The long road of EI

This week I’ll be sharing thoughts from the #eqsummit which was held by Roche Martin and Sheffield Business School. It’s rare I attend an event and enjoy every session of the day. It speaks to the high quality of the content in the programme.

The day’s focus on emotional intelligence probably lent itself well to covering topics that naturally go with it. Martyn Newman talked about the development of EI as a field, Dr Geoff Bird talked about neuroscience, Dan Pink spoke about motivation, Alan Wallace spoke about mindfulness, Eve Ekman gave insights into the purpose and development of emotions, and we had some excellent laughs with Magnus Lindkvist sharing insights into trends with a lot of wit.

We’re in an age where the workforce is rapidly and dramatically changing. Even those organisations where technology hasn’t caught up with modern requirements, they’re still advancing forwards. Everything around is changing from the tools for communication, to the way managers engage their staff, to the way services are designed, to the way engagement is a strong area of concern.

Ideas and evolved thinking take time to feed their way through to the majority. When you look at the diffusion of innovation model, it tells us there are certain hurdles before an idea becomes truly mainstream. EI has only really existed as a concept for about 30 years. Is it a wonder that more people haven’t heard about it? I would also posit that EI is still with the early majority. Not enough people know about it as a topic for it to be mainstream.

When technology is challenged with breaking into the billions of people who use it, and arguably more people have access to technology than they do education, you start to see that the challenge of spreading ideas is that much harder.

Add to that cultural complexities of displaying and expressing emotions. Add to that gender expectations of emotions and how boys and girls are meant to feel them and express them. Add to that different generations who grew up with different ways of dealing with your emotions.

EI is one of these concepts which taps into a lot about the human condition. It provides insights into how we understand emotions as things at all. It helps us understand how to regulate those emotions. It helps us understand what happens to our bodies when we experience an emotion.

I’m cautious to speak about EI as if it’s a cure to societal and workplace ills. No single theory or model can offer that.

What I see in EI is the potential to improve relationships. I see the way you can think of support for people and having empathy with them. I see that people interested in the human condition have a theory which can help them have a different set of discussions. I see the personal relevance it has for people to understand themselves better.

EI is on a long road of development and becoming part of the regular discussion for workplaces. It’s now a regular part of management and leadership programmes. The challenge of all programmes is that managers and leaders are time poor and are being exposed to lots of theories instead of focusing on certain areas. This naturally means our understanding of different topics is diluted.


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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

One thought on “The long road of EI”

  1. I’m in favour of exposing managers to as many theories and conceptual theories as possible; who am I after all to say one is more proven, useful, better, more relevant than another.
    I’m also in favour of them – at all levels – having time to digest, play, experiment, kick out, discover something different.
    I wonder if there is always going to be a dilution of the theory on a programme; is there something in how people are equipped post a programme to continue their own enquiry.
    I dunno, I think all the good theories have an overlap, a sort of sweet spot of awareness, acceptance and love of self and others – let’s have a mash up!

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