Applied Emotional Intelligence: are you aware of EI or do you apply it?

Applied Emotional Intelligence: are you aware of EI or do you apply it?

This post is going to be challenging, but, for those of you that stick with it, you will be rewarded with a better understanding of the influence created by those who practice Applied Emotional Intelligence.

Are you emotionally intelligent? For those of you who answer in the positive, how do you know?


Meet Hailey. Hailey is a Human Resources lecturer and teaches Emotional Intelligence on an MBA programme. Hailey has written peer-reviewed papers on the organisational value of EI and has a strong enough reputation that people spend upward of £900 per day to attend Executive Business courses where she is the lead expert. Hailey labels herself as Emotionally Intelligent, which it seems fair to say, means she moves from awareness to influence (Applied Emotional Intelligence).

It is a wet and windy Friday morning in January and Hailey has travelled by train to deliver a closing keynote at a conference on Emotional Intelligence in London. She is staying at the conference hotel and has woken to alerts that flooding has closed train lines on her route home; the train company is re-routing trains, but a lack of ability to marry staff with available trains means high-levels of cancellations and delays. Hailey decides that she will stay an extra night at the conference hotel to avoid the stress of travel.


The hotel Reception is busy with people from the conference trying to check-out before the morning sessions start. There is a feeling of impatience in the air, which is compounded by the hotel being short-staffed. Hailey can hear a manager explaining that this is due to flooding and staff not being able to get in this morning. These conditions have resulted in the manager running the check-out process with two trainees.


After almost twenty minutes, Hailey is in front of the manager and explains that she needs to stay an extra night. The manager taps on the computer and politely says, "I'm sorry, but we are fully booked tonight." Hailey immediately launches into a tirade about being a seasoned traveller, as well as being a Platinum Loyalty member of the hotel who has waited for almost 40-minutes in line, and she knows that there is always availability. The manager taps on the keyboard again, visibly flustered. "I'm sorry, but there is nothing available tonight." Hailey slaps her hand on the desk, "I want to speak to the manager." The manager looks at her, "I am the Duty Manager" he says.


Twenty minutes later, Hailey checked-out frustrated and faced with finding another hotel or the stress of a train journey home. Five minutes after she left the Duty Manager, another guest in the same position, and with no loyalty status, secured a room for an extra night. I know because my wife was that person. So, what happened with Hailey?

It seems possible from Hailey's case that a person can have emotional self-awareness and social-awareness, yet also lack the depth, security and completeness of knowledge to understand how to apply such awareness. In such cases, is the person emotionally intelligent or emotionally aware?


Looking at the vast amount of information written about Emotional Intelligence, it seems that empathy is the critical factor in determining a given person's level of Emotional Intelligence. However, empathy is not limited to awareness of the context of another; it is acknowledgement of that context - the vocalising of it - that allows that person to feel seen and understood. In demonstrating awareness, the emotionally intelligent can move from awareness to influence.


It looks like Hailey failed to recall her knowledge of Emotional Intelligence when she needed it most. She focused on herself and her needs, as opposed to demonstrating empathy by starting from the position of the Duty Manager. Hailey had twenty-minutes to learn about the Manager's context and use that intelligence to create a shared moment that could influence her ability to attain her desired outcome. Instead, it feels like she experienced an Amygdala Hijack that limited her ability to move to Applied Emotional Intelligence. The question then, how emotionally intelligent is Hailey?


The key to such thinking lies in the top right-hand corner of the Harvard Business Review table of Emotional Intelligence Domains & Competencies (below).

Influence is the evidence for Applied Emotional Intelligence - it could be well argued that leadership is merely an extension of influence and not necessarily a separate outcome. If it is not possible to demonstrate influence, then can it be said that a person is emotionally intelligent? Moreover, if a person cannot demonstrate influence, can it be said that they are a good leader?


It is one thing to read articles on Emotional Intelligence and declare one's self to be enlightened, and, therefore, aware. However, if such awareness is not applied in the world outside one's head, because one lacks an understanding of the interdependence between situation and cognition, then can one be said to be emotionally intelligent?


It seems fair to say that any lack of ability to retrieve knowledge of Emotional Intelligence and apply it when it is most needed, indicates a critical limiting factor when considering a person's level of emotional intelligence. Herein lies the challenge for leaders, managers and followers in organisations.


In exploring the multitude of Emotional Intelligence trait tools available to organisations, how many are focused on the awareness of Emotional Intelligence as opposed to Applied Emotional Intelligence? It looks like many of these tools lack an outcomes focus, which, if you agree that a lack of ability to apply EI is a limiting factor, significantly reduces the value of the insights derived from such tools.


It looks like the most rewarding challenge you can give yourself is one of deep reflection. Do you limit your Emotional Intelligence to awareness and lucky outcomes, or do you consciously apply empathy to create influence and impact (demonstrable real-world change)? The former seems to be Emotional Intelligence awareness, the latter a more powerful Applied Emotional Intelligence.

If you would like to know more about Applied Emotional Intelligence, and how to get a room in a sold-out hotel, then get in touch and see if you are ready for our Dragon's Breath challenge ;-)

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