Lately, we’ve been hearing more and more about the meaning of emotional intelligence (EI). According to its basic definition, emotional intelligence is the ability that people use to recognize and define the feelings of themselves and the people around them. According to theories about emotional intelligence, this ability can lead to the development of leadership skills and a better mental health. This issue is of great interest because it has been the subject of scientific debate for a number of years and has caused great controversy, with extreme views like that it is ultimately a determining factor in distinguishing humans from animals, as the latter are considered incapable of “feeling” anything but the primal instincts of self-preservation, hunger, guarding their living space and protecting their offspring.
The term EI first appeared in the 1970s, but it has become more and more popular in recent years. The basic theory about emotional intelligence is now that it is just as important, if not more so, than “classical”, “objectively” measurable intelligence. The latter, however, has often been criticized for not being quite as objective in its measurement criteria, as they rely heavily on language and mathematical skills that are subject to learning, so they are practicable but also tend to produce lower scores in people with” normal” intelligence but suffering from learning disabilities or educational disadvantages.
Studies have shown that often hardened criminals do not have a fully developed emotional intelligence, so they do not feel sympathy for their victims – they lack the capability for empathy. Still, at this point we cannot ignore nor may one dismiss as insignificant the possible emotional and/ or material bereavements of even such hardened criminals, such as their own upbringing, the lack of warmth and positive standards in their lives or their neglect or even abuse at a young age. Possibly EI, or rather its lack, is a gray area in the examination of extreme delinquent behavior.
The measurement of emotional intelligence is done in much the same way that general intelligence (IQ) is measured; it has received strong criticism though, not only in terms of how it is measured but also in terms of the theory itself. Its core, however, is empathy, which means being able to understand another person’s emotional state almost as if he were “in his/ her shoes”, feeling similarly and reacting accordingly (“as if”). It is important to note that it shouldn’t be confused with social skills, even though both are to some extent overlapping concepts.
Till now it has not been proven whether mental health and leadership skills are the result of emotional intelligence or whether they are personality traits and part of a person’s general intelligence. In any case, it would be very interesting to observe how the scientific dialogue around the EI might progress, how theories may attempt to explain the developments, and ultimately whether a connection to the increase in individual skills will be proven. However, it may be a combination of family values and/ or personal standards, innate talents and acquired skills. In any case, the talk about Emotional Intelligence has only just begun.