A few weeks ago, a coaching student asked me to talk about emotional intelligence during a course on positive psychology. It was a great request, because both these sciences help people function more resourcefully for greater satisfaction in life, but they are far from identical.
So what’s the difference?
Well, to understand any field of research, first look to the questions being asked by the researchers, because, like coaches, scientific researchers know that we create our reality with questions. Positive psychology and emotional intelligence are distinct fields, so researchers explore them with different questions. Here are some of the questions asked by researchers:
- What do people who are happy, healthy and successful do differently that can be instructive to the rest of us?
- How do some people grow through adversity?
- What attitudes and feelings, such as gratitude, positivity and curiosity, are associated with greater success?
- How can people perceive, distinguish and understand emotions in themselves?
- How can people learn to recognize emotions in others?
- How can people manage their emotions and relationships more successfully?
As you can see, both sciences seek to help people become more effective in life, but they look at that through slightly different lenses.
Positive psychology explores what helps people lead happier, more successful lives and become their own best selves. That makes it highly compatible with coaching.
Emotional intelligence focuses on identifying, understanding and using emotions resourcefully. Hmm … that makes it pretty compatible with coaching, as well! Emotional intelligence researchers study how people can perceive, distinguish and understand all emotions—both positive and negative—in themselves and others.