability can only be accurately assessed using some form of objective comparison. Asking a participant to self-assess their emotional intelligence will not suffice. By definition, those lower in the EQ are unable to accurately assess this ability (i.e., underestimated or overestimated), making it difficult to properly assess its reliability and validity.
Likewise, asking individuals to rate how smart another person is (for example, a colleague, subordinate, or supervisor) is also wrong. We can only accurately assess the observed behaviors of others – emotional intelligence outcomes – which can result from a variety of alternative factors.
EQ is evaluated as an ability objectively so that performance on specific tasks can be compared with the overall population. One well-validated example is the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), which gives participants a variety of visual tasks that define specific dimensions (see next section below). The tasks are then rated as correct or incorrect based on comparisons with the norm sample (ie, the general consensus method).
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Conclusion #1: To date, the best approach to accurately assess emotional intelligence is to use an objective test-based format.
dimensions of emotional intelligence
There are two primary EQ frameworks that circulate in the information field. The first, established by Mayer and Salovey, identifies four dimensions (also referred to as faces or branches) of EQ as capacity. These four dimensions include perceiving emotions, facilitating thinking, understanding emotions, and managing emotions.
The second framework outlines the four “skills” of emotional intelligence. The four skill-based dimensions of emotional intelligence include self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship management.
The distinction between abilities and skills is important. Abilities entail the qualities of being able to do something. Skills are more applied and behavioral in nature and can be developed over time. Capacity based benefit EQ framework is that it is conceptually sound and can be evaluated objectively. However, the challenge is that it is unclear whether it can be improved through interventions.
The benefit of a skill-based EQ framework is that it is more behavioral in nature, making it easier to identify specific activities that may affect cognition and/or future behaviours. The challenge here is that its conceptualization is less explicit (i.e. the cognitive and behavioral manifestations of an emotional and cognitive concept) and thus can be confused with alternative constructs.
The Four Dimensions of Ability-Based Emotional Intelligence
1. Awareness of emotions
The ability to recognize feelings in oneself and others. This dimension is central to the remaining dimensions, as it entails self-awareness and further awareness of emotions that can then inform self-regulatory abilities.
2. Facilitate thought
The ability to understand how emotions can be used to communicate information and, in turn, to use that understanding in context-appropriate ways. This dimension addresses the idea that it is not enough to be aware of emotions; We must also understand what it means and how it appears in unique situations.
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3. Understand your emotions
The ability to understand how emotions unite and transform and to understand the meaning of such combinations and transitions. This dimension acknowledges that emotions are multifaceted and transient and that some individuals are more adept at understanding these complexities.