Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence Theory Explained

goleman’s theory of emotional intelligence

Daniel Goldman wasn’t the first person to describe emotional intelligence. Goleman, a psychologist, and journalist, made elements of emotional intelligence available to broad sections of society through his dual role. His best-selling books, starting with “Emotional intelligence” (1995), have changed the way businesses work with clients and managers hire employees. His influence has been even greater on education.

Goleman’s work has helped educators recognize the importance of emotional intelligence to learning. Many schools around the globe now include “social and emotional learning” as part of their curriculum. Some schools require courses that promote emotional intelligence.

The history of emotional intelligence

Researchers have been studying the reasons why IQ is not a guarantee of success in the boardroom or classroom for decades. Psychologists and biologists began to focus on the importance of other skills — which are needed to process emotional information — in promoting worldly success and leadership.

Psychologists John Mayer, now at the University of New Hampshire, and Peter Salovey of Yale proposed that there was a unitary intelligence that underlies all other skill sets. They created the term “emotional intelligence” and broke it down into four “branches”.

  • Nonverbal identification of emotions
  • Cognitive thinking can be guided by emotions
  • Understanding emotions and what they do is key to understanding how emotions communicate information.
  • For personal and collective benefit, managing one’s emotions is important.

Goleman, a science reporter at the New York Times was exposed to Mayer and Salovey’s works and went one step further with the concept of emotional intelligence. His 1995 book, entitled “Eponymous”, argued that the existing definitions of intelligence had to be revised. While intelligence was important, it was not enough to be able to identify one’s emotions and those of others. Goleman stated that it took a special type of intelligence to process emotions and use them effectively, whether to make good decisions, resolve conflicts, or motivate others.

Goleman’s five components to emotional intelligence

Goleman expanded Mayer’s and Saloveys four-branch system by including five elements of emotional intelligence (or EQ), which he sometimes uses as a shorthand.

  • Emotional self-awareness – knowing one’s feelings at any given moment and understanding their impact on others
  • Self-regulation – controlling or redirecting emotions; anticipating the consequences before acting
  • Motivation — using emotional factors to reach goals, enjoy learning and persevere through obstacles
  • Empathy — Sensing the emotions and thoughts of others
  • Social skills: managing relationships, inspiring others, and generating desired responses from them

Application for educators

It is very practical to encourage social and emotional learning at all levels of schools, from kindergarten to college. Goleman says that bullying, disciplinary problems and drug abuse are less common in schools with a high EQ. A solid foundation in emotional intelligence improves academic performance as well as behavior. This is a clear connection to Goleman’s third, motivating component. Learning stimulates curiosity and fosters feelings of joy when students are fully immersed in the process.

Children’s EQ begins to develop long before they enter school. However, EQ levels can vary depending on the child’s environment. Teachers must recognize children who need to improve their emotional literacy. Teachers must be able to discuss feelings in the classroom. It is important to remember that emotions are not wrong. However, certain expressions and actions may be inappropriate.

2002 saw the launch of an international campaign by UNESCO to encourage emotional learning in schools. A statement containing 10 basic EQ principles was sent by the U.N. body to all education ministers around the globe. These principles were heavily influenced by Goleman’s presentation of emotional intelligence.

Rating emotional intelligence

PositivePsychology.com has created a guide to help people assess their own levels of emotional intelligence. There are many exercises that can be used to help you classify facial expressions, communicate with others, and even use emotional articulation tools. These activities are appropriate for both adults and students.