Emotional Intelligence (commonly referred to as EI or EQ) is one of those constructs in life which we may have difficulty defining but feel “I know it when I see it.” It may come to mind when we notice someone ignoring our feelings or observing a less-than-mindful supervisor running roughshod over a co-worker’s fragile emotions. We may observe and feel it when we buy into a vision articulated by a particularly charismatic leader.

The idea of an emotional intelligence has been around for quite a while (cf. Payne, 1986 or Salovey & Mayer, 1990) but has remained controversial in the psychology community because it is not clearly separated from general mental intelligence (G, g, or General Mental Ability, GMA) nor has a clear and consistent definition emerged. Emotional intelligence burst onto the business scene with the publication of journalist and psychologist Daniel Goleman’s best-selling book Emotional Intelligence in 1995.

Research and debate on the construct continues to this day. In one corner sit the purists who continue to search for the Holy Grail of emotional intelligence, i.e. the pure and distinct emotional intelligence that is separate from general mental ability. I doubt this can be attained because there is most likely a significant overlap of the two. In the other corner lie the pragmatists and practitioners who are simply searching for tools that will help them understand and model individual traits, as well as to assist in coaching individuals to perform better at their job or to improve their interpersonal relationships. This group feels that the integration of EQ constructs and business competencies will provide the most powerful tools to build high performing leaders.

The definition of emotional intelligence I find most useful is that offered by Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso (2000, p. 396), “the ability to perceive and express emotion, assimilate emotion in thought, understand and reason with emotion, and regulate emotion in the self and others.”

Mindfulness is a related construct that overlaps with EQ quite significantly. One model of mindfulness is the ability to bring attention to the present moment without judgment or automatic reaction (cf. Baer, Smith, & Allen, 2004). Your ability to remain mindful can be broken into five elements:

  • Ability to observe external stimuli and internal emotions, sensations, and thoughts
  • Ability to describe observed phenomena
  • Acting with awareness, or ability to fully engage in one activity
  • Accepting the present without judging
  • Ability to remain neutral and not react to inner experiences

It is clear that the five mindfulness elements described above are related to observing and regulating emotions. While we do not have data to determine if a correlation exists, we can hypothesize the existence of it for the moment. 

This figure illustrates the overlap of these three constructs—emotional intelligence, general mental ability, and mindfulness.

Overlap of Emotional Intelligence, General Mental Ability, and Mindfulness


I have found the emotional intelligence model developed by Hogan Assessments to provide a readily understood framework for emotional intelligence development and coaching that is built upon sound scientific research (Hogan Assessments, 2013). This model attempts to bridge the gap between personal characteristics and job performance outcomes. The model elements are either interpersonal (between individuals) or intrapersonal (within an individual) and fall into three categories:

  • • Emotional perception
  • • Emotional control
  • • Emotional sharing.

Hogan Emotional Intelligence Model



Awareness: The degree to which people seem in touch with their emotions

Emotional Perception

Detection: The degree to which people seem aware of others’ emotions

Regulation: The degree to which people seem to maintain positive emotional states

Emotional Control

Influence: The degree to which people seem intentionally to affect others’ moods, thoughts, and behaviors

Expression: The degree to which people seem to communicate desired emotional states to others

Emotional Sharing

Empathy: The degree to which people seem to feel what others are feeling

Being able to connect to your emotions – having a moment-to-moment awareness of your emotions and how they influence your thoughts and actions is the key to understanding yourself and remaining calm and focused in tense situations with others.
Many people are disconnected from their emotions, especially strong core emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, and joy. This may be the result of negative childhood experiences that taught you to try to shut off your feelings. But although we can distort, deny, or numb our feelings, we can’t eliminate them. They’re still there, whether we’re aware of them or not. Unfortunately, without emotional awareness, we are unable to fully understand our own motivations and needs, or to communicate effectively with others. We are also at far greater risk for becoming overwhelmed in situations that appear threatening.

What kind of a relationship do you have with your emotions?

Do you experience feelings that flow, encountering one emotion after another as your experiences change from moment to moment?
Are your emotions accompanied by physical sensations that you experience in places like your stomach or chest?
Do you experience discrete feelings and emotions, such as anger, sadness, fear, joy, each of which is evident in subtle facial expressions?
Can you experience intense feelings that are strong enough to capture both your attention and that of others?
Do you pay attention to your emotions? Do they factor into your decision making?

If any of these experiences are unfamiliar, your emotions may be turned down or turned off. In order to be emotionally healthy and emotionally intelligent, you must reconnect to your core emotions, accept them, and become comfortable with them.