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  • Paula Baetu

What is Emotional Intelligence and should we care?

A simple Google search brings back About 211,000,000 results on emotional intelligence. I think it is safe to say this is a topic people are talking about.

Emotional intelligence has been a topic on my radar since entering the organisational psychology sphere in 2014 and the voices are seeming to be getting louder around this buzz term. I became accredited on the MHS EQi 2.0 assessment for this reason and included it into my assessment batteries wherever I could. More and more businesses and their leaders are saying "we need more emotional intelligence in our organisation", but why?

Emotional intelligence can be defined as the ability to recognise, monitor and understand emotions. As well as understanding their impact on you and those around you. Some definitions add the word "control". You may disagree with me but I do not think we can "control" our emotions in a healthy way, even if it is what we would like to believe.

So why should we care?

1. Because, we are human

The first reason why we should care about emotional intelligence is because we are human beings. Therefore, we have all the emotions that come with being human. This is because emotions are a byproduct of the human evolutionary process resulting from various survival and societal benefits. These emotions, as much as we try to block or ignore them, will keep impacting us as well as those around us in very important and fundamental ways.

2. Because, the robots will 'care'

AI is also becoming more emotional (intelligent) according to an article in the Harvard Business Review from July 2018. The article discusses three ways this is already happening. Firstly, in systems that use emotional analysis to adjust their response. Secondly, in systems that provide a targeted emotional analysis for learning purposes. And finally, in systems that mimic and ultimately replace human-to-human interactions. The article also states:

"Annette Zimmermann, vice president of research at Gartner, proclaimed: “By 2022, your personal device will know more about your emotional state than your own family.” ... (additionally) a landmark study from the University of Ohio claimed that their algorithm was now better at detecting emotions than people are."

According to Mikko Alasaarela in an article he wrote called The Rise of Emotionally Intelligent AI, humans are already behind.

"The more I have researched them, the more convinced I have become that people are no longer ahead of AI at emotional intelligence."

Given the increased interest in AI, both in a personal and commercial context, understanding its true impact may mean that we need to better understand ourselves and our emotions.

3. Because, people are everywhere!

It is quite hard to escape other humans. When we work with others or need to be productive where others are involved, emotions (positive, negative or neutral) will be introduced. Thus, an understanding of emotional intelligence will be useful to help us navigate these situations.

For those who dislike people and do not want to work on their emotional intelligence I did a search of jobs that involve little to no interaction with others and got the following list of 21 jobs from JobMonkey Blog: Embalmer, Accountant, Travel Photographer, Tree Planter, Freelance Writer, Truck Driver, Data Scientist, Taxidermist, Music Composer, Mathematician, Statistician, Web Developers, Museum Archivist, Graphic Designers, Actuaries, Animal Breeder, Bush Pilot, Acoustic Engineer, Bike Messenger, Doll Maker, and Road Kill Collector. However, even some of these jobs such as the graphic designer role may unfortunately entail working in an organisation or with a team.

Furthermore, I think it is self-evident that our quality of life is a function of the relationships we have with our family and friends. Getting the most out of these relationships involves navigating our emotions and those around us effectively.


In summary, emotional intelligence is likely going to be an important skill for both humans and some algorithms to have, unless you can escape all interactions with other people.

Since total isolation is unlikely and frankly undesirable, having a better understanding of emotional intelligence is going to be key in making your business and personal life happier, more productive, and more fulfilling.

As a disclaimer, I do not think people should preach emotional intelligence as the be all and end all. It is not the full picture of human functioning and interaction and is not the only aspect development programs should place their focus. Humans are definitely more complex than that. We have personalities, values, societal programming and other intelligences that should be taken into account.

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