Training EI Skills
Can emotional intelligence be enhanced and learned? Despite what the popular press says, we really don't know.
As with any intelligence, it may be extremely difficult to raise one's emotional intelligence. Consider, for example the lessons learned from decades of early intervention programs.
But, isn't it a fundamental principle of emotional intelligence that it, unlike IQ, can be raised? Certainly the popular press makes such a claim. Many practitioners earn their livelihood by claiming that emotional intelligence can be increased.
Even if we accept the personality-based models of emotional intelligence, the notion that we can change, and easily change, basic personality traits just isn't correct. Can pessimists become optimists by taking a workshop? Can anxiety be cured easily? Certainly they cannot. Can pessimists learn to examine their thinking style and at times, alter their style? Yes, this seems possible.
When it comes to an ability-based model of emotional intelligence, we need to proceed with great caution when we make claims about its malleability. There is no data that bears on this subject. However, we may speculate that if the emotional intelligence of a person cannot be altered that perhaps we can teach people emotional skills and enhance their emotional knowledge.
For example, we can teach people emotion words, and we can teach people what causes emotions. We can help someone who is not good at Identifying Emotions accurately to increase their accuracy level. These people are learning skills and acquiring knowledge, but their emotional intelligence itself may not be changing. A fine point, perhaps, but an important one to make.
Perhaps this question is best answered by the originators of the ability theory of emotional intelligence, John Mayer of the University of New Hampshire, and Peter Salovey of Yale University.
Mayer views EI as a psychological capacity for making sense of and using emotional information. As individuals, we all have different capacities for doing this -- some of us may be fair or average, while others of us may be expert. According to Mayer, part of this capacity is innate, while part is what we learn from experience in life. And it is this latter part which we may improve on through effort, practice, and experience.
Salovey expands on Mayer's view that many of the skills that are a part of emotional intelligence can be learned. Salovey believes that EI is a set of skills and competencies that can be both taught and learned, such that a person could become better educated emotionally.
So the answer is that, with sufficient motivation and effort, there are many things you can do to acquire the skills and develop the competencies that are part of emotional intelligence.
We believe that you can learn more about emotions and increase your emotional knowledge. We believe that psychotherapy, counseling and coaching are ways in which we can enhance our emotional intelligence skills.
What this also means is that I would not necessarily expect a person's score on an ability measure of emotional intelligence (such as the MSCEIT) to increase after a training program. They may have greater knowledge, and some of the behavior may change, but their actual MSCEIT score will likely not change. Again, however, we do not have an empirical answer to this question!
Having just argued that emotional intelligence may not be able to be increased, how can we offer training? Training in emotional intelligence can be obtained in several ways.
You can learn about theories and measures of emotional intelligence. We are holding EI Certification Workshops. These workshops are designed to help you understand and to apply the Mayer-Salovey model. In addition, workshops will certify people in the use of the MSCEIT. Get in touch with me if you are interested in these workshops.