Among the many justly deserved encomia being heaped on newly invested Yale President Peter Salovey are references to his pioneering work as a psychology scholar in the field of emotional intelligence.
While various versions of the notion of a social intelligence had been discussed for many years, the concept of emotional intelligence began to receive widespread attention, study and utilization after groundbreaking work by Salovey and his colleague John Mayer several decades ago. They studied pre-existing strands of previous research on related topics which they referred to as “scattered.”
Their comprehensive review and analysis brought forth a unified approach identifying basic mental processes involving emotion intelligence. They defined emotional intelligence as “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”
Essentially, they broke emotional intelligence down into four discrete areas: the abilities to (1) accurately perceive and recognize emotions; (2) to use emotion to facilitate thought; (3) to better understand emotion; and finally (4) to manage and regulate the emotion to achieve positive results. They believed that the management of emotion could be done in adaptive rather than maladaptive ways and that this could bring about “a transformation of personal and social interaction and enriching experiences.”
In time, the authors together with other colleagues referred to emotional intelligence as a “hot” intelligence, as it involves issues of personal importance.
Other scholars followed up on the role of emotional intelligence in a wide variety of settings, with numerous publications. A great deal of interest has been generated in academia as well as in the popular press. In fact, Yale University has established a highly regarded Center on Emotional Intelligence which conducts research and has the goal of teaching people of all ages how to develop their emotional intelligence.
The concept of emotional intelligence can be startling when first encountered as many instinctively feel that “intelligence” and “emotion” are polar opposites.
Admittedly, part of my excitement about the renewed emphasis on emotional intelligence concurrent with Salovey’s investiture is because I was a psychology major as a Yale undergraduate. But even more so because I am a mediator and recognize the critical role which the concept plays in the dynamics of negotiation and dispute resolution.
Recognizing the importance of the elements of emotional intelligence has become an important part of mediation and negotiation training. Several distinguished ADR scholars, including Carrie Menkel-Meadow and Andrea Schneider, have highlighted the critical role emotions play in negotiations. Further, they cite research indicating that dealing effectively with emotions is by no means as simple as merely suppressing them.
While venting emotions can be cathartic and often helpful in the mediation setting, it alone is not a substitute for fully recognizing, understanding and managing the emotions.
The astute mediator and negotiator recognize that emotions cannot be avoided. They are inextricably intertwined with our thought processes and our activities. We can no more avoid getting emotional than we can avoid thinking.
Clearly, the first step in achieving an effective emotional intelligence in a negotiation or mediation setting is the recognition of one’s own emotions and the emotions of others involved, whether they be clients, adversaries or participant.
Thereafter, forming conclusions about the bases and causes of the emotions is critical.
Ultimately, the management of the perceived emotions is essential, not so much by controlling or eliminating the emotions, but rather by understanding them, channeling them and using them to direct actions and activities.
Most experienced mediators will report that they have experienced numerous negotiations where the expression, suppression, recognition or unawareness of existing and pivotal emotions played a major role in the success or failure of the mediation. As an example, I once witnessed a highly respected attorney of national recognition kick his foot through a door panel following intense and difficult negotiations…. and then stating that emotions weren’t playing a role in the deliberations.
The concept of emotional intelligence is highly relevant in the field of mediation. This relevance is based on the premise that while individuals differ in abilities to perceive and regulate emotion — and thus to “harness” the emotions to better solve problems — there are basic skills concerning these processes which can be encouraged and developed. All of us have the capacity to better perceive and regulate our emotions toward better results.
In the field of mediation, we are learning more and more that disciplines such as neuroscience and the social sciences have a great deal to teach us about how we operate and why. The skilled negotiator and the skilled advocate will keep an open mind on these breakthroughs and incorporate them into an already growing arsenal of negotiation and mediation techniques and skills.
So while the conventional wisdom urges us to “check our emotions at the door,” or “let’s keep emotions out of this”, the emotional intelligence movement instructs that emotions do play a major role in any negotiation and that those participants who do not have a recognition and awareness of them, together with the desire and ability to use them in a positive and an adaptive fashion ,will likely not fare well.
There is a pretty good chance that you know your Intelligence Quotient or IQ.
But how much do you know about your emotional quotient or EQ?
Is your EQ as high as your IQ?•