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What is Emotional Intelligence and What’s Missing?

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What’s Missing in Definitions of EI

For the last 20-plus years, the colloquial use of the term emotional intelligence has been shorthand for “good with people.” The most emotional intelligent person in a heated room would be the one who was most able to stay present, calm and focused on the topic at hand, while staying connected with both themselves and others. If you buy into this shorthand, even a little, clearly, there’s more going on than simply being able to make sense of one’s own emotions and those of others.

From our perspective, several core capacities that are elemental to emotional intelligence are missing from the above definitions. For example, navigating challenging interpersonal terrain requires:

  • Not simply relying upon the emotional dimension of our experience, but also relying on our thoughts and our wants/desires
  • Not simply the recognition and understanding of emotions, but also the recognition and understanding of thoughts and desires/intentions of both ourself and others
  • Not simply giving in or acquiescing to others, but also staying connected with ourself
  • Not simply recognizing and understanding the emotions of others, but actually caring about and sharing in them
  • Not simply allowing the patterns of past relationships to blind us to the present, but seeing and accepting ourselves, others and the world as it is and as we

Without these essential internal capacities, emotional intelligence simply isn’t possible.

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