What Is Emotional Intelligence?

"Emotional intelligence refers to the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships."

- Daniel Goleman, p. 317 Working with Emotional Intelligence (1998)

The scientific development of Emotional Intelligence dates back to the early 1960s with the work of Peter Salovey and John Mayer. Over the subsequent sixty years the concepts of Emotional Intelligence have been reviewed, refined and further developed by Daniel Goleman, David Caruso, Reuven Bar-On, Travis Bradberry, Jean Greaves, Martyn Newman, Judy Purse and others. The "father of Emotional Intelligence", Daniel Goleman, popularised the concept with his best selling book "Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ". Goleman captured his ideas as a set of four domains, with each domain having unique but inter-dependent competencies.

Goleman wheel chart showing self-awareness leads to Social Awareness leads to Self Management leads to Relationship Management that leads back to Self-Awarenes

- Daniel Goleman's EI Framework - 1998 revised 2002

Reuven Bar-On built on Goleman's work by conceptualising emotional and social competencies that contribute to one's overall well-being. It encompasses self-awareness, self-regulation, interpersonal skills, and a variety of emotional and social abilities. Bar-On used three terms:

Facilitators refer to personal characteristics or traits that contribute to emotional and social well-being. For example, Optimism, self-regard, and emotional self-awareness.

Skills are specific abilities that individuals can develop and improve over time. These are practical and applied aspects of emotional and social intelligence. For example, Interpersonal relationships, stress tolerance, and impulse control.

Competencies refer to a combination of facilitators and skills that work together to produce effective and adaptive emotional functioning. Competencies are higher-order abilities that involve integrating various emotional and social aspects. Examples are emotional self-expression, interpersonal relationships, and problem-solving.

Venn diagram showing that Facilitators, skills and competencies combine to form Emotional Intelligence

- Reuven Bar-On Model of Emotional Social Intelligence (ESI) 2006

At HeadCoach we refer to all three collectively as Emotional Intelligence Skills. Emotional Intelligence Skills help us manage (modulate) our internal feelings (states) and our subsequent responses (actions) to the events of life.  

How does Emotional Quotient (EQ) and Emotional Intelligence (EI) differ?

"EQ" and "EI" both refer to Emotional Intelligence, and the terms are often used interchangeably. They represent the same concept. The use of "EQ" (Emotional Quotient) and "EI" (Emotional Intelligence) essentially reflects different ways of expressing the idea that individuals can possess and develop a set of emotional and social skills that contribute to effective functioning in various aspects of life. Both terms refer to the ability to recognise, understand, manage, and effectively use one's own emotions and the emotions of others.

Within HeadCoach we prefer to use "Emotional Intelligence" and to avoid initialisms. If we do need to use an initialism we use EQ.

Is Emotional Intelligence just the same as Empathy?

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence are related concepts, but they refer to different aspects of social and emotional skills. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Empathy is an integral part of many EQ/EI models. It involves putting oneself in someone else's shoes, recognizing their emotions, and responding with sensitivity. Emotional Intelligence is a broader concept encompassing a range of emotional and social skills. It involves the ability to recognize, understand, manage, and effectively use one's emotions and the emotions of others in various social situations.

How is Emotional Intelligence applied to sport?

It has been recognised that the top athletes and sports people have exceptional levels of EQ (Meyer & Fletcher, 2007; Meyer & Zizzi, 2007). This research was refined into the Emotional Intelligence Sports Inventory (ESi) by Newman and Purse. The Emotional Intelligence Sports Inventory typically includes a set of questions or assessments that measure various skills of emotional intelligence relevant to sports performance. These components include self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. The goal is to help athletes understand and develop their emotional and social competencies, which can contribute to improved performance, teamwork, and overall well-being.

At HeadCoach we have adopted the general concept of sports-specific skills. Many of our skills can be related back to the ESi, making it easy for athletes, sports people, their parents and coaches to easily navigate the complexities of sports psychology.

"The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will." - Vince Lombardi

“It all started when I got an injury in my second season. This turned out to be as difficult emotionally as physically.” Magic Johnson

"It's not the will to win that matters—everyone has that. It's the will to prepare to win that matters." - Paul "Bear" Bryant

How is Emotional Intelligence connected to athletic performance?

An athlete needs to drive for positivity and improvements in all aspects of their life. It is not enough to think just physically, the source of all success starts in the brain. The skills you use to communicate with your coach and teammates, to think about tactics, to execute your game plan and to regulate your emotions in the heat of the game all require a strong and healthy mind. Your Emotional Intelligence Skills are how you inspire yourself and your teammates around you.

If you have good Emotional Intelligence Skills, then your internal states are stronger, better proportioned for any situation and easier to control. This directly feeds into your athletic performance, it gives you the “winning attitude” that is the edge over physical strength alone.

How do you know Emotional Intelligence and athletic performance are connected?

Several research studies have explored the link between EQ and successful athletic performance (Crombie et al., 2009; Laborde, Dosseville, Guillen & Chavez, 2014; Laborde, Dosseville, & Raab, 2013; Laborde, Dosseville, & Allen, 2016; April, Lifson, & Noakes, 2012; Rubaltelli et al., 2018; Smith et al., 2018).

Here is a brief summary of some key studies:

Smith et al. (2018) used the ESi to explore the relationship between emotional intelligence and sport performance among 389 males and females from Australia, Wales, and England. Findings from the study indicated that the ESi is a reliable and valid measure for identifying EQ differences between gender, level of sport participation and nationality.

Crombie et al. (2009) conducted a longitudinal study of 104 cricketers from six national teams. Ability EQ scores were related to objective team performance parameters.

The trait emotional intelligence of 111 table tennis players was evaluated. High EQ was related to greater use of coping strategies (Laborde et al., 2016).

Rubaltelli et al. (2018) investigated how runners' trait emotional intelligence (trait EI) influences their performance. They demonstrated that runners' trait EI was the main predictor of runners' finish time. Specifically, trait EI emerged as the variable with the highest power to predict finish time over and above training.

Isn’t Emotional Intelligence just part of my personality - how can I change it?

Your personality forms in the first 6 years of your life and is best described as a set of traits unique to you. These traits - your special superpowers - come with strengths and areas for growth. Reuven Bar-On refers to these traits as Facilitators.

At HeadCoach we use a mixed model of Emotional Intelligence that we believe enables our customers to refine, grow and sharpen their traits alongside other skills with practice.