Social and emotional intelligence (S+EI) is the ability to be aware of our emotions and the emotions and concerns of others and to use that information to manage ourselves and our relationships, both in the moment and over the long term.
Early emotional intelligence (EI; sometimes written as EQ) researchers and theorists included Peter Salovey, John Mayer, David Caruso and Howard Gardner, aka the father of the concept of multiple intelligences. The concept of EI entered the public consciousness in 1995 when Daniel Goleman published his best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence. Goleman, then a science writer for the New York Times, took the concept of EI out of the realm of academia and made it accessible to a general audience. In addition to piquing the public’s interest in EI, Goleman’s book sparked substantial research; as a result, we now know that EI is a better indicator of personal and professional success than cognitive intelligence (IQ).
More recently, the conversation surrounding EI has broadened to include social intelligence; i.e., relationship management and the outward manifestation of EI’s internal component. Perhaps the best way to think about the concept is through the Four-quadrant Model (shown below), based on Daniel Goleman’s work.
S+EI and Coaching
Having strong S+EI supports masterful coaching. By being aware of the emotions coming up for us in the coaching interaction, as well as attuning ourselves to the client’s emotional state, we can better manage the coaching relationship. We’re able to pick up not only on what’s being said, but also what isn’t being said, and we’re able to better understand and support the client’s growth and development.
Incorporating S+EI work into coaching also provides a common language—an emotional vocabulary—that can make it easier for the coach and client to have difficult conversations. This is particularly important for clients who feel overwhelmed by their emotions, as well as for clients who have been taught to repress or discount their emotional responses. Finally, the work of cultivating S+EI adds skills to our coaching tool kits that make us far more effective. As coaches, our primary interest is in helping our clients achieve success. Given the demonstrated importance of S+EI in shaping future success, it follows that coaches skilled in S+EI coaching are better able to support their clients.