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Five components of Emotional Intelligence (EI)

01 May 2014, at 1:00am

Chris Whipp takes a look at the concept of ‘Emotional Intelligence’, what it means, its various components and its relevance to some example areas in life in veterinary practice

EMOTIONAL Intelligence (EI), as a psychological theory, was developed in the late 1980s by Peter Salovay and John Mayer. The concept exploded into global awareness with the publication of the book of the same title in 1995 and subsequent similar titles by science journalist and author Daniel Goleman.

Salovay and Mayer originally described it as: “The ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth.”

This was subsequently amended and simplified to: “The ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions and to regulate emotions to promote personal growth.”

Reuven Bar-On presented his description of emotional-social intelligence (ESI) in 1988. His model is a cross-section of interrelated emotional and social competencies, skills, and facilitators that determine how effectively we understand and express ourselves, understand others and relate with them, and cope with daily demands.

There is considerable debate about what, exactly, Emotional Intelligence is with Salovay and Mayer, and Bar- On; Salovay and Mayer originally describing it as meeting the criteria for a new intelligence though they have also described it as an ability model. It has also been described as a trait model and as a combined model. There are psychometric measures for each of these but it is generally accepted that they each measure different things.

There is also considerable debate about the pros and cons of each model with Salovay and Mayer’s ability model attracting the greatest academic recognition but being criticised for lack of face and predictive validity in the workplace. Goleman’s mixed model is dismissed by some as “Pop Psychology” and Bar-On’s model has been criticised as being too broad and overlapping with both personality and competency models.

The popularity of the Goleman’s model arises in part from its accessibility and in part from its description of a range of component skills and conscious abilities that are available to be worked on and improved in the real world. Goleman describes five main components to Emotional Intelligence:


This is the ability to recognise and understand personal moods, emotions and drives and the effect of them on both self and others. Self-awareness depends on one’s ability to monitor one’s own emotional state and to correctly identify and name the emotions being felt.

Developing this ability is essential for realistic self-assessment and builds self-confidence and the ability to take oneself less seriously.


This is the ability to control or re- direct disruptive emotional impulses and moods. It involves the ability to suspend judgement and delay action to allow time for thought. From a neuroscientific perspective, you can frequently observe this skill, or lack of it, by watching response times.

If an angry client is in rapid-fire mode responding to what you say in less than about half a second then it is very likely that they are not giving conscious thought to what is being said to them. Those with this ability will frequently demonstrate trustworthiness, integrity, comfort, with ambiguity and openness to change.

Internal motivation

Frequently seen within veterinary professionals, internal motivation is about working with and for an inner vision of what is important, a curiosity and desire for learning and development, a drive that goes beyond external rewards such as money or status.

There is often a strong drive to achieve, optimism even in the face of failure and organisational commitment. There are also risks, particularly in the presence of an undue sense of perfectionism.


This relates to the ability to understand the emotional make-up of others and the skill to treat people according to their emotional reactions. It includes skills in building and maintaining relationships with those we come into contact with on a daily basis.

Though central to a service profession, empathy can tend to be somewhat less well developed in those with an isolated background and an intensive/competitive scientific training. Empathy often does, but does not necessarily, imply compassion; it can be used for both good and bad.

Social skills

This involves the ability to manage relationships, build networks, find common ground and build rapport. It will often help when leading change, being persuasive, building expertise and getting great performance from teams.

Whilst complex and somewhat uncertain, Emotional Intelligence reflects a central set of competences within what it is to be a veterinary professional.

Education in this area remains basic within the profession but in the increasingly more challenging environment ahead it may make the difference between success and failure.

If you would like to learn more about Emotional Intelligence, e-mail